Friday, July 3, 2015

Sleeping with a Dog on my Head

Dear John,
 
This will be short - there are fireworks outside and I have a terrified dog who won't give up on crawling into my lap. The cats, on the other hand, are in the window sills watching and listening.
 
We had a slow day at work. It seems that lots of the regular Friday folks came in yesterday, thinking we'd be closed today. And most of the factories are closed this week and next, so there's not much paycheck traffic. It was nice to take things a bit easier today after working in the yard for most of yesterday.
 
Now I'm tired and would like to go to bed, but probably not to sleep until the fireworks die down. Tomorrow night I'll give Jethro some Benadryl. Tonight he'll just lie on my head. Maybe it's me that needs the Benadryl tonight! Sleep good, where there are no fireworks or frightened dogs to keep you awake.
 
Wishing I was sleeping with you, with our without the dog on my head,
Joan.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Happy Name Day!

Dear John,
 
St. John of San Francisco
Happy name day! As you well know, today is the feast day of St. John of San Francisco, whose name you took when you were chrismated. Please kiss his hand for me and ask his blessing, not for you but for me. You are no longer in need of blessing. When I pray to him, I ask him to pray for me and to continue to take care of you.
 
What I said to you yesterday has not yet resulted in my being devoured. Or arrested. I was too busy today to begin the construction of my rain barrel. I had a lovely day. The animals woke me up at 7:30, so I got an early start in the flower beds. I weeded, pruned trees and bushes, edged the driveway and patio, and trimmed around the flower beds and fence. While that was going on, I washed sheets and blankets and did some spot-cleaning on the stair carpet. I would have swept and dusted except that I spent some time talking to Janet over the back fence. That was much more important than sweeping and dusting. The animal hair isn't going anywhere.
 
I took a break in the afternoon to go to Goshen for my mammogram. Due to the perfidy of insurance companies, it's been four years since my last one. Then, as you also well know, I brought lunch out to eat with you. I just had to come visit you on your name day. There's a marker on the bike path a little ways west of you that tells some of the history of the cemetery. Did you now the first burial there was in 1832, and that there is at least one Revolutionary War veteran buried there? If you haven't, you should go read it. It's interesting. We are in august company.
 
It's time for bed here. There are already some fireworks, so Jethro is presently hiding behind my grandmother's chair. The next few nights will be hard for him, poor baby. Last night I went to sleep with fireworks going off and his big head laid over mine to keep me safe. He is very serious about protecting me, now that you're not here. I am well-looked-after. But I'd rather have you.
 
Wishing you were here,
Joan.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Don't Tread on Me: A Diatribe

Dear John,
 
Today they took down the Confederate flag at Fort Sumter. It's terribly painful. It feels like losing the war all over again. I have visions of federal troops marching into Atlanta again. And so I'm quoting the motto of South Carolina: Don't tread on me. Mama is proud, I'm sure. 
 
The latest manifestation of political correctness consists of removing every remaining symbol of Confederate history. Now, I do think the flag has no business flying over the South Carolina state house; that's bothered me for years. But Fort Sumter? It's a historical site; the flag belongs there. Groups of people are trying to get streets and parks renamed and monuments of Confederate war heroes destroyed. (Didn't ISIS just do that?) I remember how painful and shocking it was the first time I saw the statue of Sherman in Columbus. But it never occurred to me to ask anybody to take it down. I just avoided it when I could and put up with it when I couldn't. And I didn't die from it.
 
We lost the war - well and good. Rhett Butler was right about the South's chances; declaring war was foolish. But neither the war nor the flag was about slavery. For the first portion of the war, slavery was legal and practiced in the north. I've been irritated for years by the association of the flag with rednecks and racists. It's about our history. It's about the Southern attachment to land and peoplehood, and honors the valor and sacrifices offered to them. And, by golly, it's ours. That flag, like the Oxford comma, must be pried from my dead, cold hands.
 
NASCAR has banned it. Today TLC cancelled The Dukes of Hazard because of it. As an experiment, somebody went into a Walmart and tried to get a cake decorated with the flag, and was refused. They had no difficulty getting one with the ISIS flag on it. Amazon no longer sells Confederate memorabilia but still carries the Nazi flag. The world has officially gone mad. What's next? Outlawing fried chicken? Forcing Cracker Barrel to remove grits and turnip greens from their menu? Laws requiring the presence of sugar in coleslaw, heaven forbid? Fining people for saying "y'all"?
 
And the South isn't all that seems to be under attack. Last week the police told a lady she could no longer cook bacon in her own home because the odor offended her Muslim neighbors. Oregon jailed a man for collecting rain water off of his own roof. Florida has jailed a woman for being off the grid. Raw milk is illegal. I'm fed up with being micromanaged. The government continues to pressure the Redskins to change their name. The world has gone mad.
 
Tonight I'm angry. I'm certain you expected that after the first sentence. I feel like I'm being pushed on too many fronts at one time. So tonight as I mowed, I was fantasizing about what I'd like to do, both as protest and to see just how many people I can tick off at one time. Here we go:
  1. I want to build a rain barrel and paint the Confederate flag on it.
  2. I want to drink raw milk.  And yes, I'm willing to go to jail for buying it on the black market.
  3. I'd like to buy the complete box set of The Dukes of Hazard. And watch it. Even though I never liked the show.
  4. I want to dig a well and put up a windmill and go off the grid, just to annoy Florida.
  5. I'd like to put an icon over my front door so everybody has to see that I'm Christian. But this it Topeka, so that wouldn't annoy anybody at all.
  6. I might even be caught cheering for the Redskins.
  7. And tonight, I even want a bumper sticker endorsing secession. Again.
 
Well, that's about the end of the diatribe. If you were here, you'd agree with me but calm me down. I'm a Southern (hence, I have a temper) lady (hence, I don't use all the words that come to mind. My grandmother Keistler always said that swearing is a sign of an inadequate vocabulary.) So come by tonight and help me use this anger constructively. Or at least rub my feet so I can get to sleep. And how about taking me back with you when you go? If not, I may be reduced to constructing that rain barrel.
 
Love you so much for putting up with me,
Joan.


Monday, June 29, 2015

Splendid Chaos

Dear John,
 
Last night I forgot to tell you about something the cats did. I was sitting on the couch knitting. I had Jethro at my feet, Abby in my lap, Hunter sleeping on the floor, and Maggie on the top of the cat tower. Abby got my yarn wrapped around her leg. I tried to get it off, but she hates to have her hind legs messed with. So she jumped off the couch and ran down the hall with the yarn still wrapped around her leg. The ball of yarn flew out of the bag, bounded across the living room, bounced off the recliner, smacked Hunter, and ended up wrapped around the dining room table leg. Hunter flew up in the air and came down arching his back and hissing at the yarn ball. Jethro took off and chased the ball. Abby disappeared for an hour. Maggie just calmly took it all in.
 
I haven't laughed that hard in a while. Cats, of course, are in the middle of the food chain and therefore are extremely alert and watchful. Jethro is always looking for fun. I was just trying to finish the sock. Our natural propensities plus a stray loop of yarn created a few seconds of splendid chaos.
 
You would have loved it. I know I've said it before, but you'd adore these cats. You thought you didn't like them but you never had the chance to get to know one. And it's your dog that's responsible for all of them so you have to like the situation. I imagine you watching all of this, glad I have four creatures to love me, and sorry you had no idea how much fun cats are.
 
But you have plenty to play with now, since all animals go to Heaven. And you'll get to meet these, but not yet. We need each other here. You're welcome to come and visit all of us any time you can. You know where the key is - just let yourself in!
 
Adore you,
Joan.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Intimacy, Tenderness, & Bedrails

Dear John,
 
I gave today to fibro. Or, to healing this fibro flare. In other words, to doing none of what I needed to do. I knitted one sock and cuddled with the animals. Ta-da!
 
I ran across this, and I saved it because it is so true. Not only did you not divorce me, which the great majority of husbands do after a fibromyalgia diagnosis. You helped me live with it, but never treated me like I was a different person than I was before. As you always did, you helped but never hovered. You allowed me to do what I was able to do and understood when I wasn't able.  And whatever I couldn't do, you picked up.
 
It never crossed my mind that you'd do otherwise. We, not without opposition, said the old-fashioned wedding vows. And we both took them very seriously. We did joke about the "sickness and health" part, wondering just when the "health" portion was coming. But we were both deeply committed to those vows and to each other. I suppose the "health" part will come, but not in this life.
 
We took turns acting on that vow, didn't we? I went into marriage knowing that you'd already had cancer; you went in knowing that anything can happen to anyone at any time. And we did have some events! You had two heart surgeries, brain surgery, and two more rounds of cancer, and died from the accumulated heart damage caused by the radiation you received when you were nineteen. I ended up with asthma and fibromyalgia, and on the way had gram-negative sepsis, the head injury in the car accident, and a case of left trigeminal shingles so severe that I wasn't expected to live.
 
In fact, we should both have been dead long ago. Maybe we're just stubborn. We certainly weren't allowed to ignore our mortality. And we were each given many opportunities enact love by caring for the other. We did our time in hospitals, alternating sides of the bedrail. There is great tenderness and intimacy in those times. Neither of us ever doubted the other would be there and neither ever took the other's care for granted. Those hard times were special. The memories are more intense, somehow, than the rest, and very dear to me.
 
We were blessed. The struggles helped us pack more love into a short period of time. We left no words unsaid, no act of love undone. We kept our promise. Caring for each other was a sacred thing, a supreme act of love. That's why I did your postmortem care, to the dismay of your nurses; it was the last act of love I could give you, the last physical intimacy and tenderness.
 
I do look forward to the "health" portion! I know you are healed and whole now, no more pain or illness, no more struggles. I'm still in this body, still chronically ill, awaiting my release. One day we'll be healed and whole together. What a day it will be!
 
Love you more than life,
Joan.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Plagued by Pain, Rain, & Newsfeeds

Dear John,
 
We've had a lovely fall day. This morning while I was at work, I kept feeling like I should go home and watch football. It rained most of the day and never got out of the 50s.
 
Alas, there was no football. So I ended up taking an involuntary nap that lasted almost two hours. I think I was tired. I was constantly busy at work this morning - never sat down - but that's normal for a Saturday. What's making me more tired is pain. It will ease up eventually. Until then, I will take naps. The animals didn't mind; they piled up on me and we all went to sleep together.
 
Meanwhile, in the outside world, reactions to the Supreme Court decision and the confederate flag issue dominate. My Facebook newsfeed is overrun. I'm keeping out of the fray, not because of a lack of opinions, but because my opinions would take several volumes to explain and I'd probably end up losing friends from both ends of both spectrums. This, however, gave me a laugh. I thought you'd get a chuckle out of it, too.
 
I feel another involuntary nap coming on. So I'll go to sleep electively while I still have that choice. Sleep good tonight, with no pain or rain or newsfeeds to plague you!
 
Adore you,
Joan.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Let the Hair Accumulate Undisturbed

Dear John,
 
It was a good, steady Friday. We had a carry-in lunch to celebrate the announcement that Danielle's baby is a boy. It was a good day. Most of the plants are closed for the next two weeks, so it will be a bit slower for us. We have a lot of customers leaving for vacation.
 
Right now, it's a lovely, cool, rainy evening. The neighborhood is quiet; all I can hear is birds and rain. I turned the television off so I could just sit and listen. We've had a beautiful early-summer. The corn and soybeans are loving all the rain we've had, but the hay still won't dry.
 
I can't wait to get off work tomorrow afternoon. I may spend the entire weekend in bed. The fibro is exacting the price of vacation, as expected. I've been hurting all week but today was miserable. It's primarily upper-body pain, as usual. It's worst right now in my arms. But today my legs decided they weren't getting their share of attention and got into the act. Everything hurts except the end of my nose. I feel like I've been run over by a herd of zebras. I hope none of them were injured in the process. I like zebras. I just prefer to look at them from some position other than under their hooves.
 
I knew I'd do this when I planned the vacation. It's well worth it. Chronic Illness Cat is absolutely right - sometimes you decide that what you want to do is worth the flare it will cause. That's a choice we all make at times. I had a wonderful vacation that will be with me long after the flare leaves. In the meantime, I will take care of myself. I'll take pain medicine, rest when I can, and let the animal hair on the floor accumulate undisturbed. This weekend I will knit, watch television, and sleep. And I'll be glad for every moment of vacation! It was a good choice.
 
Your achy, breaky wife,
Joan.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

I Used to be Afraid of Hurdles, but I Got Over It

Dear John,
 
It's been a busy day off. I'll need to go back to work tomorrow to get some rest.
 
I was up past midnight last night - mowed late, talked to Jen, took a shower - so I slept in until 9:00 this morning. Today was for taking care of things that had been hanging around for a while. I ordered a bunch of sock yarn this morning. I got on the phone today and scheduled a mammogram, power washing for the house, and an estimate on the roof. I picked up the food I'm taking for the carry-in lunch tomorrow. I mailed some return items at the post office. I went to the hardware store and had the house key duplicated, got a new flashlight, and got some tips from JJ for fixing the toilet in our bathroom that wants to keep running. I came home and caught up financials, emptied the dishwasher, and took out the trash. And then I spent a couple of hours on the phone with Lowe's.
 
I'm having trouble paying the bill for the water heater. The website keeps locking me out because I'm not you. Today is the fourth time in three years that I've tried to get the card changed over from your name to mine. I finally ended up on the phone with the probate department and was told that I can only talk to them between 8 and 5, Monday through Thursday. I'll try again on my day off next week. I was talking about just canceling the card and getting another in my name, but since I was listed as a signer on your card, I'd have to wait a year before they'd give me my own card. None of our other credit cards had a problem getting things changed over. I am exceedingly frustrated. This is to be continued next week. If it isn't solved, I may have to resort to mailing in checks instead of paying them online. The tragedy of it all!
 
I crossed another hurdle today, and a big one. I went back to the Kendalville Pizza Hut. I've never been there without you, even when you worked there. This is my first time back since we went together about six months before your death. But I was out running errands with Richard today and we were in Kendalville at lunchtime. So it seemed like time to get past that. It was a bit emotional, but good. Tammy is still there and waited on us - that was very special. Ben is working at the store in Ligonier. I didn't see anyone else that I knew. But the food is the same; the décor hasn't even been changed. It still smells like Pizza Hut, like all those uniforms of yours that I washed every day for fifteen years. I enjoyed going back. It was good to go with a friend who understood how big a step it was for me. I'll do that again.
 
I got over lots of hurdles today - the toilet, the phone calls, and your Pizza Hut. And it feels good. There's one thing you can do for me if you get a chance. Please call Lowe's and assure them that you are deceased and it's okay with you if the card is put in my name. Everybody I talked to - four of them - insisted that they had to speak to you and not me. So give them a call, for goodness sake! Let's get this straightened out. At this moment, I'd be happy if you'd haunt all of them.
 
Peeved, frustrated, and still in love,
Joan.
 
. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Retirement Revelation

Dear John,
 
I'm a grown-up now. Starting next month I'm eligible for the 401K at work, and my paperwork is in. They'll match the first 5% at 100% and the next 3% at 50%, so I'm having the whole 8% taken out. There's no sense in leaving free money on the table. Choosing an investment plan wasn't difficult. I took the 15% maximum in our own stock and put the rest in a timed plan based on my projected retirement date of somewhere between 65 and 70. I'll be fully vested after five years, when I'm almost 65.
 
And all this got my head started. While I was mowing tonight I realized how far I've come in three years, to be able to think about retirement. I'm actually looking at my future, looking farther ahead than paying the bills on time. And I can look it in the face without flinching. For over two years I couldn't bear to even take a peek. While I wasn't looking, I made progress. This is encouraging. And I'm taking charge of my financial future, making plans and decisions. That feels good.
 
But I can't say that I'm excited about the idea of retirement. If you were alive, I couldn't retire soon enough. It isn't the same to think about spending it without you. I have some ideas of things I'd like to do. But, for now, I need the structure that working full-time gives me. I need something that makes me keep a regular schedule and structures my days. I'm sure the time will come when I can do without those things, but I'm not there yet.
 
While I get there, I'll be taking full advantage of this 401K. Be proud of all this progress I'm making. Three years ago I could never have imagined the person I've turned into. But you knew all along, didn't you? I'm doing exactly what you expected. I have no idea what other changes will take place in me. But I'm sure that you won't be at all surprised. Thank you for always having more faith in me than I did in myself.
 
Yours always,
Joan.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

How My Feet are Like Ryan Gosling

Dear John,
 
You see what I've been reduced to without you. You used to hold the yarn while I wound it. Then you got me a swift and ball-winder so I could do it when you weren't home. Tonight it didn't seem sensible to set them up since I had only one hank to wind. I looked around for something the right width to keep enough tension on the yarn and didn't find anything. So I improvised. And it worked very well, I might add.
 
This is another of the countless ways we widows have to adapt. It's a small thing, but symbolic. It goes along with figuring out how to use the trimmer and the financial software, finding a full-time job, and choosing the new furnace. We both enjoyed the process of winding yarn together. Tonight I missed you, but I had to laugh knowing how you must have been laughing as you watched me use my feet - laughing, and also proud of me for finding a way to do it.
 
So here I am, just what you wanted: independent, strong-minded, and smart-mouthed. And stubborn, and adaptable, and sometimes even inventive. I know you approve of all the things I've tackled and handled without you. Your faith in me helps, you know. I feel you cheering me on. And Mama and her mother are cheering right beside you. I come from a long line of independent, strong-minded, smart-mouthed women. My great-aunts Mary and Margaret are probably there, too, and maybe even my great-grandmother Fowler.
 
It was a small thing, but those are really the things that make up our lives, aren't they? Tonight I solved this little difficulty and it feels good. It feels even better to know that you're proud of me for doing it. If, however, you want to come wind yarn with me, I'll always prefer you to my feet. And to Ryan Gosling.
 
Love you best,
Joan.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Making the Best of a Bad Situation

Dear John,
 
I figured out why I've been hurting and missing you more than usual. I've been re-working my Widowhood board on Pinterest, dividing it into several other boards. That involves reading each pin. Not surprisingly, that has had an emotional effect on me.  
 
I've needed to do this for a long time. The board had so much on it that I couldn't find anything. Now I have boards about the present reality, looking back, looking ahead, looking within, looking up, the arts, humor, what grief is and isn't, walking together, the moment of death, and those dreadful holidays. It's quite a mixture, isn't it? That isn't surprising since widowhood affects every part of your life. It changes everything. So my widowhood boards are going to be all over the place.
 
It's good for me to do this. As I read through them, I can see how far I've come in three years. The first ones I pinned were about raw pain and shock. Then I collected statements about grief. When our little widowgroup came together, I saved things for us. The pins gradually became more hopeful, more often about the future. There was even humor, too -  it's dark humor, but that always was our favorite kind.
 
So get on Pinterest tonight and check it out. I'm not finished yet - it will probably take the rest of the week to get through all of it. But you can see the basic structure. And you can actually find things now. My emotions will be a bit ragged until it's done, but that's okay. It's good for me to look back and take stock of where I've been and where I am today. I conclude that I love and miss you no less, but am adapting and learning how to live this way. I still don't particularly want to. But since you forgot to take me with you, I appear to be stuck here and might as well make the best of it. (Wonderful. Now I'm humming Ray Stevens singing "Making the Best of a Bad Situation." Very unfortunate.)
 
It's time to get the crew off to bed. We're expecting storms tonight. I do hope not - I'd prefer to sleep without a dog in my head. But we'll all get through whatever comes!
 
Sleep well tonight. Love you immensely,
Joan.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

To My Menfolk on Fathers' Day

Dear John,
 
Happy Fathers' Day! The dog and cats wanted me to give you a card from them, so here it is. They love and miss you. If you could stop by tonight, it would mean the world to them. You were such a good dog-daddy, and would be just as good with the cats. Give Caleb and Naomi a scratch for me. I'm glad they finally get to be with their daddy.
 
Speaking of which, stop and go get my father. I want to tell him how much I love and miss and appreciate him. When I was little he'd take me somewhere every Saturday. It gave Mama a break, but it was also my special time with my Daddy and I loved it. We'd go to the zoo or the airport or go climb Stone Mountain. Often we'd eat at the Varsity downtown, and if it was fall we'd sit in one of the rooms with televisions and watch football together. Occasionally he'd have to stop by a job site on the way. He'd put a hardhat on me and I was so little that all I could see was my feet, so he'd hold my hand and I'd hang on for dear life. I loved that.
 
Daddy was like you - he was always there when I needed him, but he didn't hover or micromanage. Every time I called, he was right there to help me and defeat the bad guys. He never failed to respect my thoughts, opinion, decisions, and abilities. He taught me all about football and basketball; we watched hours of sports together. He taught me how to ride a bike - no helmets or training wheels in those days, thank goodness - and how to drive a car. And he taught me how to hang on when you're left alone without your spouse. He taught me to be generous. He taught me by example a self-control that has been called stoicism, but is really just the belief that it's not good manners to inflict my inconvenient feelings on innocent bystanders.
 
He never blew his own horn. I had to find out from Mama that he was in the first wave of D-Day and earned a purple heart. I found out after I was in college that he was in the advance party that found Auschvitz long before anybody knew that such places existed. He liberated Auschvitz and carried the scars with him for the rest of his life. And never said a word.
 
So tonight, tell him that I love him and thank him and miss him. I think about him every day. I am grateful to have had a father who was also a good man. I so look forward to seeing him again.
 
Love to my menfolk,
Joan.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Sharing on the Way to There

Dear John,
 
I miss you tonight. I'm nor sure why especially tonight; I'm just having one of those sad times. They happen. There's nothing linear about grief.
 
I had a good day at work. Then I went to Goshen to get a new cord to charge my phone - the old one died - and went to the co-op for yogurt, real bread, and toothpaste. Having provided myself with the necessities of life, I came home, took a nap, and mowed. I'm tired and everything hurts, but the yard looks like people actually live here. We've been getting so much rain lately that it's hard to keep up with the lawn and nobody's hay will dry.
 
On the way to Goshen I heard the old Hollies song, He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother. And I was thinking about my widowfriends and how much we all hurt for each other, and how good that is. We feel each others' grief and we cry for each other, especially when the anniversaries roll around.
 
I've been grieving for Kyle since I got back from vacation. Becky has one of their wedding photos on the wall, and it was wonderful, and I burst into tears when I saw it. What I remember most about him was the way he always looked at her. It was love and protection and benediction all in one, the love-you-more-than-my-own-life kind of love. The photo captured that look wonderfully. And I was struck again with all the years they didn't get and all the pain of parting. And it was so good to see that photo, remember their wedding, and grieve with Becky again.
 
I do that with all my widowfriends, when Ronda struggles with vacation questions and Diane and Carolyn deal with so many losses and Nancy deals with job issues and Sophie talks about her kids and Rebecca posts her wedding photos and Tracey passes the one-year mark and Luella's power goes out and we all deal with identity issues and life on our own and on and on and on. It's this sharing of grief and struggle that makes us companions and friends. It's how we brace and comfort each other. It's where we learn from each other's experience and discover what is normal in this new world. And we are never alone.
 
So tonight I hurt again because I miss you. And, as I do, I hurt for all my widowfriends. It's a long, long road from which there is no return. While we're on the way to there, why not share? And the load doesn't weigh me down at all. None of us is heavy. We're widowfriends.
 
Love you with all my heart,
Joan.




Friday, June 19, 2015

Of Heads & Hearts

Dear John,
 
We had a fairly slow Friday at work. I worked late, came home and fed the animals and myself, and got a call from Jen. She's on her way back from vacation and was between Atlanta and Chattanooga. It was good to talk to her - I've missed her, between my vacation and hers. Bless her, so many things have gone wrong on this trip that it sounds like the time I went to the Keys for Elyssa's birth. Nothing went right on that trip except Elyssa's birth, and that was kind of the point of it all, so it was okay. She'll be glad to be home.
 
When they were in New York somebody stole Elyssa's suitcase, which had your old phone in it. That matters to Jen, that your phone is gone. It's another part of you that's lost. I was surprised that it tugged at my heart a little, too. It's odd the things we become attached to because they were yours. Jethro wouldn't let me get rid of your Nikes. I could give away your chess books, but not your set. And that old orange polo shirt you did yard work in is safely tucked away with the rest of your things that I'm keeping.
 
Emotion isn't logic and emotions aren't logical. And that is logical, I suppose. It's illogical to expect yourself to be logical all the time. It isn't easy for people like me to learn to listen to their hearts and not just their heads. I'm learning to trust mine more as I get older. Sometimes it knows more than my head does, and about more important things.
 
But head and heart agree that you're The World's Only Perfect Man. They both miss you and want to be with you. In the meantime, I will try to see that the two of them get along well.
 
Adore you,
Joan.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Thermostats, Watermelons, & the Carriage Sale

Dear John,
 
We have air conditioning again. It was fixed this morning. I expected the problem to be in the thermostat, and it was. It was missing a jump wire. So the nice man put one on and, lo and behold, everything worked perfectly. I'll probably need a new unit next year because the old one is leaking coolant. It is twenty years old, after all. I can go up on efficiency like I did with the new furnace, and it will soon pay for itself. The gas budget has gone down fifty dollars a month since replacing the old furnace.
 
The animals are quite pleased with the air conditioning. The temperature hasn't been that bad; it's the humidity they were struggling with. And they hate having the fan on in the bedroom at night. Nobody but Jethro will sleep on the bed when it's on. Tonight I should have all of them in bed with me. That will be good.
 
I need to get all of us down the hall and to bed soon. Besides tomorrow being Friday, it's also carriage sale day. And the drive-up has been closed for the last two days, so some folks will have waited for it to re-open. I expect to be swamped. But that will make the day pass quickly, and that is good. I'll wear comfortable shoes.
 
The picture is just for laughs. Why didn't I think of that? It's obvious, isn't it? My first-grade math book was full of problems about elephants and umbrellas. And I never wondered why.
 
You probably wonder why I'm still up and babbling about elephants, umbrellas, and watermelons. Good question! I'll take my wandering brain off to bed. Sleep good! Your little family misses you.
 
Adore you,
Joan.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Big Bowl of Thought-Spaghetti

Dear John,
 
I've been thinking since I got back from vacation and trying, without success, to distill these thoughts  into some sort of acceptable, organized form before presenting it to you. So here it is, a big bowl of thought-spaghetti with ends sticking out everywhere - very annoying to your anal retentive wife.
 
Talking to Becky was beyond wonderful. It's not like talking to anybody else because not only are we both widowed now, but we all knew each other before we were married. We did our engagement-wedding-early marriage years together. And now we're doing widowhood together. There's no relationship like it. And, as in years past, we talked until the wee hours of the morning. Some things settled out in my head, some stand out, and you have to hear all about it even if I can't get it organized. Maybe telling it to you will help.
 
First, we agreed that we're not okay and never will be. And that's okay. We function, we DO okay, but underneath where we just ARE, we're not okay. There's always a well of sadness, as Becky put it, under the surface. We live with it.
 
We have a cheerful, energetic façade that we can put on as needed. I don't want to be one of those determinedly-cheerful widow-ladies. But I can pull that out when I need it. Thankfully, I don't need to very often. Losing you has taught me a new level of compassion and given me greater warmth, and that is what usually shows. But I can pull bright-and-cheerful out when necessary. I don't like myself that way, though. It's a wall between me and other people. I only do it when someone hurts me.
 
You know I've often said that I'm not depressed but I'm ready to join you. Becky feels the same, and has met with the same reaction when she has tried to communicate that to others. I can best describe it as baffled panic. One of the wonderful things about talking to her is being able to say it to someone else who is in the same place. We have no survival instinct - when Monsanto finally brings about the zombie apocalypse, I will gladly donate whatever brains I have. I'm not depressed or unhappy. I just have more reasons to go than I have to stay.
 
I know there's more - I will pass it on to you as it surfaces and gels. Tell Kyle that your wives love and miss you. We're not okay but we're doing okay. We're not depressed - at least, not often - but we're more than ready to join you. Drat you both for forgetting to take us with you!
 
Still watching for that stagecoach,
Joan.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Diversity? Who, Me?

Dear John,
 
We had banking excitement in a much tamer form today. The phone lines at the LaGrange office were down for several hours. Since they're where proof and the main computers live, it made things interesting. We had two loan officers come down to use our offices and computers.
 
I had my evaluation today - all of us are evaluated every six months. All categories are above expectations so it seems they're going to keep me. I left the evaluation feeling valued, which felt wonderful.
 
One thing they appreciate about me is the diversity I bring to the office. I had to ponder that for a bit. I think of myself in many ways, but "diverse" was never on the list. I suppose it's because I'm the only living Southerner anybody has ever seen. When I was interviewed for the job, Charley asked me how I was with people who were different, meaning the Amish portion of the town. Of course, I don't think of my Amish neighbors as being different at all. I told him that, over twenty years of nursing, I'd taken care of prisoners shackled to the side rails with armed guards in the room, two gypsy kings, and one medical malpractice attorney. He decided I could handle Topeka. Now it seems that I'm the one supplying the diversity. Who knew? I'm happy to oblige.
 
You're from Ohio, and you adjusted so effortlessly to me that I forget that I seem different to people up here. But of course I do. You accepted me completely while you tried to learn and understand my southernness. The only thing that ever bothered you even a little was when you first saw CSA markers on graves - your first reaction was that it was treasonous. I told you to deal with it, as I remember, and I suppose you did. But I really am different, especially to people who have lived in this town all their lives. They seem to love and accept me in spite of that, or perhaps because of it. I feel like a welcomed part of the community, even if I don't talk funny like everybody else does.
 
Let me sum up: The job is going well. The temperature and humidity are down a bit, and I'm getting the air conditioning worked on Thursday morning. The dog and I slept through any thunder that may have happened last night. Hunter is still in my lap every time I sit down and the other cats are at my side. It seems that the animals missed me. The vacation was wonderful and it's nice to be home.
 
And now I need to go to sleep. The sun is down and it's getting dark, and Jethro is already sound asleep beside me. I love you so much. I still hate going to bed without you - that's the hardest part. Your little family misses you.
 
Adore you,
Joan.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Rain & Robberies

Dear John,
 
It's raining and almost dark, with a bit of thunder in the distance. I do hope Jethro is tired enough from being boarded that he'll sleep tonight anyway. I may have a dog on my head.
 
I'm officially back from vacation. It was good to go to work today. We appreciated our quiet day - the Ashley branch was robbed this morning. No one was hurt, thank goodness. So I've been remembering the four times you were robbed at gunpoint. Pizza Hut gave their managers extensive training, for which I am thankful. You knew what to do and you trained your staff. You always stayed so calm and handled it so well. I was proud of you for that. I had enough confidence in your abilities that I never was afraid for you. Of course, it didn't happen that often. Four times in twenty years of restaurant management isn't bad. And I remember the night you called me from work and told me that if I heard that there had been a murder at your store, it wasn't you. That was an unusual night.
 
I know - it's a serious subject. But I can't stop
laughing at this!
I was always grateful that you called me as soon as you could after a robbery. I never had to hear about it from the news. I knew you were okay long before I knew there was any reason to worry. You'd call the police and then me. I appreciate that more than I can say. And I appreciate and admire your calm, controlled competence with a gun pointed at you. You knew how to keep the robbers relaxed and happy. Nobody ever got hurt in any of your stores.
 
So today I was thinking, as I often do, that I hope it's me if we're ever robbed. For one thing, I learned so much from you over your years of being robbed. For another thing, I'm the person we could best do without if it ever came to that. And for another thing, I really don't have that survival instinct anymore. That would make it much easier to be calm and relaxed in a stressful situation. I can see you frowning at me, but it's true. So there.
 
That's all the news - just a bank robbery. That's really enough, isn't it? But, like the times you were robbed, nobody was hurt and all is well. Thank you for being wonderful.
 
Adore you,
Joan.
 


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Lawns & Laundry

Dear John,
 
Today was all about lawns and laundry. The neighborhood had a great mowing festival. Our grass wasn't too bad but the buckhorn was a foot high. If the stuff was edible, I'd have been able to feed a third-world country for a year. It kept clogging the mower so it all took a while. It's been cloudy all day, thank goodness, with a few sprinkles of rain that felt good.
 
I had two loads of laundry to do, one light load and one dark. The first is in the dryer and the second in the washer. It's running late because every time I've sat down today I've had Hunter asleep in my lap. And I love that so much that I just can't wake him up.
 
It turns out that the cats aren't as tidy as I thought they were. Their shedding had the floor looking so bad that Richard took pity on me and swept on Friday. It seems that being overwhelmed by hair will be my permanent state. The vet trimmed Jethro's toenails and will give him a bath before I pick him up tomorrow. That's as much break from animal hair as I can get.
 
Tomorrow I'll go back to work, and at my lunch break I'll go get Jethro. He'll sleep a week getting over partying too hard and life will get back to normal. The vacation was good. And it's good to be over the hurdle of taking my first vacation without you. I had a wonderful time with old friends. And I feel ready to go back to normality. Tomorrow I'll let you know how it went!
 
Miss you,
Joan.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Good, the Bad, & the Humid

Dear John,
 
I'm back home, and there's so much I want to tell you that I could be here all night. I'll try to dole it out over several days.
 
I had a good trip home except for the places where there weren't any signs telling where State Route 13 went. But that's why God made Google Maps. I drove through a very little bit of rain and light traffic. 
 
I was greeted with great enthusiasm by the cats. They've been following me around the house all night. I'm getting to bed so late because Hunter curled up in my lap and went to sleep, and I've missed him so much that I couldn't move him and wake him up.
 
The house was warm and humid when I got here, so I closed the windows and turned on the air conditioning. And I waited and waited. And I checked the thermostat. And I went downstairs and checked the power supply and breakers. Then I called NIPSCO. As has been the case lately, they won't have anybody available for a few days. But the long-range forecast isn't bad and we should be just fine. After all, I grew up in Atlanta before air conditioning and survived that. I'm glad I tried it before July got here and it was 100 outside.
 
The grass is very very very long. I will be mowing tomorrow if the storms hold off. And I have lots of laundry - normal after vacation. I picked up bread and milk on the way home and got everything unpacked and put away before I sat down. It's amazing how little hair there is on the floor. It turns out that the great majority of it comes from the dog. If I can get into a better routing of brushing him, it should help the hairy floor situation. It feels strange to be here without him. I'll be happy to pick him up over my lunch break on Monday.
 
So four-fifths of your little family is at home and doing fine. All that's missing is you and Jethro. Is there somewhere I can come and get you when I'm out picking him up on Monday? I'll come anywhere!
 
Adore you,
Joan.

A Visit to the Sanitarium

Dear John,
 
It's been a full and interesting day. Actually, yesterday was. It's tomorrow already. It's been tomorrow for two hours. Yikes.
 
I spent the morning and afternoon in Midway with Becky and the felines. The kittens are thriving and adorable, and should soon be able to hold their own with the cats. I expect all of them to settle happily together. There will be some drama as they work out the pecking order. But they'll all be friends soon.
 
This evening I drove over to Louisville and am spending tonight with Donna. We finally got tickets for a tour of Waverly Hills Sanitarium. You remember it - the old tuberculosis sanitarium here. It was everything I hoped for and more. I don't care a hang about the ghost stuff; I just love old hospitals. And this is the king of old hospitals.
 
It was marvelous. I've visited and worked in enough hospitals of the same era that I could imagine it as it first was. And it was the best of the best, on the cutting edge of TB treatment. As is the case for the Duke CCU, you don't count the number of patients who died. You count the ones who lived, because without this place they would all have died.
 
I took a good number of photos, but most in areas where flash photography wasn't allowed. I'll have to upload them and work on brightness and contrast. In the meantime, here's one that came out rather well.
 
You wanted to bring me here but never got the chance. Know that I did get here and I wasn't disappointed. I'm glad you always respected my love for old buildings, even when you didn't particularly share it. Thank you for taking me to the Lizzie Borden house and for wanting to bring me here. As I've said, if I'd been born at the right time for the urban explorer movement, you'd have spent lots of time bailing me out of jail. I'd have become a professional trespasser. But tonight I was legal, so all is well.
 
Sleep well tonight,
Joan.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Cats, Chili, & Dorm Rooms

Dear John,
 
Once again, thank you for living down the hall from Kyle in the dorm. It was one of the nicest things you ever did for me.

I'm in Midway with Becky and am having a wonderful time. I brought a cold with me, but it's going away quietly. Better living through chemicals - Sudafed, aspirin, and Mucinex. Yesterday we went to Lexington and played. Did you now they're tearing down the old Student Center and replacing it? It was time when we were there, so it's a bit overdue. We had lunch at Gold Star Chili - heaven in a bowl.
 
Today we explored the shops in Midway. Then we went to the county humane society to look at some kittens that needed fostering, and brought two home for Becky. We each took a kitten for the evening. Much more of this and I'll be sending Jethro outside asking him to find another kitten that needs rescuing.
 
Becky and I were talking once again about how delighted we were when the UK computers assigned us to each other as roommates our senior year. Now we realize that it wasn't only for then; it was even more for now. The Lord plans way, way ahead. Becky and I loved being roommates in college. But we're even more important to each other now, since you and Kyle decided to go home without taking us with you. I am grateful.
 
The four of us are now two. But we will be four again. I've lost count of how many we will be if you count the dogs and cats. But that number keeps changing. Please pray for these two adorable kittens and their relationship with the two cats, and the sanity of the affected humans. And thanks again - in dorm rooms, it's location, location, location!
 
Adore you,
Joan .



Monday, June 8, 2015

And We Don't Look a Day Over Sixty!

Dear John,
 
I had the most wonderful day yesterday. Donna and I ran over to Frankfort and did some sightseeing, then met Linda and Lee for dinner. It had been about ten years since I'd seen Lee. I hadn't seen Linda since high school graduation - an obscenely long number of years ago. And it was just like we'd all been together last week.
 
So these are my best oldest friends. We don't look a day over sixty, do we? To me, we all look just like we did when we were sixteen. We're no different, really. We just had recent events to catch up on. Over forty years of recent events, but who's counting?
 
Donna worked this morning and is on her way home now. We're going to go out and run around and do something - what isn't important. What matters is that we've been good friends since we were twelve, and we have alot more years of friendship ahead.
 
Love you, adore you, worship the ground you walk on,
Joan.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Road Contruction and Scenic Tours

Dear John,
 
I'm tired and happy. I'm in Louisville at Donna's. I left at 11:00 and got here around 6:30. But I lost around an hour to road construction - 'tis the season - and at least another half an hour because I turned onto 464 instead of 465. I came the scenic route, if Louisville can be considered scenic. But I'm here and it was a good trip. I came down State Route 13 instead of going to Fort Wayne and down, and it cut off an hour.
 
I found this tonight and thought you'd like it. Jethro can't fit on our cat tree, and that's a good thing. I miss the critters tonight; I'll probably be a basket case by the time I get home. Hunter and Abby figured out what was going on when I brought the suitcase upstairs, just like our dogs always did. Hunter followed me step for step then settled into the suitcase. Maggie seemed a bit confused; I haven't left home since Jethro found her. I told Hunter to assure her that I'd be back.
 
I miss them more than I expected to. I'm accustomed to sharing my bed with four furbabies; it feels strange to go to bed alone. But I'm tired after the drive and won't be awake for very long. Stop in and check on them for me if you can.
 
Adore you,
Joan.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Return of the Imposter

Dear John,
 
We had an interesting day at work, rife with technical problems. We got through just fine thanks to our back-up systems. It was entertaining. And it was rewarding - it feels good to do our jobs without part of our computer system. I love being back in a service job.
 
Remember the imposter - the litter-mate of Abby's that I once mistook for her? He comes to the house occasionally and sits on the front porch and yowls. He's completely feral and won't let me near him and is doing fine on his own, so I don't worry about him. Jethro usually barks at him and he keeps his distance. With Jethro at the vet now, we had a bit of an adventure yesterday afternoon.
 
I've been walking to work this week. I was coming home yesterday, turned the last corner, and heard yowling and growling. I ran up the street and there was the imposter hanging on to one of the living room screens with all four paws and yowling. Abby was inside growling and hissing at him. I chased him off the porch and found that he had shredded the screen and dug up one of the petunias in the window box. I replanted the petunia and groused about the screen, and didn't see any of the cats for over half an hour.
 
I don't speak cat well enough to know exactly what is going on. It's not the urge to procreate - all the mammals in this house are neutered. He seems to want to get to Abby but she clearly wants nothing to do with him. Do cats have sibling bonds? Does Abby remember being abandoned before Jethro found her? I have no idea. I just know that I'll have to re-do that screen. And I'll be glad when Jethro is back home to chase away the imposters. Goodness knows what will happen while I'm out of town.
 
Speaking of that, I'm ready to leave in the morning. I cleaned the house this evening. Tomorrow I'll water the petunias, fill the birdfeeders, and start the dish washer before I leave. I should have good weather for the trip. Pray for me as I take my first vacation alone. I'll be thinking about you.
 
Love you always,
Joan.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Firsts, Friends, & an Empty Bed

Dear John,
 
It seems that I'm having another first. I thought I was done with those. I've survived the first Christmas without you, first birthdays, first anniversary. Now I'm getting ready for my first vacation without you, and it's shaking loose some emotions.
 
We never talked about how to divide the pre-vacation responsibilities, but we did have a system. You took care of maps and reservations, paying bills ahead, getting the car ready. I took care of laundry, the fridge, the dishes, packing, boarding the animals, and getting the house ready to leave. For the first time I'm doing all of it. The work is okay, it's the thinking that's taking effort. I keep remembering things that you used to do. And I put them on my list.
 
But I mentioned emotions, didn't I? I took Jethro to the vet this morning and found myself feeling a bit sad and anxious about leaving him. This is the dog that loves being boarded, that ran off with Willie without a glance back at me, that dragged me in the door when we got there. I'll miss him. The cats miss him, too. They aren't speaking to me since I left with him and didn't bring him back with me. The bed feels very lonely tonight without my big dog snuggled up with me.
 
But those aren't the right emotions. I'm so excited about this trip, so looking forward to it. But somewhere in the back of my mind is the constant awareness that this is my first vacation without you. It's like any other "first" - it underlines the fact that you're gone and nothing will ever be the same again. It's also bringing up memories of vacations we took together and ones we wanted to take but didn't have time. I expect the drive to Louisville to be emotional, but I'll be fine after I get there.
 
I've realized the firsts will never end. Every new thing I do will be something I never did with you, and that will be a first. I will gradually do more things that we used to do together - more firsts. I will learn what to expect as time goes on. I will learn the rhythm of it. And it is good. Every widow before me has walked this same path. My widowfriends and I walk it together. Together, we'll get there.
 
Today I boarded the dog and did laundry before work. Tomorrow I'll work until 5:00, then come home and clean the house. I already have clothes out to take; I'll bring the suitcase up tomorrow night and finish packing Saturday morning. I'll be thinking of you when I back out of the driveway. But that's nothing new - I'm always thinking of you.
 
Adore you,
Joan.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Churchill & St. Paul

Dear John,
 
We had a normal slow Wednesday at work, the brickwork is going well on the new building, and Maggie is finally big enough to get up on the bathroom counter and lie in the sink. Nothing to see here.
 
Today I was thinking about these last three years and how the experience of being without you has changed over time. I don't love or miss you any less, but I have grown accustomed to being on my own. It is amazing how adaptable we are; people can adjust to a lot. I would never have believed I could adapt to life without you, but it seems that I have.
 
I seem to have gotten here by virtue of extreme stubbornness. I've always had a gift for stubborn endurance. It's come in handy a few times, but never to the degree it has since your death. Churchill was right: When you're going through Hell, keep going. You have to keep getting up in the morning, keep putting one foot in front of the other, even when you can't see hope or meaning. Just keep doing it. Hope and meaning will come eventually. In the meantime, keep on keeping on. Be stubborn. Endure. Hope for hope. Cry every night, eat pop tarts when you need to, hang on to your widowfriends for dear life. Do what you need to do. But keep going.
 
I'm reminded of one of my cousins. They came up from Texas to visit us in Kentucky one winter. We all went for a walk in the snow one afternoon. One of them sat down on the sidewalk and cried because she was cold. The rest of us tried to reason with her and point out that the only way to get warmer was to get up and walk to the house, but she just sat there in the snow and cried. If you're gong through Hell, keep going. Neither snowstorms nor widowhood will get better if you give up in the middle. Keep going.
 
Well, that's my pondering for today. You knew I was bullheaded; you didn't know how helpful it would be. That's endurance, to keep going through Hell. Endurance produces character and character produces hope. Now I understand what St. Paul meant.
 
I'm starting to ramble and it's bedtime. I'll get the cats out of the sinks and get us all off to bed. Thank you for never minding my stubbornness. Thank you for knowing I'd survive without you. I do not, however, thank you for forgetting to take me with you.
 
Surviving,
Joan.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Gibbs-Slaps & Silliness

Dear John,
 
It's time for true confessions. I realized today that I've been getting my feelings hurt easily for the last few days. I'm obviously not premenstrual, so I was wondering what was causing it. I realized that I'm feeling vulnerable for a very silly reason. (I can be as silly as anybody else when I put my mind to it.)
 
It has to do with vacation. I'm so excited about it, but I'm also having a shy attack. I'm visiting two of my best and oldest friends, and part of me is concerned about bothering them. Part of me still can't believe people like me. I'm almost sixty and I still haven't outgrown this.
 
The Gibbs slap is unnecessary; I have administered my own. I can list lots of things that have contributed to my problem, but it's really just me being silly (and possibly a bit neurotic). As with most things, figuring out what has been going on in the back of my head solves ninety percent of the problem. A small part of me occasionally reverts to the childhood shyness and still expects to be the last one chosen for the team.
 
You were always my reality check and I miss that at times like this. You knew when my perceptions were accurate and when I was just being emotional and insecure. Sometimes it was a bit alarming how clearly you saw into my head. But you love me in spite of all that - I've never doubted your love for me. Come and Gibbs-slap me tonight if you want to. And stay and cuddle and talk some sense into me. I can always use that!
 
Adore you,
Joan.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Purple Petunias & Hybrid Dreams

Dear John,
 
I just have odds and ends tonight. Expect neither logical flow nor coherence.
 
The basement is almost dry. The very lowest areas are still a bit damp. We aren't expecting rain for a few days so it should dry up nicely. Some customers today were saying they had as much as five inches in their rain gauges. So it's not too bad to have had only one inch in the basement.
 
I planted the flowers after work today. It's good to look out the windows and see purple petunias in the window boxes. They'll make the whole house smell good when the windows are open. Tonight is our last cool night for a while so I should be able to open them tomorrow. The cats will love the petunias; they'll also love watching the hummingbirds they attract. The window boxes will look like this, except against our yellow house with white trim. It's going to be pretty this year.
 
I had an odd, hybrid dream last night. I dreamed about work, sort of. We'd moved into the new bank building, but we'd expanded our services to include hospital rooms. I was working the drive-up and the ICU. Tammy was still head teller and Crystal was head nurse. Charley was still bank manager and was also hospital administrator. And we were all having a lovely time. Today Charley said he has enough to do to keep in line with all the banking regulations; he has no desire to deal with hospital regulations as well. And I wouldn't wish Joint Commission on anybody.
 
It was an interesting variation on the nursing nightmares that I still sometimes have. We all have them - apparently retirement brings no relief. I remember when we were first married and I was working in The Hospital from Hell, and I woke you up in the middle of the night walking around in the bed, telling you that we had two patients coming from the ER and you had to move over to make room for them. I believe that was the only time I ever sleepwalked. Last night's dream was much more enjoyable. It was an interesting take on multitasking.
 
I only have one task now, and that is to get some sleep. Somehow I was up way too late last night. I hope to do better tonight. Your little family misses you. Feel free to drop by and see the petunias. We'll gladly kick out those ER patients to make room for you in the bed.
 
Missing cuddling with you,
Joan.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Vacations & Old Friends

Dear John,
 
We had a minor flood last night. It rained hard part of yesterday - a couple of inches in an hour - so I checked the basement. The dehumidifier and sump pump were working fine, but there was water seeping up through the basement floor in the usual places. So I got the push broom from the garage and swept the water into the sump hole. This morning it was much better; about a third of the wet area had dried and the rest was getting there. It rained most of last night, but it was a slower rain so the ground could absorb it. Nothing was damaged. We moved everything damageable out of the flood zone years ago.
 
I don't think I told you: I'm actually taking a vacation. I only get a week this year, but I'm off the Saturday before it so I really have nine days. I'm going to Kentucky to see Donna and Becky. And I'm so excited about it! I'm not sure who I'm seeing when - Donna is looking at her schedule and will probably let me know tomorrow what will work for her. I have dog reservations at the vet, and Jen and Richard will share cat duties. The grass will probably be a foot high when I come back. But we'll all survive that.
 
So this week will be busy. I have to take the dog in on Thursday morning before I go in to work my half-day. Before I leave I have to clean the house and mow and do laundry. And pack. And clean out the fridge. And pay the bills ahead. And probably several other things I haven't thought about.
 
This will be my first vacation ever without you. I'm trying not to think about that while at the same time trying to think of everything that used to be your job when we went on vacation. But I know I'm making progress - until this year, I couldn't even think about a vacation without you. I wasn't sure I'd ever want to do this. But now I do. I'm still not ready to go somewhere new and alone. But this trip is visiting old friends and that is good. It's just what I need. And I can't wait. You wouldn't enjoy this trip anyway - you'd spend a week listening while I talk to Becky and Donna. On second thought, you'd love it, wouldn't you? Feel free to come along if you can! And help me think of all the things I need to do. If you see me forgetting something, please remind me.
 
In new territory yet again,
Joan.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Declaring a Platitude-Free Zone

Dear John,
 
After work I made my shopping trip to Goshen. I had a nice lunch with you - only a few sprinkles of rain - and got home before the deluge hit. I looked for Hunter for half an hour and finally found him when I turned the recliner over. He seems to have been frightened by the storm. He never was before; maybe Jethro has influenced him. Poor baby.
 
I heard Nights in White Satin in the car today. One part struck me:
Streets full of people, some hand in hand. Just what I'm going through they can't understand. Some try to tell me thought they cannot defend. If I hear one more platitude, I won't be responsible for how the conversation ends. Because I love you.
Harold and I were talking Thursday about local crisis training for pastors, and he said they emphasized avoiding platitudes. I've heard all of them these last three years. I try to hear past them to the sincere desire to make me feel better that lies behind them, But sometimes it's hard. The one I hate most is when people say that there is something even better ahead of you. That makes me homicidal. It says to me that you weren't good enough, that there is something or somebody that will be better than you. That one makes me angry. The most frequent thing we all hear is the shoulds - people telling us what we should feel/think/do/be. I try to avoid should-ers. And if I'm pushed to extremes, I just smile and say, "Thank you! And how long have YOU been widowed?" 
 
Handling the should-ers is familiar territory for me; they follow fibromites around in droves. Everybody that can't spell fibromyalgia knows exactly what would cure it. And people who have never grieved know what would cure that, too. But grief, like fibromyalgia, can't be cured, and widows don't need fixing. All we need to hear is that people care and are sorry. That's it. Nothing else.
 
So tonight I'm declaring a platitude-free zone around all widows everywhere. I doubt it will do any good, but imagining it might make us feel better. And that's something, isn't it?
 
Adore you,
Joan.