Tuesday, August 19, 2014

There's Weight to Lose & Hair to Grow!

Dear John,

We had a normal day at work which was interrupted by a monsoon. It rained so hard that I could barely see across the street. There was thunder and lightening and downed trees and power outages. I came home to a frightened dog. The cats were unusually cuddly, probably because they had to deal with the aforesaid frightened dog. All is well now.
 
The photo is my way of reporting in. I told you last winter that I'd decided to grow my hair out, so this is my progress report. I think you'd like it. Lana is helping me keep it presentable while it grows out. I'm planning to let it grow way out, probably at least half-way down my back. That way I'll have plenty of hair to wear up. I always have had plenty of hair, and it's still thick enough that I could donate some to bald people. The gray is coarse, too, so there will be plenty of volume to wear up.
 
But, for now, it's behaving well at this length and I'm happy with it. There's very little gray away from my face. I'm graying like everybody else - from the front back. It's almost all brown on the back of my head. My gray is silver like Mama's was. I'm glad about that.
 
The other thing that shows in the photo is how much weight I've lost. I'm down thirty pounds and still losing. It turns out that severe clinical depression is a terrific weight-loss program. I didn't enjoy it at the time, but, on hindsight, I'm glad for it. I'm back to normal emotionally and am still thirty pounds lighter - you can't complain! I still have clothes to take up. I haven't started trying on my winter wardrobe yet, but I'm sure it will be fun.
 
I'm sorry you aren't here for all of this. You'd like my hair and love my weight loss. Until you get a hall pass, you can look at this photo. Feel free to show it to family and friends. But don't brag about me - there's more weight to lose and more hair to grow!
 
Adore you,
Joan.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Unexpected Sentimentality

Dear John,
 
I had an unusually busy Monday at work. In the whole 9 1/2 hours, I had about 15 minute of down time. The day went quickly. I came home to animals who were delighted to see me. Everybody came running and made quite a fuss over me. I have no idea why, but I enjoyed it.
 
This afternoon I had one of those thoughts that come out of nowhere. Suddenly I wanted to go to Methodist Hospital to visit you. I do that fairly often. It was the last place we were happy, the last time we thought you'd be alright again. That month was an oasis and a delight that I love to remember. Sometimes my head tries to go back there again.
 
The CCU nurses were so nice - they let me be a nurse as well as a wife. I swore that I wouldn't answer any other call lights, then that busy day came when they wanted me to. They let me do all kinds of things for you, and that meant a lot to me. The doctors were nice, too - they let me take part in rounds on you. I know it helped them to have somebody that knew your medical history, but they didn't have to include me like that. And Jill was wonderful, taking me in during the Super Bowl. Nobody has ever done anything like that for me.
 
The cath lab because a home-away-from-home. You were there four times in ten days, and they felt so sorry for me that they kept giving me free meals. They even let me come into the lab at the end of your first cath - I'll never forget that. And God bless Jim! It was a delight to get to know him.
 
That hospital has so many great places to eat! I was there for so long that the cashiers started asking me if I wanted to charge my meals on my employee ID card. Of course, I'm more at home in a large teaching hospital than I am anywhere other than at home. It's no wonder people thought I worked there. And if we lived any closer to Indy, I would have. I'd give my eye teeth to work there. Sadly, a four-hour commute is a bit much.
 
I looked forward to bringing you back there for follow-up visits - showing you the old nursing uniforms downstairs, taking you to eat at Au Bon Pain and getting you a red velvet cupcake, showing you the photos of the hospital's history in the hallway between the parking garage and the hospital. I'm sorry you didn't get to do any of those things.
 
There a lots of things that I'm sorry we didn't get to do, like growing old together. And Methodist Hospital will always be special to me. Thank you for those wonderful memories. If you can get a hall pass, go by there and look at the historical display. It's well worth the trip. Then come here, meet Jethro's kitties, and cuddle with your wife.
 
Love you with all my heart,
Joan.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Peace, Love, & Animal Cuddles

Dear John,
 
I actually slept last night, except for that time the dog woke me up wanting out at 4 AM and my tummy started growling so I had a piece of bread and then the cats started rampaging up and down the hall. Except for that, I slept last night.
 
I woke up at 7:00 this morning and still felt like something had run over me, so my fibro and I stayed home and did next-to-nothing all day. I managed to empty the dishwasher, scrub the kitchen sink, and put dinner in the crock pot. Other than that, I - brace yourself - watched football, knitted, and napped with the animals. I feel better tonight and do hope to wake up flareless in the morning.
 
The photos are what you missed this afternoon. Jethro was asleep in my lap and Maggie was on the back of the couch. She woke up, stretched, came down, and lay down beside him. Jethro put his left leg over her and she put her front paws on his right leg, and they both slept that way for almost an hour. Occasionally he'd lick her and she'd purr and stretch and enjoy it.
 
They are so adorable. My Facebook friends are probably divided now as was the Red Sea - two encampments rising up against each other. As this was going on I was posting the photos. The cat people enjoyed it and the others probably wish somebody would take away my phone.
 
But that's okay - I put up with plenty of misguided political posts and passive-aggressive figure-out-who-I'm-mad-at posts, so they can probably deal with it. If you had a Facebook page, you'd get these photos sooner. If you can do that, remember to send me a friend request. I'd love to see your photos and hear about your days. And your political opinions were never misguided!
 
That's all the news for today - just a day spent taking care of a fibro flare. The animals took good care of me and I feel better. I'm ready to go back to work in the morning. Come by for a cuddle tonight, and don't forget that friend request! If you have trouble figuring out Facebook, just go find a teenager.
 
Adore you,
Joan.
 
 
 





Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Joy of Small Things

Dear John,
 
We had another lovely cool night, and this time I actually slept about six hours of it. I needed to wear a sweater to work this morning. We seem to be having October in August. Whether we will have August in October remains to be seen.
 
I haven't been able to stay awake since I got off work at noon. I've taken three naps, two of which were voluntary. I curled up on the couch with Jethro at my feet and Maggie under my chin, and a good sleep was had by all. I've spent the rest of the evening working on finances and paying bills. It's wonderful to be able to pay them without having to worry. I still don't spend unnecessarily. But I know I'll be able to pay the bills and put some into savings each month. It's a small thing but, like Mr. Micawber said, it's the difference between happiness and misery.
 
I'm enjoying small things this weekend. Fibro is still flaring so I doubt I'll make it to church tomorrow. I'm watching pre-season football, knitting, and napping with the animals. Small things, but good things. I need to rest and be quiet so this flare will go away as quickly as possible. It feels very good to be still and quiet.
 
Quiet, of course, is a relative term since I share living quarters with Jethro and his three cats. At the moment Maggie has a toy and is bounding around the kitchen floor. It's a joy to watch. Jethro has his head out the living room window sniffing the breeze, Abby is chasing a fly in the other living room window, and Hunter just came sauntering down the hall and lay down to watch Maggie play. The Colts are leading the Giants, the sun is down, and the crickets and chirping away. The street is quiet; I don't even hear any traffic on Lake Street. The breeze is getting cooler - I'll sleep under the blankets again tonight.
 
These cool nights still make me miss you more. It seems that I've carved out a life for myself, and I'm content and sometimes even happy. But that happiness is always touched by the knowledge that I'd be so much happier with you. There's always an asterisk beside it. But the small things are still good; we are managing while we miss you.
 
Waiting for the reunion,
Joan.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Mandatory Winter Bathrobe

Dear John,
 
I still didn't sleep much last night. I woke up every hour on the hour. It's the fibro thing - when I hurt this bad, whatever side I'm lying on starts hurting after about an hour and wakes me up. But it was a lovely clear cool night. This morning it was 42 degrees. I really, really didn't want to get out of the bed. The winter bathrobe was required.
 
It was another crazy-busy Friday. We had subs for lunch to celebrate Abe's last day before he leaves to go back to college. While we were eating, Mark was talking about how much he enjoyed talking to you and how much he misses you. It means so much to me to hear people say that. It's good to know how much you're loved by so many people. And I enjoy getting to talk about you. If I can't talk to you, the next best thing is talking about you.
 
I'm off to bed early again. I'm still hoping to sleep. But this fibro flare will eventually go away, and I'll still be here when it's gone. I'll miss you on this cool night. I'll go to bed with Jethro at the foot of your side of the bed, Abby curled up on your pillow, Hunter spread out across my ribs, and Maggie on my grandmother's rocking chair. When Maggie is big enough to get up and down on the bed by herself, I predict some jockeying for position. They're all a bunch of cuddle-bugs.
 
Sleep well tonight, and please pray that I do, too. You're always more than welcome, if you can arrange a hall pass. You know where to find the spare key.
 
Love and cuddles from all your little family,
Joan.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Ouchy Perfect Days

Dear John,
 
I had a good but fairly slow day at work. Tomorrow is Friday, so it will be busy and will seem to go faster. I may be staying for an extra hour - one of our babies came early and we're having to do shift the schedule around, so I volunteered.
 
I've been tired and hurting all week. For some reason, the fibro decided to rear its head. Tonight is the patronal feast at church, but by the time I finished work I knew there was no way I could stay upright long enough to go. I have to be able to work eleven hours tomorrow and four on Saturday. I'm being sensible and, as usual, not enjoying it at all.
 
The good news is the weather. It's been absolute perfection -  low 70s during the day and low 50s at night. Two days of rain have the grass green again, but it's been cool enough to slow its growth. I probably won't need to mow this weekend, and that is good. I'm so love sleeping on these cool nights.
 
Tonight I'll take a pain pill at bedtime. I'll sleep better, and maybe feel better in the morning. I love my job on days like this - I can physically do it when I don't feel good, and it keeps me busy and helps keep my mind off of the fibro pain. It's such a gift. And solvency isn't to be gainsaid, either. I am grateful.
 
The critters and I are off to bed. All is well here - the cats play together, Jethro adores them, and Maggie's eyes are still green. Now I just need to weather this flare until it goes away. If you can come for a visit tonight, we can cuddle on another cool night.
 
Miss you so much,
Joan.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Green Eyes & Cat Pills

Dear John,
 
I have a new skill. I can now give pills to cats.
 
Maggie had a wonderful check-up. She weighs 2.6 pounds and is doing fine. Everybody is healthy except that all three cats have tapeworm. I took a suspicious thing in for June to look at, and it was a tapeworm segment. Hence the pills. Everybody gets one pill, and that should take care of it. Maggie will go back in another month for her last kittenhood vaccines, and I'll take a stool sample in to be sure all the hitchhikers are gone.
 
Oh, and last night Maggie's eyes changed color. They were brown at bedtime and green this morning. June says that is normal at this age - evidently things can change very rapidly. It seems that most torties have green eyes.  It was startling to look at her this morning! And she and Abby have progressed to the point that I found Abby grooming her in the window sill this afternoon.
 
I had half a busy day off. I took Maggie in first, then came home and watered plants, swept the porch, took recycling, paid the water bill, went to the post office, and scrubbed out the recycle bins. I ate lunch and woke up half an hour later, so I decided to take an elective nap while I could. Then I talked on the phone to Irene and Jen, took a shower, and will head off to bed soon. There was more that could have been done today, but I've been tired all week and decided to be more sensible than anal for a change. The rest of the week will be busy.
 
I missed you last night. I did sleep in winter pajamas with the windows part-way open. It was the first night in a long time that I didn't have the fan on. I woke up around 4 AM and was chilly enough to pull up the bedspread. I was sad that I didn't have you to curl up against to get warm. We always enjoyed sleeping together with the windows open on cool nights. I'm getting better at going to bed alone. But last night I really missed you.
 
I'm heading off to bed now, to miss you again. Sleep well, and know how much I love you.
Joan.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Misplaced Autumn Day

Dear John,
 
It's a lovely fall evening - a bit out of place in the middle of August, but a fall evening nonetheless.
 
We had rain and thunderstorms until mid-afternoon, and I don't believe the temperature ever got out of the 60s. Now it's 58 with a breeze out of the north. I've spent the evening in my winter pajamas, knitting in front of an open window, with cats sleeping all over me. The only thing lacking was a hot cup of chai. But, even if I had any, I couldn't drink it that late in the day without being up all night. So it's just as well.
 
Last night I told you that widow brain is a very real thing. I wanted to show you this and try to explain what it's like. You can't concentrate, for one thing. And you have no short-term memory. You have the attention span of a gnat. It isn't pleasant. And it's very frustrating to other people.
 
About six months after your death, I went to see Joe with strep throat. While I was there I told him about the cognitive problems I was having, and that I wasn't sure if it was widowhood, fibro fog, or residual damage from the car accident. He stared at me for a minute, then burst out with, "What the hell do you expect?"
 
And this is why I drive over an hour for primary care. I laughed, he shook his head at me, and over time it all got better. The widow brain lasted for two years - much longer than I'd expected. I seem now to be back to my normal cognitive state, such as it is. I know that I couldn't have taken this job any sooner than I did. Now I'm ready for it, and I'm enjoying learning a new career. It seems that my widow brain has departed. I may be safe to take out in public again.
 
Tomorrow is my day off, and Maggie has her second vet appointment in the morning. June will be delighted to see how well she's doing. She seems to have doubled in size. She has long legs and a long body, and she loves to gallop up and down the hall in the middle of the night. Sometimes Abby joins in, and it sounds like a herd of elephants. She's a happy, healthy, cuddly kitten. I'm eager to see how much she weighs now, since she was under a pound when Jethro found her. Bless my Great Collector and Protector of Kittens!
 
I'm the last mammal awake - I will remedy that shortly. I'll miss you tonight as I cuddle up in my flannel pajamas with the windows open in the cool night air. Come and cuddle with me?
 
Miss you,
Joan.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Of Yarn and Rain

Dear John,
 
It finally rained today. Thank you if your prayers had anything to do with it. The grass is already turning green and I believe I can hear it growing. It's crucial right now because the corn is putting out ears. I've never seen an entire town so excited about rain.
 
There is some kind of recovery going on in me. I'm beginning to enjoy knitting the way that I used to before your death. I've knitted since then, but because I needed to and without getting pleasure from it. Now I'm feeling the love and deep satisfaction that I used to. Again, thanks if your prayers had anything to do with it.
 
I don't know what my problem was. Maybe it was all the hours I spent knitting in hospital rooms the last three months of your life? I don't think so, because I enjoyed those hours so much. It's more likely an alteration in my attention span during the first couple of years of widowhood. It took me almost that long to be able to read a book again; I couldn't make my brain sit still long enough. Widowbrain is a very real thing, you know.
 
Whatever it was, it's much better now. I'm starting to think ahead about new projects to start after the Christmas-present dishcloths are done. I can't wait to get back to knitting socks! That's always my favorite. I have patterns I want to try. I may even make some socks for myself - how's that for self-indulgence?
 
The days are getting shorter now, and in the evening you'll find me curled up with yarn and needles. Stop by and help me wind a few skeins!
 
Love you more than yarn,
Joan.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose

Dear John,
 
I had a good morning at church and a long nap afterward. Then I turned on the television and found "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose." That was your very favorite X-Files episode, partly because Peter Boyle was in it and partly because of the questions it raised. I enjoyed seeing it again. The series was wonderfully atmospheric and the cinematography was excellent. It's rerunning on Chiller. I think I'll watch more of it.
 
It seems that I've succeeded in making other people comfortable talking about you. It took time and work - for some reason, everybody thought that hearing your name would make me dissolve in tears. That's silly, of course. I love to talk about you, and it means a lot to me when you are important enough to others for them to bring you up in conversation.
 
You're talked about the most at church. Charlie says he is constantly aware of you during the Liturgy. He says you still serve behind the iconostasis like you always did, and sometimes you make him laugh. I have no idea what you are up to back there, but Charlie likes it. Feeling your presence makes him happy.
 
Keep the light on for me.
And Josh said today that you help him with his job. He lets people should him too much; sometimes he feels like he should have a "better" job, have an "important" career. Then he remembers that you did what he does without having any problem with it. I, of course, talked to him about the importance of being obedient to God and the complete irrelevance of the expectations of others. You agreed with my Grandmother Keistler: Any honest work is good work, and is beneath no one. I rather got in his face about it. His face survived.
 
You're still very important to so many people! They miss you - at church, the post office, the bank, the pharmacy, the doctor's office, and so many other places. There is still mourning for you and celebration of you. Me, I still can't separate you from any part of my life, past or present. We're a scrambled egg and totally unseparatable. So I'm living my life here and waiting for the time that I join you. And most of the time, the veil  between here and there is very thin.
 
So, tonight, pull up "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose" on Chiller's website and enjoy. And know that you're still loved, mourned, valued, and celebrated here. Keep the light on for me!
 
Forever yours,
Joan.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Old Folks at Home

Dear John,
 
You might want to run and get Daddy, and read this letter with him.
 
I did mow this morning - not the grass, but the buckhorn. The grass, being sensible, is brown and dormant. Buckhorn will survive like the cockroaches. I started before 10:00 so it wasn't too bad. I left weeding for a cooler day.
 
I was thinking about Daddy while I mowed. When we were children, the role of a father in the life of his kids was primarily that of provider and back-up disciplinarian. My father was an exception. He always took me somewhere on Saturday mornings. Mama got a break and we got time together. We went to the Atlanta airport, the zoo, or Stone Mountain, and usually had lunch at the Varsity. Sometimes he had to stop by job sites on the way - I remember walking around construction sites with a hard hat on when I was so small I could only see my feet and had to hold onto his hand to be able to walk. Wonderful memories!
 
We did other things together as a family. We fished when we could and did yard work together. I remember Daddy mowing, Mama trimming, and me sweeping the driveway and sidewalk. Since I grew up in SEC country, we watched football together. I was always outside with him when we grilled. Every day he came home from work, got a piece of cheese, and sat down with me in his lap. He shared his cheese with me until I got big enough to have my own piece. I remember one night when he brought blueprints home and I was fascinated by them. He explained that it was a bird's-eye view and told me what the symbols meant. I remember the moment it clicked in my head and I understood. I could still draw that particular factory floor from memory.
 
So, tonight, please give Daddy my love. Tell him how grateful I am for all the time he spent with me when I was little, for teaching me how to bait a hook and gut a fish, ride a bike, and read a blueprint. And tell him that, in his honor, I had a tomato sandwich for lunch today. Be sure to thank him yourself, too.  After all, you love me and I'm so much like him - I am largely his fault. And Mama always said that he could never deny paternity since I look exactly like him. Give him a big hug from me, and tell him how much I look forward to seeing him again.
 
Love to all the old folks at home. There's where my heart is turning ever!
Joan.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Effectiveness of Nagging

Dear John,
 
It's Friday night.
 
I had a very busy day at work, unusually busy even for a Friday. But lunch was great. We had a cook-out/carry-in with burgers, potato salad, pasta salad, a veggie tray, cheese and crackers, and a to-die-for dessert. I won't need to eat for a few days. I'd planned to mow after work but didn't. It was too hot and humid and I was too tired. All that's grown is some weed tops, and there aren't enough of those to make me mow yet. So I'm inside watching pre-season football, which is clearly preferable to yard work.
 
A little while ago I heard Abby yowling. She's very vocal like most Oriental cats. She yowls, growls, mutters, and howls, and I expect her to burst into speech at any moment. I went looking to be sure all was well and found her lying beside Jethro and wanting his attention. She yowled at him until he licked and groomed her. He appeared to want a nap but he finally yielded, either to necessity or nagging.
 
A good time will be had by all in the morning. They get so excited when I wake up but don't get up right away. I get the laptop and sit up in bed, and they all come and curl up somewhere on me. Tomorrow I need to make a recycling run. And I want to get the sewing machine out and get some of my clothes taken up. I'm running out of things that fit me. - quite a nice problem to have. Did you remember to ask Mama if she wanted to come and help pin things on me? Let me know if she's planning to come.
 
I got a bit choked up at work today. I was watching a customer put his check in the tube to send it in to me, and noticed that he put the pen in the tube exactly like you used to. It's funny how little things like that catch me off guard. But I guess it's not surprising - I knew you for thirty-eight years, and there are lots of little habits that you learn in that amount of time. I miss all of your little habits. If I keep nagging you about coming for a visit, will you give in like Jethro did to Abby?
 
Adore you,
Joan. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Leather, Lace, and Happy Days

Dear John,
 
There isn't much to talk about today. I had a good Thursday at work, will go in early tomorrow but am off at 5:00. I need to mow after work - again, not the grass but the seed heads on the weeds. We really need rain. Could you pray about that for all of us? I don't mind mowing less often, but the corn is thirsty.
 
I heard today that I'm getting a 25-cent-an-hour raise on my next paycheck, and I got ridiculously excited about it. It will give me about fifty dollars more every month, and that's always welcome. But really, it feels good to have earned it. There's a satisfaction in learning how to do a new job and being told that I'm doing it well. I've crossed all kinds of hurdles this week - I've learned how to do escrow payments and run the new coin-counting machine. What a big girl I am!
 
Right now I'm listening to "Leather and Lace" and remembering what we were doing when it came out. We were living my ideal life - my dream house, my dream job, your first job as general manager, completely unaware of the radiation damage happening in your body. The song always takes me back to those days of blissful ignorance. We were so young and hopeful. All of our years together were good, but there's something special about those early years when we didn't know what was coming. We didn't have many of them, did we? But when we found out, it just made us value each other even more. I can't separate who we are from that knowledge - it became too fundamental a part of us.
 
By city or mountain, stay with me. Come and visit tonight. I need you today.
 
Forever and ever,
Joan.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Love & the Loop of Henle

Dear John,
 
It's been an odd day. It was so split into two parts that I feel like this has to be Thursday night already.
 
I worked until noon. I hadn't heard from Joe's office about whether he wanted me to come in today or not, so I called them. After much calling around, they made an appointment for me to see his newest partner at 4:30. So at 3:00 I headed off to South Bend.
 
The Loop of Henle, for your reviewing pleasure!
It turns out that I don't have a bladder infection - the U/A came back perfectly normal. The next thing to rule out is bladder spasms, so I'll pick up a prescription for Ditropan tomorrow and we'll see if that helps. If it does, well and good, and we'll assume that the problem is age and lack of estrogen. If it doesn't, the next step will be imaging studies to see what's going on in there. I'm getting my review of the urinary system. At least it's the simple part and not the hormones. But I always did love the Loop of Henle.
 
We're so weird. Who else is up after their bedtime talking about the wonders of the Loop of Henle? It's a good thing we married each other and didn't subject any innocent bystanders to either one of us, isn't it?
 
Love you even more than my Loops of Henle,
Joan.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Conversing With My Sanity

Dear John,
 
I'm having mixed, confused feelings. So help me straighten out my head.
 
Over the last couple of days I've been thinking about the things I like most about my life now, and I realized that I wouldn't have any of them if you were still alive. That is troubling to me. But think about it - the cats, my job, wouldn't be here if you were. The same is true about how good I'm feeling and how much better the fibro is. I would never have gone off of processed food and started eating organic if you were alive.
 
I've been wondering what to make of this. Of course, I'd give it all up in a heartbeat to have you back. (Except that I'd keep the cats because you'd love them too.) I guess these things are gifts, helping me cope with your absence. I have to work full time, so I have this job. To be able to work full time, the fibro has to be better. And the cats pulled Jethro out of his depression after you died.
 
So it's alright that I'm enjoying things that I wouldn't have if you were here, because if you were here I wouldn't need them. It's a bit like loving your prosthesis after losing a limb. You'd much rather have the limb; but if you have to live without it, it's great to have a prosthesis.
 
Okay. That's sorted out. Thank you - you've always helped me to think things through. I don't have to feel guilty about any of this. It appears that I'm being normal again. Who'd'a thunk it? I suppose my sanity won't talk to me tonight. That's probably a good thing.
 
It's my normal bedtime, so I'd better take my normal self off to bed before I come up with something else to puzzle over. But if I do, you'll be the first to know!
 
Love you great huge bunches,
Joan.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Cat Towers & Contentment

Dear John,
 
The best investment we ever made was that set of flannel sheets for thirty dollars. So far we've paid three dollars for every year we've used them, and they're still going strong.
 
Coming in a close second is the cat tower. I took this picture after dinner tonight - my dinner and theirs. As you can tell, Hunter was still eating. Abby and Maggie were playing, Jethro was watching from below. They play, eat, and sleep on that tower. Inside the box in the picture is the only place I've found to put the cat food so that Jethro can't get to it. That alone makes the tower worth its weight in gold.
 
Aren't they adorable? Aren't you sorry you're missing all of this? Does it make you want to come back? I really wondered if getting a third cat would upset you enough to make you come back and get me, but evidently not. How long does Jethro have to keep collecting kittens to make you mad enough to show up?
 
I really do love all of them. Tonight I'm content. I had a good day at this job that I love, came home to four furbabies that love me, and will do it all again tomorrow. The only thing missing is you. But our separation is so temporary! And I'm thankful above all else for the years that I had with you. You chose to spend the rest of your life with me. And when Jen and the furbabies let me dig, I'll go home to you. All is good.
 
Love you forever and ever,
Joan.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Carole King, Glue, & Bad Theology

Dear John,
 
It's been clear and in the low 80s today, and there's a beautiful sunset. Jethro and Maggie are in the front windows, Hunter at the back door, and Abby on the bed. The petunias are making the whole house smell good.
 
I watched American Masters on PBS this afternoon. The first show was about the rise of the singer-songwriter, and focused on Carole King and James Taylor. The second was about Woody Guthrie. That made all subsequent television look banal, hence the evening spent listening to the birds.
 
They played part of Carole King's Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, and I heard something in it that I never have before. It's probably because I've been thinking lately about the people who think that it's creepy that I still love you. But today I heard the song as if you were asking me that at your burial. And what a silly question! But there are many, many people who think that the love between a husband and wife ends with the end of the funeral. They must not really believe in eternal life - they must think that death ends a person's existence. It's still silly, since as a species we are quite good at loving things and people who don't exist. But so many people think that.
 
As I've said before, "'til death do us part" is for wimps. Yes, in the eyes of the law and the church I am free to fall in love again and remarry. But I still feel just as married to you, and just as much in love with you, as ever. Yes, I will still love you tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. This sacramental joining of two people is eternal. Your existence hasn't ended and never will, and neither will mine. I am your wife and always will be; it is an honor and privilege that I will never relinquish. In other words, there ain't no way you're getting rid of me.
 
So be forewarned: You are stuck with me. I love you and I always will. And, if Jen doesn't want it, I will be buried in my wedding ring. And we'll never be separated again.
 
Stuck to you like glue,
Joan.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Fresh Bread & Power Tools

Dear John,
 
I've had a perfectly lovely day. I woke up early, went to the pharmacy and the Farmers' Market, had lunch and brought ice cream from the Chief out to eat with you, stopped at the co-op, and came home with cheese, greens, potatoes, bread, yogurt, and the world's biggest tomato. I cuddled with the animals a while, then cleaned the bathrooms, vacuumed, and watered the petunias. Then I took a badly-needed shower.
 
I surprised myself this morning. I was sitting in bed with the laptop like I do on my days off, and found this lovely photo on Pinterest. My first thought was, "I can do that!" My second was that it's a good thing I didn't sell the table saw. Then I heard myself.
 
You know how long I've wanted bead board in the main bathroom. And I'd love to replace the mirror and need to replace the vanity and sink. And that old vinyl floor has got to go. I've been feeling so overwhelmed for the last two years that I'd dismissed any thought of doing anything at all with it. But this morning I thought, "I can do that!" And of course I can.
 
It seems that I'm doing better. I appear to be myself again, for the first time in over two years. It help to be out from under the Cymbalta-withdrawal depression. And solvency helps, too. I've learned that I can indeed work full time, and I love my job. I don't feel so overwhelmed anymore.
 
So I'm reading my home renovation books and making plans for the bathroom. If I'm going to do this, I might as well do it right, and that means taking up the flooring and putting down tile. The only thing I'm concerned about is taking out the toilet, and only because I can't lift it by myself. But we'll deal with that. For now, I'm just excited to be excited about something. And it feels good to have regained something  - self-confidence? a sense of adventure? the courage to challenge myself and try something new? my love of power tools? maybe just myself.

I knew you'd be happy to hear all of this. I know you're smiling right now. I'm smiling, too. It was good to hear myself thinking like that. Let me hear all your suggestions for the bathroom!

Love you even more than power tools,
Joan.

Friday, August 1, 2014

It's Friday Night!

Dear John,
 
It's Friday night!
 
I have the weekend off. I won't need to mow, since I did it after work Wednesday. I still have plenty to do - I need to weed and trim outside, and dust and vacuum inside. It wouldn't hurt to clean the bathrooms. And I'll be going to the farmers' market and the co-op tomorrow morning. But I got bills paid tonight and the kitchen cleaned this morning. I'm all set for the weekend.
 
The last weekend I had off was disrupted by the acquisition of Jethro's newest kitten. I do hope we don't repeat the process. Keeping up with four furbabies is enough. This is the limit until Jethro gets a job. They'll be happy when I don't go to work in the morning. When I wake up and bring the laptop to bed, they'll all come and pile up with me and go back to sleep. Bless their hearts, they love the days that I don't go to work.
 
I found myself wondering what time you were getting off work tonight - I still do that. I'm used to you being gone on Friday evenings, but I still expect you to come home. If you'd like to, it would make all of us very happy. You can meet Maggie. And I'll show you what Abby does when my phone alarm goes off - she loves the cricket sound. And Jethro would be beside himself; he misses you so much. I don't need to tell you how happy I'd be. So come if you can get a hall pass for the night. Or, if you can't, lets skype at bedtime.
 
Love you so very much,
Joan.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Piecing My Life Back Together

Dear John,
 
I had my ninety-day evaluation at work today and everything was good. I met or exceeded expectations in every category. I was especially commended for my work ethic and people skills. I suppose that comes from all those years of working with patients and physicians, and always understaffed. They seem happy to have me.
 
Piecing my life back together . . .
And I'm happy to be there. I really do love this job.  I look forward to going to work. I enjoy what I do - it's prefect for my anal retentive personality, and there is a lot of variety and interesting stuff to learn. And I like the people I work with - I'm old enough to know that you can't overestimate the importance of that, especially in a job with so few employees. I can see myself working there for a long time.
 
I feel like I'm slowly piecing together some kind of life. I love my job, I'm financially solvent, I have the a rhythm down for the yard work and errands, and I'm knitting again. The housework isn't always up to my standards, but I'm learning to loosen my standards when necessary. Some dust and furballs never killed anybody. Jethro's habit of collecting kittens doesn't help that, but they're worth it. What I'm piecing together isn't the life I wanted. But I'm doing okay with the one I have, and that's progress. At least, it feels like progress. And it feels good.
 
I'll be off to bed soon. Tomorrow's Friday, so I have to be there at 7:15 instead of 7:30. I'll be at the drive-up again, but I'm off at 5:00 instead of 6:00. Fridays are so busy that the time passes quickly. I have the weekend off and don't need to mow, so I may get some neglected housework done. And if you can get a hall pass and come for a visit, I still promise to put on a flannel nightgown just for you.
 
Adore you,
Joan.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Maxine, Flannel, & Orange Polo Shirts

Dear John,
 
I worked my half-day today, then came home and mowed. It's been too dry for the grass to be growing so I mowed seed heads off of the weeds. Whatever it was, it needed mowing. I still need to trim and weed, but since I'm getting over the tummy bug I decided to take it a bit easier today.
 
I found this and had to show it to you. You were my very very favorite lawnmower, you know. You never went shirtless - when you had radiation in college, you were told to never expose your chest and back to sun. But you weren't the shirtless type anyway. You lived in jeans or khakis with solid polo shirts. It's hard to imagine you in anything else. You had suits and dress shirts and ties, and wore them when it was appropriate. But I always think of you in jeans and polo shirts. To me, that is you.
 
So you mowed in your oldest jeans and your most ragged, stained polo shirts. That's why I couldn't throw out your old orange one. I remember when it got so bad that I consigned it to "yard work only" status. And I watched you work in it for so many years after that, that I couldn't bear to part with it. Orange was a departure for you, and the color was a spectacular failure - you look as bad in orange as I do. But now I love that shirt because I saw you do yard work in it for so many years. It's funny what ends up having meaning, isn't it? I wonder what in my closet you'd feel attached to.
 
Come tonight, go through my closet, and tell me what is meaningful for you. I know some of my pajamas and nightgowns are favorites of yours, mostly the flannel ones. You always loved me in flannel nightgowns. If you visit tonight, I'll wear flannel for you even in July.
 
Willing to wear flannel in July for you,
Joan.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Wedding Rings & Scatty Things

Dear John,
 
Today was "Son of Dysentery & Dishcloths." I finally got to sleep last night after I threw up at 2 AM, and I thought that was the end of it. It wasn't. I called in from the bathroom again. They're being very nice and sympathetic about it. And nobody wants me spreading this any farther. So I slept until 10:00, stayed in bed until I could get away from the bathroom, and knitted, napped, and watched an Animal Planet marathon. Sound familiar?
 
This evening I was listening to Pandora and heard "Nights in White Satin." 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 thoughts they cannot defend." I know it wasn't written by or about widows. But that is very true for all of us. We don't mind when the non-widows don't understand - we didn't either until it happened to us. All we want is for people to understand that they can't understand. When people try to should me, I want to say, "Thank you! And how long have YOU been widowed?"
 
Lately my mind has been going back to all of the people who think that it's creepy that I'm still in love with you. Thank goodness, the people I work with don't think that, possibly because most of them knew you. But most people do think that. Becky found this, and it sums up wonderfully just how I feel.

And speaking of you waiting for me, I've been pondering something else. You know I had you buried in your wedding ring. I couldn't bear to take it off of your hand or see your hand without it. I think I'd like to be buried in mine, too. That way, when the general resurrection comes, we'll both be wearing our wedding rings. I'd hate to come to you and find you wearing your ring and not be wearing mine.

That's probably enough rambling for one night - sorry to be so scatty. To sum up: I'm still sick, I'm still in love with you, I'm still your wife. No surprises there, huh? I hope the tummy virus has run its course. No other status changes are expected!

Still in love,
Joan.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Of Dysentery & Dishcloths

Dear John,
 
I stayed home from work today. I woke up with the worst diarrhea I've had since salmonella in college. I had to call in from the bathroom. It's been going around at work - Abe must have breathed on me before they sent him home sick on Saturday. And it's moving backwards on me. It started as a lower-GI bug and now I'm starting to get upper-GI problems. I especially hate missing Mondays. I love Monday because there's always a huge stack of night-drops, and I enjoy processing those. Strange, I know. Jen was the same way when she worked there; she must have gotten it from me.
 
After I was able to be more than a few feet from the bathroom, I transitioned to the living room couch and watched an Animal Planet marathon. And I got my knitting out for the first time in months. It's odd that grief has included an inability to knit. But I have to knit now. When we were going through your mother's house, all of the women were talking about her dishcloths and how much they would miss them. So I have picked up dish cloth duty. Nobody knows that I'm doing it. But I've started working on them so I'll have enough to send everybody a few for Christmas. I'd like to get about thirty-five made by then. I'll need to go shopping for more crochet thread.
 
There's one more thing. When Jethro found Maggie, I was not thrilled. I couldn't leave the little creature out there to die; there was no question that I was going to bring her home and take care of her. But I didn't need another cat. Well, like Princess Buttercup, she's quite a winning creature. I have fallen in love with the little thing. I still wish Jethro would get a paper route so he can make a financial contribution. But I can't imagine life without her. She'd adorable.
 
So pass the news on to our mothers that I'm glad to have my third cat and I'm making dishcloths for the whole family. There should be relief all around. And please pray for me, that my tummy settles before morning. We need to stop passing this thing around.
 
Loving you amidst cat hair and crochet thread,
Joan.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Storms, Humitidy, & Waverly Sanitorium

Dear John,
 
It's been a quiet Sunday. I did some coughing and wheezing in the middle of the night so I had to stay home this morning. I slept in until 10:00, then I got the laptop and all of us piled up in the bed except Maggie, who was asleep in her new favorite spot on the headrest of your recliner.
 
It's been hot and humid today so I decided to let mowing wait. Storms came through this afternoon, and next week is supposed to be in the seventies and drier. And as usual this time of the summer, it isn't the grass that needs mowing. It the tall seed heads on the weeds. They can wait a day or two.
 
The highlight of the day was talking to Donna. We met on the first day of eighth grade, and I wonder what we would have thought if anybody had told us that we'd still be talking on the phone forty-six years later. There are very few people who have known me so long and so well. And she still admits it in public, bless her! I think we first connected over sports - very few eighth-grade girls are serious about their sports. 
 
Donna and I hope to make trouble together next year when I get some vacation days. I want to go to Kentucky and see her and Becky and Alan, and Donna and I are talking about touring Waverly Sanitorium. There's talk about developing it, and I want to see it before they remuddle it. I love old hospitals just as they are, thank you. I don't care a pin about the stories about it being haunted. I just love, love, love old hospitals!
 
And I just realized that I'm looking forward to things again. The depression and anxiety are gone, and it feels amazing to feel like myself again. During that month of severe depression I lost thirty pounds. Yes, thirty pounds in one month. When I get sad I eat comfort food, but with severe depression I don't eat. The weight loss has slowed down, of course, but I'm still losing. My skinny jeans are loose on me! I have a stack of clothes that I need to take up. It's a lovely problem to have.
 
You might do me a favor - ask Mama if she could drop by and help me take up those clothes. It's so much easier when you have somebody else to pin things on you. She and I always enjoyed sewing together. She preferred the machine part and I preferred the hand sewing, so we made a good team. I can't imagine not being able to make and alter your own clothes. I'm so thankful I had an old-fashioned upbringing.
 
So give her my love and thanks. And come with Donna and me when we tour Waverly Sanitorium. I know you - you'll love it!
 
Hugs and kisses,
Joan.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Contentment and Peaches

Dear John,
 
It's Saturday evening, and I'm relaxed and contented.
 
I worked my half-day today. The animals were delighted when I came home a little after noon. I'm feeling better - my cough went away - but I'm still really tired, so I've spent most of the day relaxing with cats and dogs stretched out on me. I need to mow but the weather didn't cooperate. We had some storms early this afternoon and got a good hard rain, so there will be no mowing today. I'm not disappointed.
 
Friday and Saturday evenings have been the easiest parts of the week to be without you. And it's not surprising since you spent most of our years managing restaurants. You almost always worked those times, so something in me doesn't expect you to be home then. Sometimes late in the evening I still catch myself thinking, "Now what time does John get off tonight?" And I feel a stab of sadness when I realize that you're not coming home anymore. I wonder how long I'll do that. You're a hard habit to break.
 
This is Maggie's latest close-up. She's growing so fast! She's getting more self-confidence and running all around the house. Sometimes Abby still makes grumbling noises when she comes close, but she sidles right up to her anyway, with no sign of fear. And she and Hunter cuddle and groom each other. Today Jethro let her teethe on his ear.
 
Your little family is having a happy, relaxed, slow evening. The only thing lacking is you, so drop by if you can. I have fresh Georgia peaches! 
 
Still leaving the light on for you,
Joan.

Friday, July 25, 2014

How Much Are Those Kitties in the Window?

Dear John,
 
I'm so ready for bed! I worked long today - in the drive-up, which is open until 6:00 on Fridays - so I worked for eleven hours. My feet hurt. Actually, every inch of me hurts. But Fridays are so busy that they go by fast. And on Fridays there are two of us back in my little corner, and that's fun. I enjoyed working with Tammy today.
 
I had to show you this photo. This is what Hunter and Abby do when I'm trying to go to sleep at night. Hunter climbs from the chest into the top part of the window and Abby crawls into the window sill. Last night there were birds outside that they were stalking. They don't make it any easier to sleep, but they're so much fun to watch.
 
I'm off to bed now. My sore throat is trying to turn into an asthma flare, so I'm taking care of myself - mucinex, chloraseptic, and inhalers. Better living through chemistry! And I talked to customers all day and have very little voice left. So if you drop by tonight, I'll listen to you. You can come and tell me what your days are like. You can tell me about simultaneous chess tournaments like you used to when I couldn't get to sleep. You can read the phone book if you want. I'd just love to hear your voice and touch you again.
 
I'll leave the light on,
Joan.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Hot Flashes & Internet Gambling

Dear John,
 
I had a good but odd day at work. I finished the annual testing - tested from 8:00 to 3:30. My brain is fried. I had no idea that a bank job would necessitate learning all about illegal internet gambling. Money laundering, maybe. But not internet gambling. And I had no idea that so much of the Patriot Act consists of banking regulations. As I told Abe this afternoon, I can read your EKG and teach you how to manage a patient with a balloon pump, but internet gambling? Yikes. After I finished testing I helped Abe finish some processing, relieved Margaret at the drive-up so she could work in the vault, and generally made myself useful.
 
On the way home I went by the pharmacy and talked to Tom about these hot flashes. They're miserable. I'm having up to three or four an hour at work, and they're keeping me awake at night. So he had a supplement he recommended. I'll keep you posted. I do have hopes. They aren't so bad in the winter, but they're nasty in July. I'm sorry I'm sleeping without you, but right now you should be glad you're missing this. Every time I move during the night, to go to the bathroom or even turn over, I have a hot flash. I throw off all the covers, lie in front of the fan, and it takes me half an hour to cool off enough to go back to sleep. You'd be miserable. You'd probably be freezing with the fan on all night. With as much heat as you used to put out at night, I'd be dying, too.
 
So when you come back to visit, you may not want to stay the night. At least, not until this supplement eases the hot flashes off a bit. You can come on a day that I'm off and I'll feed you meat loaf and mashed potatoes. At bedtime we can cuddle and do prayers together, you can tuck me in, they you can go back to Heaven and get a good night's sleep without me keeping you awake. And if you want, I'll teach you all about money laundering and illegal internet gambling. You'd be fascinated by all this stuff that I'm learning.
 
My next day off is Sunday - see you then?
Waiting and hoping,
Joan.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Purple Petunias & Barney Pete

Dear John,
 
All these animals are confusing me. I had to check my calendar to see which one I was taking to the vet today. It turns out it was Jethro, for his yearly. He's doing fine, is at his ideal weight, and has no problems. He does need to get a part-time job to help pay for all this health care. June was relieved to hear how well Maggie is doing.
 
Speaking of Jethro, we had another strange night. We went to bed at nine, all of us except Maggie who has decided to sleep on the top of the cat tower. A little after two I woke to find Jethro lying across my head. Sure enough, there were a few faint rumbles of thunder. I checked the radar and my heart sank. Clearly, we were in for hours of storms. So I yielded to the inevitable - sat up, turned on the light, got the laptop, and made toast.
 
It wasn't much of a storm. If it weren't for Jethro, I'd never have heard a thing. There was a faint rumble about every ten or fifteen minutes. But, Jethro being Jethro, we were up until after five. I'm glad this was my day off. It did drop the temperature, from the 90s yesterday to the low 70s today. So I opened the house this morning and everybody is happy.
 
Right now I'm sitting by the living room windows. The petunias in the window boxes are big and beautiful and fragrant. I got a variety of purples and lavenders this year; they look good against the light yellow siding. All the animals are asleep - Jethro at my feet, Maggie in my lap, and Hunter and Abby on the bed. I'll have to wake them up soon for dinner. Television is terrible tonight, so I'm listening to the wind in the trees.
 
Highs for the next ten days are supposed to be in the mid-70s, so the windows should be able to stay open. This isn't our usual July. But remember that polar vortex we got last winter? We have the same pattern in place now. This time it's welcome - it's giving us a very comfortable July. I hope we don't pay for it in September! And I'm not ready to think about next February.
 
That's all the news. Three-fifths of your little family has undergone medical scrutiny this month and been judged healthy. And so far I'm managing to keep all the creatures straight. One day I'll be like your grandmother was with the grandkids - when you can't remember the name of one of them, just call them Barney Pete!
 
Love you so much,
Joan.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Everything I Hope For, Everything I Need

Dear John,
 
I had another good day at work. I'm off tomorrow - I have shopping to do in the morning, and Jethro has his yearly vet appointment in the afternoon. So I'll have a nice busy day.
 
Like Joe Cocker said . . .
I've been smiling since yesterday afternoon. A young man told me that I'm gorgeous. After I regained the power of speech, I told him that I know an excellent optometrist who can take care of that problem for him. But it made me smile.
 
I was beautiful to you, and that was all that mattered. And you didn't love me because I was beautiful; you saw me as beautiful because you loved me. That's an important difference. The person you loved didn't go away in the thirty-four years we were married, but my youthful appearance did. I would never have married a man who loved me for my looks. Dreadful thought.
 
I never wanted to be beautiful. I've always wanted to look average. Deviating from the average in either direction is a dreadful nuisance. Looking pretty much like everybody else is the only way to avoid having your looks rule your life. Being either ugly or beautiful is an annoyance. I was always glad that I'm not beautiful.
 
I'm not to anybody but you, that is. I'm so glad you always loved to look at me. But I know that what you loved most about my face was the expression on it when I looked at you. And, like I said that night, that look is right here waiting for you. Like Joe Cocker said, you're everything I hope for, everything I need.
 
Love you with all my heart,
Joan.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Way You Looked at Me

Dear John,
 
Today I've been thinking about the way you used to look at me.
 
I was at work where I have a wonderful view of one of the town parking lots. It's a Topeka parking lot - there are six spots for cars and six for buggies and there usually isn't much action. Today I saw a couple  drive up. The woman got out and went to the pharmacy while the man waited in the car. When she came back, they were aware of each other but never made eye contact. And that got me thinking about you.
 
Sometimes I'd wait in the car while you went in somewhere, and I'd always watch for you to come back. You'd come out the door and immediately look at me, and you'd have the most wonderful look on your face. You looked like you were overjoyed to see me there waiting for you. It amazed and delighted me that seeing me could bring that wonderful look to your face, that it was me that you loved so much. And you said it meant so much to you that I looked at you the way I did. It made me so happy that it was me you were walking toward looking like that. We've both been known to trip over curbs because we were too busy looking at each other to watch where we were walking. And that was when we were in our fifties.
 
Maybe the nurses at Methodist were onto something when they talked about how much we loved each other. I'd always assumed that all married people felt the same way we did. The evidence, however, suggests otherwise. Not everybody is like those couples on Investigation Discovery that kill each other. But not everybody loves each other like we do, either. Of course, I married The World's Only Perfect Man, and that helps. And with your health history, we never had the luxury of taking each other for granted. But it's more than that. We love each other very much. We had something special. And I'm thankful for the years I had with you.
 
That verb tense is wrong - I still have you, just not here with me. And maybe you still look at me the same way. I can't wait to see you. Will you look at me that way again? I can't wait to see your face.
 
Thinking about you with that look on my face,
Joan.