Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I Found a New Way to Miss You

Dear John,
 
I've found a new way to miss you. I thought I'd hit all of them, but I was wrong.
 
I'm finishing up my last week at this job - training Lora and trying to finish a couple of big long-term projects before I go. And I'm looking ahead at starting my new job on Monday - something different from anything I've ever done, and full-time for the first time in twenty years. And this makes me miss you.
 
It's hard to explain in words what it is about you that I'm missing right now. You were always my best cheerleader and encourager, and that's part of it. You had my back, and that's another part. I think what I'm really missing, though, is that you always had more faith in me than I had in myself. And my self-confidence has taken quite a hit since my head injury in the accident in 2011. I'd never doubted my mental abilities before that. I hadn't recovered from it when you got sick, then I got widow-brain. This job has hurt my self-confidence, too, but that's getting better since I realized that there's nothing wrong with me - I just don't have the right kind of mind for it. You could have told me that two years ago; it's taken me a lot longer to figure it out on my own.
 
So I'm feeling a bit lost and vulnerable right now, which is to be expected. At times like this, you were always here to encourage me, cheer me on, and be my reality check. It isn't easy to get by without your faith in me and having you here to be proud of me. Right now Stevie Nicks is singing about what I had and what I've lost, and that sums it up. I'm missing that part of you, of our relationship, that braced me for dealing with the outside world. It's part of what I've had and I've lost.
 
Now Stevie is asking, "Can I sail through the changing ocean tide? Can I handle the seasons of my life?" It seems that I am doing those things. And that is good. This new job is a gift. I'm ready for it. And it's much better-suited to my mind. This change is right for me. I remember before you died, you told me that you'd always been proud of me, of everything I'd done. I'll make you proud of me this time, too. No, that's wrong - you're already proud of me. Thank you for that. Thank you for listening tonight and making me feel better. I know you still have my back.
 
Adore you,
Joan.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Edna St. Vincent Millay & Dyngus Day

Dear John,
 
As days off go, it's been pretty strenuous. I got up early to take the car down for an oil change. I took Jethro with me and we walked back. I washed the sheets and blankets, vacuumed, put the trash out for tomorrow's pick-up, swept out the garage, paid bills, balanced the checkbook, and updated the church records for Bekah to use to put together a new directory. I need to go back to work tomorrow to get some rest.
 
A taste of South Bend for you!
Today is - you guessed it - Dyngus Day. I remember our first year in South Bend when we first encountered this particular local custom. The life-long South Benders couldn't imagine that this doesn't happen everywhere. It's specifically Polish - I know Chicago and Buffalo do it, but I've never heard of it anywhere else. It's always the Monday after Easter, and it combines politics, alcohol, and Polish sausage. I remember you used to talk about driving out Western Avenue to work, and having to dodge the walking and lying-in-the-road drunks at 9:00 in the morning. It was not a good night to work in the hospital, either. It wasn't a custom we embraced. But I feel a little sentimental about it now, because it makes me think about you.
 
It's hard to come up with anything that doesn't make me think about you, though. Even the things that don't make me think of you make me think of you. Edna St. Vincent Millay said it best:
 
Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year's leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year's bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide.
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go, - so with his memory they brim.
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, "There is no memory of him here!"
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.
 
There's something appropriate about standing stricken on Dyngus Day, isn't there? It gave me a smile today - I hope it does you, too.
 
Stricken or not, remembering you,
Joan.
 
 


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Really Really Really Tough Laymen

Dear John,
 
It's Sunday evening. Last night's liturgy was wonderful, the feasting was as usual, I got home and in bed at 4:00 this morning. I was awake a good bit, also as usual, because after so many weeks of not eating meat and sweets, my tummy takes a while to get used to them again. I was up at 10:00 this morning and back to church at noon for Agape Vespers - I just did the German; Charlie did Latin. I came home and took care of the animals, called your family, and went to Brian and Bekah's house for dinner tonight. I got home before dark so the animals are happy. And so am I - tired, but happy.
 
I remembered this meme on the way home this morning, and had to show it to you. I was thinking about the fact that I've been in church for over thirty hours in the last eight days, I've stood for all of the services (because we Orthodox do that), I've been fasting for over six weeks, in the last week I've fasted and done prayers preparing to receive communion five times. I'm feeling pretty tough right now. You wouldn't want to meet me in a dark alley.
 
And that kept me thinking. You might be Orthodox if - when you hear "let us complete our prayer to the Lord," you know there's at least another forty-five minutes left in the service - your church shoes are Redwings - you know how to keep a candle burning on a windy night when you carry it for three trips around the parking lot - you get home from church Pascha morning at 3 AM and talk about how short the service was - your church floor is ankle-deep in rose petals and bay leaves and nobody thinks it's strange - you can say "Christ is risen" and "Lord have mercy" in at least ten languages - your favorite sermon was written 1600 years ago, and you know nearly every word by heart.
 
So that's what I want to end with. St. John Chrysostom first gave this sermon in the 400s, and since then it's been read in every Orthodox church around the world every Pascha. It's good to sit on the floor and listen to it, and know that every Orthodox Christian on the planet is hearing it - it moves around the world with the time zones for 24 hours. You probably get to hear St. John himself say it. Here's the last part:
He that was taken by death has annihilated it! He descended into hades and took hades captive! He embittered it when it tasted his flesh! It was embittered, for it was abolished! It was embittered, for it was mocked! It was embittered, for it was purged! It was embittered, for it was despoiled! It was embittered, for it was bound in chains! It took a body and, face to face, met God! It took earth and encountered heaven! It took what it saw but crumbled before what it had not seen! O death, where is thy sting? O hades, where is thy victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown! Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen! Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is risen, and life reigns! Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the tomb! For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the First-fruits of them that sleep! To him be glory and might unto ages of ages. Amen.
And you are the first-fruits of our little family. Christ reigns! And you are in the fullness of his Kingdom. Last night, when earth joined in the worship of Heaven, I got a taste of that. Next year in Heaven!

Christ is risen!
Joan.



Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Holy Scramble of a Day

Dear John,
 
It's been a lovely, mixed-up, scrambled day. This morning's liturgy was wonderful. There were some snacks afterward, which was good since all the fasting is getting to most of us. Kelly had brought Panera bagels, in your honor, she said. She remembers how you always used to bring them for meals, especially fasting meals, and how much everybody loved that. And I remember that you always gave the left-overs to them since they had five children to feed. So today she brought them. She was telling me how special you were and how much she misses you.
 
Then we had choir practice, and I stayed to help Brian organize-copy-collate-staple some music for tonight. It's a good combination - he's creative and I'm anal. And, as I told him and Bekah, by this point in Holy Week, between the two of us we have one functioning brain.
 
Next I went to Walmart for a head of cabbage. I'm making cole slaw for tonight's feast. This will be this group's first exposure to real, deep-south cole slaw. We'll see how much of a shock it is. But I remember that mine was the only cole slaw you ever liked, and that is encouraging. I have part of the cabbage left to make some for Sunday afternoon's festivities.
 
I wanted to come see you today, so I got a burrito at Taco Bell and came to the cemetery for lunch. I decided to call your mother while I was there - a sort of three-way call, I suppose. It was warm and sunny, a lovely day. At one point she heard noises and asked if there were children around, and I told her about the park right across the creek. And trains kept coming by, but that's Goshen - no matter where you are, there are always trains.
 
After prayers at the cemetery, I came home and took a nap. I slept for a solid hour and a half. As soon as I lay down on the couch, Hunter came and lay down on my side. For some reason he loves lying on my side while I sleep. I'd think the motion of my breathing would bother him, but it doesn't seem to. It was especially good to have my heating pad/cat there today. My back is feeling all this standing I've been doing in church. So I took Motrin before I lay down, and between it and the heating pad/cat, I feel much better now.
 
I've fed myself and the animals, and have the cole slaw made. All I have to do is get dressed. Since I missed the unction service Wednesday night and didn't get anointed, Father said he'll anoint me if I get there early tonight. I love to be there early anyway. And I can spend the time cramming for Agape Vespers, running through the Gospel passage in German and Latin. Brian has picked up the Greek since you're not here, and does a good job with it. He was running through that this morning. Chris will probably do French and Arabic, if Gabriella is there she's do Romanian, and I have no idea what other languages we might have.
 
Part of the disorientation of this week is that the services are all done in anticipation - we have Vespers in the morning and Orthros in the evening. But part of it is that things come so thick and fast that you barely have time to get ready for the next service. And with little sleep and fasting and being either asleep or in church, I think it's rather like what monasticism must be. The things of this world move very far away. You keep doing them - you go to work and pay the bills and feed the animals and look after the children, but your attention is held by God and the Church.
 
And it's wonderful. But you know all of this. I don't need to tell you anything about it. Now you don't have to worry about the earthly things, and you don't have an earthly body that needs to sleep and be fed. Maybe this week is a little taste of what Heaven in like. If so, I'd like more than just a taste, please. I'd like the whole thing. That will be when and as God pleases. But, if you have any pull, please pray that it's not too long. Instead of saying, "Next year in Jerusalem," how about, "Next year in Heaven"?
 
For now, the floor of the church is covered with rose petals from last night's Lamentations, in honor of the spices the ointment-bearing women brought to the tomb, and bay leaves from this morning's commemoration of the Harrowing of Hell: Hades took a body and was broken; its bars and gates were trampled, and the righteous dead were raised to Heaven. Tonight we'll bring candles and receive the light from the Light. that is not overtaken by night. The stone will be rolled back and Life will reign.
 
Next year in Heaven!
Joan.

Friday, April 18, 2014

It's Calculus All Over Again

Dear John,
 
It's almost 10:00 - I'm finally home, the animals are fed, and I just had a baked potato for dinner. Or whatever a meal at this hour is called. I was at church for the Liturgy at 9:00 this morning, then went to work, then back to church for vespers at 4:00 and the Lamentations service at 6:00. I'm so beyond tired at the moment. But I'll be back at 9:00 in the morning, stay for choir practice, then back at 10:30 tomorrow night, home maybe by 3:00 in the morning, back at noon on Sunday - you know the drill. And you know how wonderful it is.
 
Today was like calculus. Okay, maybe not exactly. Calculus is about differentials and today was about differentiation. Either way, it's hard and I'm not completely certain what I'm doing.
 
Today was the liturgical anniversary of your death - Holy Friday - and the first one I've attended in three years. In 2011 I was in Ann Arbor staying at the med center; in 2012 I was at the hospital with you; in 2013 I couldn't handle it emotionally. Now I'm back and it's wonderful. But I've had a hard time today separating out the grief of Holy Friday from my grief for you. When the bier was brought out today and the espitaphion was placed on it, I realized that the last body and shroud I'd seen in that spot were yours. The Lamentations could have come from my heart for either. I tried for a while to differentiate my griefs, then I gave it up as hopeless. It's all knotted up together. I can't separate the suffering of Christ from our suffering, the grief of his Mother from mine, the glory of his resurrection from your glory now in Heaven. Everything is connected emotionally and theologically. It gets too confusing.
 
Our epitaphion at St. Mary's tonight
Please pray for me tomorrow night. I'm going to be the only alto, which wouldn't matter except that I haven't been able to sing Shine, Shine yet. We've worked on it during choir practice, and I can't unknot my throat enough to make a sound. It was your favorite, and the last song you heard on earth. I remember bringing it in on my phone for you to hear the day before you died. I played it over and over for you, and you had tears streaming down your face. Since your third day was Pascha, I've always hoped you arrived in Heaven just in time for that part of the Paschal liturgy, and that it was the first song you heard in Heaven.
 
Now it's my tears that stream down when I hear that song. I'll have to do my best to sing it tomorrow night. And it's the Megalynarion for the whole Paschal season, which is wonderful and everybody loves it, but it means I'll struggle with it for six more weeks. I could really use your prayers, that it brings me joy and not tears.
 
I need to stop and get some sleep - I have to get up in eight hours. Sleep good tonight, know we love and miss you. And I'll stop straining my brain over differentiation. And differentials. I loved calculus, but I'm just too tired for it right now.
 
Love you with all my heart,
Joan.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

He Who Hung the Earth Upon the Waters

Dear John,
 
I know I said I wasn't going to church tonight, but I couldn't stay away. I went to the Liturgy this morning, went to work, and then back to church for the Passion Gospels. It only lasted three hours this year - everybody really tried to keep it moving without rushing it.
 
It was wonderful. The Resurrection isn't complete without going through all the Passion Gospels first. When the cross was brought out and Antiphon XV was sung, I learned something. When you cry while doing a full prostration, your tears run downhill, which is up, and into your upper sinuses, and that burns a bit. Who knew? This is the first year that I've been able to just listen to Antiphon XV without being the one singing it.
Today He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon a tree. He who is the King of the angels wears a crown of thorns. He who covered the heavens with clouds is robed in the purple of mockery. He who delivered Adam in the Jordan is smitten on the face. The Bridegroom of the Church is nailed upon the Cross. The Son of the Virgin is pierced with a spear. We adore Thy sufferings, O Christ. Make us worthy also to behold Thy glorious Resurrection.
It's shattering, isn't it? His suffering makes possible our resurrection. This is the price of our sin. You know all of this so much better than I do, since you're already partaking of the resurrection.
 
Please pray for all of us as we complete the marathon of Holy Week - for our voices with so much chanting, our quads with so many prostrations, our tummies with so much fasting, our bodies with so little sleep. I'm heading to bed soon. I'll be at church three times tomorrow - at 8:30 for the Royal Hours, at 4:00 for Holy Friday Vespers, and at 6:00 for the Lamentations. Saturday morning at 9:00 we'll have the Liturgy and a baptism, then we'll all come back at 10:30 Saturday night for Great and Holy Pascha. We'll stay into the not-so-wee hours breaking our fast and celebrating. Then we'll be back at noon Sunday for Agape Vespers. After that I've been invited to a friend's house for more feasting and partying, centered around a ham. Can you imagine, after all these weeks of fasting, getting to eat ham? Amazing!
 
The joy of Pascha is coming. But tonight we're still at the Passion Gospels. He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon a tree. We mourn and weep, repent, feel contrition, and receive with gratitude the love of Christ.
 
Adore you,
Joan.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Do You Have Holy Week in Heaven?

Dear John,
 
It's been a busy day off, so busy that I'm not at church tonight. I had a lot that had to be done today because the liturgical schedule didn't give me any other chance. I met with my hostess and closed last week's party, put the checks in the bank, ran into Dick, went back to the pharmacy to see Esther for a few minutes, got $10 of groceries, got my hair trimmed up, took a check for work to the credit union then bought stamps with it, picked up the mail, and came home to feed myself and the animals. Since I got home I've been finishing up the party on-line and transferring the checks to the right place so the order can be submitted with all of it on credit card. Yep, it's been a busy day off.
 
I did sleep in some today. I got pictures of the animals piled up in bed with me and the laptop this morning. The first one is a very contented Hunter getting his morning scratch-and-cuddle. The second should have sound with it. Jethro was grooming Hunter, and the cat was purring his little heart out. Of course, the cats do groom themselves. But they came here when they were so young, so Jethro started doing it. He still gives each of them a complete licking-down at least once a day. And they love it. The cats will likely never have hairballs, but the dog might. Typically, things are a tad upside-down here. But that never bothered any of us, did it?
 
I know I've said this before, but I'm so sorry you are missing the cats. Cats always loved you, probably because you didn't like them and so you gave them plenty of space. And, of course, you're just so completely loveable. You'd enjoy watching Jethro with his kitties, too. He's a good big brother.
 
I'm going to head off to bed early tonight. Tomorrow I'll be at church at 9:00 for the liturgy, then go to work. I won't be at church tomorrow night. It's the Passion Gospels, and will last at least five hours. And I have to work again Friday and be at church again Friday night - and Saturday morning, and Saturday night at 10:30, and Sunday at noon. I wish I could do the whole week without missing anything, but I know that I can't. So I'll miss Thursday night.
 
And that reminds me of a question I've been wanting to ask you: Do you have Holy Week in Heaven? You live the resurrection all the time - do you commemorate the crucifixion in some way? If you can, come and tell me all about it. If you can, just come. I miss you so much. You can tell me about anything at all. And you can meet Jethro's kittens.
 
Adore you,
Joan.
 
PS - I was supposed to tell you last night and forgot - Barbara says hello. She wanted me to tell you that, when she moved into her house, she hung icons of St. Anthony the Great, St. George the Trophy-Bearer, and St. John of San Francisco together. Only Father Anthony had died then, but now you and Father George have joined him. She venerates all three of your icons every day, and wanted to be sure you knew that. She loves and misses you, as does the rest of the planet. Love you!


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

I'm Going to Be Okay

Dear John,
 
It's after 10:00, and I'm finally sitting down and catching my breath. I went straight from work to church for Bridegroom Matins. It was wonderful, as it always is.
Behold, the Bridegroom come at midnight, and worthy is that servant whom He will find watching, but unworthy is that servant home He will find heedless. Beware, therefore, O my soul, lest you be given over to death and cast out from the Kingdom. But rouse yourself, crying, "Holy, holy, holy art Thou, O Lord."
I see Thy bridal chamber brightly adorned, O my Savior, but I have no wedding garment that I may enter there. Make the robe of my soul to shine, O Giver of life, and save me.
This is some of my favorite music of the whole liturgical year, and I know it was for you, too. We've had a lot of people coming every night, and it's wonderful to see people, especially young people, some with small children, coming out every night of Holy Week. All the chanters have Holy Week Hoarseness - it's the second half of the week and our voices are struggling. But that struggle is part of the value of Holy Week. It wouldn't mean anything if it was easy.
 
And now, I have wonderful news for you. I'll start a new job in two weeks. Monday afternoon the bank called and offered me a full-time teller position. I didn't tell you until today because I wanted to tell Kathy first - she's sorry to lose me, but is happy and excited for me. Working for her is a terrific supplemental income, like it was for us when I first took the job, but it can't be a sole support, and she understands that. There are things about the job that I will miss, but  I'm ready to plan for my future now, and it's time to move on.
 
This will be full-time with benefits. I'll work a half-day every other Saturday, and on those weeks I'll have a weekday off, which will be nice so I can schedule doctor and dentist appointments. I'll have health insurance and retirement, and paid sick days and vacation days. It's been twenty years since I've had any of that. I'll be able to walk to work, and to come home for lunch if I want to. Most weeks I won't need to use the car at all except on Sundays.
 
I'm so thankful. I was at the end of my financial rope, but I'll be alright now so you don't need to worry. I know it always bothered you that you couldn't get life insurance - you wanted to leave me well provided-for. I'm glad you got to approach death thinking that you had $45,000 life insurance for me from Panera. It was best that we didn't know they'd turned you down for that. You would have worried about me. As it was, you were able to die thinking that I'd be okay.
 
And I have been okay, just not the way you planned. I've been okay because the Lord has always provided for me. And now He's given me a job that will make it possible for me to take care of myself. It will be right here in town, working for and with people that I've known for almost twenty years. If your prayers had anything to do with this, which I strongly suspect, thank you. I know that you're still taking care of me like you always did. I'll be okay.
 
Love you so very much,
Joan.
 


Monday, April 14, 2014

There's Never a Skyhook When You Need One

Dear John,
 
I took another step today - actually several steps, and very unpleasant ones. I got out the extension ladder and went crawling around on the roof. And you know how afraid of heights I am - I don't even like standing on a chair. But there I was, hammer in my hand and roofing nails in my pocket, crawling around on my hands and knees on the roof.
 
Yesterday DeWayne and I were talking in the street, and we noticed that I have a shingle missing. He thought he saw it a few feet over from where it's supposed to be. So, in an attempt to be a responsible adult, I went up to try to fix it. It turns out that what we saw wasn't the missing shingle, but another place where one is missing. We have two missing shingles.
 
The whole thing was unduly challenging. First I had to get the extension ladder down off the wall in the garage, which required bench-pressing it over my head. Then I carried it to the front yard and had to figure out how to work it. I got up it okay, but when I got to the point of having to climb over the top of the ladder and get onto the roof, I froze for a bit. But pride overcame terror - I couldn't bear the thought of getting stuck up there and having to have somebody call the fire department to bring a cherry picker to get me off my own roof - and in a small town, too, with a volunteer fire department. Unbearable. So I climbed over the top of the ladder. I crawled around the roof - couldn't bring myself to stand up - realized that I couldn't fix it, then had to do the whole thing in reverse. So I went backwards over the top of the ladder. From there it was easy, just climbing down the ladder. The I did the bench-pressing routine again in the garage. And I came inside and threw up.
 
Bob is going to rescue me, bless his sweet heart. He's done roofing before. And he's a sensible creature, and won't need to be rescued by a skyhook. They're so good to me. Or maybe they don't want the embarrassment of having a neighbor having to call the volunteer fire department to get me down off of my own roof.
 
See what you're missing? See what a big girl I am? I couldn't fix it, but I think it's quite an accomplishment to have gotten up there and checked it out. I love being able to stay here in our house. But I have to admit that there are times I think wistfully about renting!
 
Love you so much,
Joan.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Two-Year Picnic

Dear John,
 
You've been gone two years today. I wanted to examine myself and have a sound, coherent statement for you about where I am and what my life is now. But today is also Palm Sunday, and it's 10:00 at night and this is the first moment I've had all day to relax and think. And I don't think I have a good enough handle on myself or my life right now, anyway. Maybe it's you that should be giving me the report. You always knew me better than I did, anyway. I'm too deep in the forest to be able to see the trees.
 
Last night was the first night this year that was warm enough to leave the windows open. The animals loved it. Jethro sniffed the breeze half the night and the cats slept in the window sills. The birds woke me up before 5, then the sun woke me up again before 6. We have a cold snap coming so I'll have to close them again tonight. But warmer weather is here, and it is good.
 
I went to church this morning, but didn't stay for the fellowship meal. I didn't really feel like being in a crowd and chatting. So I splurged - I picked up a fish sandwich (keeping the fast, since fish is allowed on Palm Sunday) and had a picnic with you. It was good to talk to you, and good to have prayers there. It's the first time it's been warm enough and dry enough to be able to sit down and stay a while. I didn't want to leave.
 
I came home and spent the rest of the afternoon putting the orders from last week's Lia Sophia party in the computer. Then I went back to church for Bridegroom Matins - the first service of Holy Week. And it was wonderful. It's an amazing thing to sing the Holy Week music in a dark church, and to be in the home stretch. I'll spend around 30 hours in church this week and I'll love every minute of it. I missed Holy Week two years ago because I was spending those last few days of your life with you. Last year I wasn't emotionally ready to handle it - I tried, but couldn't do it. This year it is wonderful.
 
And maybe that is my report: I'm able to go to church without you now, to do Holy Week on my own. Oh, it's all more acute than it used to be. The resurrection is a more pressing matter than it was when you were alive. I understand death better than I used to. But I'm meeting it on my feet this year. I can sing the music without crying - mostly. I'm a fully-participating part of the Church again, and that is so, so good.
 
So it seems that the two-year point is a time of transition for me. Things in my life are changing. I'm taking responsibility for my future in a way I've never had to before. The calendar still has thin places and it probably always will, and those are quite unpleasant. None of this is any fun. But I'm settling the load on my shoulders, and finding that the yoke, if not easy and light, is doable.
 
That's all for tonight. Go and celebrate completing your second year in Heaven! But don't forget to pray for me.
 
Love you with all of my heart,
Joan.
 




Saturday, April 12, 2014

Good Work, Sister, if I Do Say So Myself

Dear John,
 
It's been a day for acting like a grown-up. I went to church this morning for Lazarus Saturday and, as I said to Chris, I know I'm in for it when Adrian is that happy to see me. Brian wasn't there, so I chanted. I did it for so many years that I didn't even have to hunt up the music for today's Troparion. The words and music were right there in my mind. But I did almost every liturgy for nine years, so I suppose it isn't surprising.

I came home and tackled the sink. I know that I plumbed that sink and installed the disposal, but clogs were always your area. Since you hadn't gotten here to work on it for almost a week, I thought I'd better go ahead. I dismembered the pipes and found the problem - mostly black beans and potato eyes - and all is well. No mess, no fuss, no problems. The disposal is still a bit jammed but it's better than it was. I'll keep at it.

While I was on a roll, I vacuumed and gave the kitchen its spring cleaning. Then, in the vein of being an adult, I got the taxes filed on-line. We owed the state $300 and will get back over half that from the fed, so not too bad. Everybody in Indiana always owes state. I got the records filed and labeled and put away for next year. So that is done.

And now I can enjoy myself. It's 78 at 6:30, sunny, very windy. I'm in the glider on the front porch right now. I'm wearing my oldest jeans, one of your sweatshirts, and a red bandana that I've had since college. Jethro is in the back yard and the cats are enjoying their period of solitude. I brushed the dog this afternoon, and only got a small dog in return. Oh, change that about the cats. Hunter is in the nearest window meowing at me. They're always cuddly after I vacuum. I suppose you have to love a human that can tame the loud, vicious beast of a vacuum cleaner.

So, basically, I pretended to be you all day. I vacuumed, unclogged the sink, and filed the taxes. Those were always your jobs. You may come and thank me tonight. Next time, get here in time to do some of the work!

Adore you,
Joan.



Friday, April 11, 2014

A Thin Place

Dear John,
 
Drat Glen Campbell. I still have that song running around in my head and I can't get rid of it. There were a couple of times at work today, when I was alone in the house, that I actually cried a bit. By the way, it's not a good idea to cry while you're eating a baked potato. There is a significant choking hazard involved. Important safety tip.
 
I've been remembering something you used to talk about. You'd read somebody - I have no idea who - that talked about life having thin places, places where the separation between earth and Heaven was thin and Heaven was close. Those thin places are good to find.
 
It seems to me that the calendar has thin places, too, but they're not good. That's what makes this part of April so hard. It's a thin place. But it's a different kind of thinness - it isn't Heaven that is close, it's the past. This day two years ago is so close that I'm only a hair from being there. And that's the last place on earth - or in time - that I want to be. I don't ever want to feel the way I felt that day.
 
But it seems that I don't have a choice - what a unique situation. Tomorrow I'll go to church for the liturgy for Lazarus Saturday. Then I'll come home and clean the house and maybe work in the garden some. I'll see if things stay this thin. I hope that I'm close to you, too, and not just those days two years ago. If you're near, I could use a bit of comforting.
 
Aching for you,
Joan.
 


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Glen Campbell, Honey, & Being Good

Dear John,
 
I had a busy day at work. It kept me occupied and distracted, and I was having a good day until I started home and turned on the radio just in time to hear Glen Campbell sing, ". . . and I'm being good." I immediately changed the station, but it was too late. Honey was already playing in my head.
 
It hurt. But it got me thinking. When the song came out, I remember Mama being upset about that line, "I'm being good." She explained to me that, in the context of being recently widowed, the line was about sexual fidelity. I never understood if she was upset because such a concept was on the radio or because it was unfair for a young man to expect himself never to re-marry.
 
But I didn't hear it the way Mama did. To my young mind, for a recently-widowed man to "be good" meant to eat and sleep and keep on keeping on - to keep living whether he wanted to or not. And now, from the vantage point of my advanced age and experience, I think I was right. Nobody in their right mind is thinking about sex in the first year of widowhood - nobody that had a happy marriage, that is. The song is about the grief of the first year. I know more about that than Mama had to learn, and I can categorically state that the line was not about sex. So there.
 
And tonight I have to wonder: Am I being good? Am I doing what you want me to? You didn't want me to be unhappy, but we've already dealt with the absurdity of that. I'm alive - that doesn't particularly please me, but I think it does you. I'm getting up in the morning, going to work, taking care of the animals, going to church, paying the bills, and taking care of the house. I'm not doing a very good job of keeping up relationships outside of cyberspace, but that will come. So, other than being absolutely miserable right now, I have to conclude that I'm being good, whether I want to or not. I am acting like a grown-up.
 
The trees we planted are getting bigger and I'm being good. And tonight I have no polite words for Glen Campbell, drat the man.
 
Adore you, ache for you,
Joan.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Things I Can't Handle Today

Dear John,
 
It's been a slow and non-productive day off. I'm still shaking that cold and have been coughing a lot. In the interest of not getting bronchitis, I've slept a good bit of the day. It was warm and lovely - I'd have loved to walk the dog and work in the flowerbeds. But it would have been foolish to do that and make myself sicker.
 
And I was teary, too. Just like last year, everything is getting harder as the anniversary of your death gets closer. I'm feeling very emotionally sensitive today. I've skipped most things on Facebook. I can handle everything except happy things and sad things. I've skipped all the stories about animals being mistreated - I have a hard time handling that in the best of times. But I've also been skipping all the happy-family news. I'm glad people are happy with their husbands and children, but some days it just underlines what I had and lost. Today I'm confining myself to humor, and not even all of that.
 
On days like this I don't want to look forward or back. I don't want the future and I can't bear to remember the past - like Stevie Nicks said, the best of all the years have gone by. These are days that remembering you is excruciating. A little while ago something reminded me of your face and the way you used to look at me. That is usually a good memory, but today it's unbearable. The only thing I want to do is keep my mind in the mundane present and pass the time as painlessly as I can. That isn't really living, but today I think that anything else will destroy me.
 
It will get better after Sunday, when another year has passed. At least, it did last year. One year does not a precedent make, does it? On the average, this does get better with time. But there are days that my heart seems to double back to the first days without you and make me go through it all over again. Tonight I can see your face in front of me and want to take it into my hands. I'd give the entire world to touch you again. I'd give it just to see you look at me.
 
Actually, I'd give up the world for nothing. Tonight, all I want is you. I don't care a pin for anything else. Last night I cried when I went to bed - Jethro lay down beside me and Hunter came and lay on my side and purred. Abby, being a sensible creature, hid somewhere. Tonight I'll cry again. And I'll be fine in the morning - I won't let the sun catch me crying. I'll go to work and be busy and distract myself from remembering what I was doing that day two years ago. Sunday the two-year mark will come. I'll go to church and we'll celebrate Palm Sunday and Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We'll have palm branches and have our procession outside in the sun. It is our one bright spot before the grief and pain of Holy Week. It will be good for me to be reminded of the power and love of God and the triumph of life over death. For tonight, all I see is death and darkness. I'll be fine in the morning.
 
If you can, please come and comfort me a little bit tonight. Love you with all of me,
Joan.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

On Tears

Dear John,
 
I hated not talking to you last night! I got home from the party just in time to put on pjs and watch  UK lose. UConn won the men's tournament last night and the women's tonight - it's been an amazing year for them. I'm proud of our boys. Neither I nor anybody else would have dreamed that we'd get so far with a freshman team. It was a good year.
 
Today I've been pondering an especially annoying thing about widowhood. I've realized that I can burst into tears any time - all I have to do is think of the right things. I've never been a crier. I've always hated for anybody to see me cry, and I've never done it very much. But now I can cry any time at all. It's annoying.
 
I have a pretty good grip on it these days. I haven't had to run out of a store crying in over a year. I managed not to cry during memorial prayers for you Sunday morning, but only by driving my fingernail into one of my nailbeds. (Don't worry - it's a trick that most women know.) I can control it now. But it's always there, just under the surface. If there was a market for it, I could make a fortune crying on cue.
 
I know you didn't want things to be like this for me, but you also knew there wasn't anything you could do about it. Many times over the years, you'd start telling me that you wanted me to be happy and go on with my life if you died before I did. I'd let you go on for a while, then I'd say that I wanted the same thing for you if I died first. And you'd always stop, and I'd see your face change as you imagined what that would be like. And you'd understand.
 
We both knew it would be terrible to be the one left here. And I can now tell you that it's much worse than we ever thought. We didn't know about the loss of purpose, the loss of identity, and so many other things that go with being left here. But we also didn't know about all the people who would be so kind, like insurance companies and government offices - people from whom I would never have anticipated compassion. We didn't know how helpful it is to have Facebook and Pinterest in the middle of the night, or that I would find such a lovely group of widow-friends here in cyberspace. I had no idea how relaxed you get about life when the worst thing that can ever happen to you has happened, or how freeing it is to not care about anything anymore. I had no idea that our dog would rescue cats, who would then rescue me.
 
In Sunday's sermon, Father talked about the appropriateness of wanting to go to Heaven. I've learned that it's true that where your treasure is, there your heart is, also. My treasure is in Heaven, my heart is in Heaven, and sadly, the rest of me is here. It's hard right now, waiting for the two-year anniversary to get here on Sunday. It will be Palm Sunday - I don't know if I'll join in the celebration or if my heart will jump straight into Holy Week. We'll see.
 
But, no matter what my heart decides to do, you are safe at home. And that is good. Please pray that I can join you soon.
 
So ready to be with you again,
Joan.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Shoulds, Dogs, & Ear Wax

Dear John,
 
I got to sleep around 2:30, so I slept in until 7 then went to church. Memorial prayers for you and Dick were hard this year. I'm not sure why I felt so emotional today. I've sniveled all day. Maybe it's the Sudafed, or having a cold. I've also dripped and sneezed all day. My nose has gotten a workout.
 
People were very nice to me today. Father said he misses you. Josh sent me this today - he said it made him think of me. I thanked him, and said that it is amazing how many people are certain about what I should think, feel, and be, and thanked him for never shoulding me. If I wasn't feeling down today, I'm sure I could have come up with a smart comment about him only shoulding me when it comes to politics. But he never shoulds me there, either - we just disagree, razz each other, and stay friends. When you were his Sunday school teacher a couple of decades ago, we would never have dreamed of the relationship we have now with him and his wife and children. It's an amazing gift.
 
After I got home, I took the dog for a walk and tried to figure out what the barkfest is about. I wondered if it was the yard sign at Craig and Dee's house, but that wasn't it. He sniffed all around the fence, making me think that something had been there and he was tracking it. But I believe he's doing what you did every time you had the wax cleaned out of your ears. Remember? We'd go to see Joe and everything would be fine. As soon as we left, you'd start talking about something being wrong with the car and needing to get it looked at. The car was fine - it was just that your ears had been stopped up and you'd forgotten what it sounded like. Jethro does the same thing every spring. During the winter there's nobody outside and the windows are closed, so he gets accustomed to less noise and activity. Then when people come outside and I open the windows, he barks at everything until he gets used to it again. I believe he's just taking after you.
 
I don't know when I'll be here to talk to you tomorrow. I have a Lia Sophia party at 6:30 that I booked before I knew the NCAA tournament schedule. It will be over at 8:30 and the championship game starts at 9:00. And I have to get up early for work on Tuesday. But don't worry - I'll let you know how the game turns out!
 
Adore you, and wish you were here,
Joan.

Basketball, Kollyva, & Wandering Marsupials

Dear John,
 
It's 1 AM tomorrow already, and I have to get up at 6:30 for church. So I'll try to keep this short.
 
We won - Kentucky beat Wisconsin by one point in a thriller of a game. We'll meet UConn Monday night for the championship. That's right, UConn beat Florida, took down the #1 seeded team. This tournament has been a wild ride.
 
The other excitement of the day has been provided by my big protector dog. Every time I've let him out in the last two hours, he's gone to the west fence and barked frantically. I finally put on my bathrobe, got a flashlight, and went out with him. I was half-afraid I'd come across another inert possum. I never did see anything. But Jethro peed through the fence, so I assume another dog has been hanging around there. The neighborhood doesn't have any dogs that run free, so I have no idea who it is. At least it wasn't a wandering marsupial.
 
I really do have to try to sleep. I don't expect much success for a while. If you didn't get to watch the game, go on the internet and find it. It was wonderful. And if you can catch the version that was on TNT, you'll get the UK announcers. That would be a treat for you.
 
Pray for me in the morning. We'll be having 2-year memorial prayers for you and Dick at the end of the liturgy. There will be photos of both of you, and kollyva, and prayers. If you can, bring Dick with you and come for it. I'll know if you're there!
 
Wish you were here always,
Joan.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Love Lovely Arms

Dear John,
 
My throat is much better and I definitely have a cold. I can't remember the last time I had a cold - it's been at least fifteen years. This morning I went to the pharmacy and got Sudafed and mucinex, in an attempt to get all of this to dry up. I dripped and sneezed all through work today.
 
I've been thinking about your arms. They were so long - long enough that you kept getting measured for Marphans Syndrome and no shirts ever fit quite right. But I loved them that way. It felt like you could wrap them around me twice. And it felt so good to have them around me. Everything was alright when I was in your arms.
 
I remember that one time you told me how much you loved having me fall asleep in your arms at night. You said that it meant so much to you that I felt safe enough to sleep with my head on your shoulder and your arms around me. Being me, I pointed out that, if I didn't feel safe sleeping in your arms, I most certainly wouldn't have married you! But you were right - your arms were the safest place in the whole wide world. I relaxed with my head on your shoulder and your arms around me in a way I've never relaxed anywhere else.
 
I miss that every night. But I especially miss it when I'm not feeling safe, when I want a refuge to hide in for a bit. I have nowhere to hide now. I have to face the world alone. I'm doing it - you and Mama and Daddy always knew I could. What I knew was that I had no desire to. But, as I have noted before, my permission wasn't sought before any of these events transpired. And, as I've also noted, it continues to amaze me that you forgot to take me with you.
 
Do your arms ever feel empty now? Your life is full and wonderful and perfect. I suppose it wouldn't be perfection if there was anything you missed. But I can't help hoping you miss me just a little bit. I hope that, at least, you look forward to my arrival, at which time I will expect to have your arms around me again.
 
Lonely without your long lovely arms,
Joan.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Ring Them Bells, Marilyn!

Dear John,
 
It's been a day of bells. Or maybe dingdongs. But first, I felt better this morning so I had a normal work day instead of going to the doctor. I hope it keeps up. My throat feels better, but the problem seems to have divided itself between my nose and my chest. Decision about tomorrow is pending.
 
On the way to work I heard Marilyn McCoo singing "One Less Bell to Answer." Or, I could have heard it, if I hadn't learned over these last two years that nothing good comes from listening to that song. "One less" sums up this life, doesn't it? There's one less of and in everything - one less bell, less egg for breakfast, less toothbrush (okay, purist, that's fewer, not less), less love, less companionship, less help to carry life's loads. And on the way home I heard a song that I don't think I've heard since it left the charts, "Stay Awhile" by The Bells:."Into my room he creeps without making a sound. Into my dreams he peeps, with his hair all long and hanging down. How he makes me quiver; how he makes me smile. With all the love I have to give him, I guess I'm gonna stay with him awhile."
 
And this is what the bells are all about today - living with one less, and wanting you to come peep into my dreams. You could sum it up by saying that, with all the love we have to give, with how you made me smile, I wish you could have stayed with me awhile longer.
 
Worship the ground you walk on,
Joan.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Good Milestone & a Bad Sore Throat

Dear John,
 
I have a sore throat, and a nasty one. I've slept most of the day, and have spent the rest of it choking on my own saliva. I think my throat is swollen. I know my lymph nodes are. If it isn't better in the morning, I'll be calling the doctor. I do hope I don't have to spend the time and money on this. I'm already missing church tonight. I have no voice and I feel awful.
 
Remember when I used to get sick and say that I didn't have time for it? You'd always ask me exactly when I would have time for it - the voice of reason. I miss you being able to take me to the doctor and spare me the driving. And I miss you just making me feel better by being here. The animals seem to know that I'm not feeling good - they've fought all day for the honor of sleeping on various portions of my anatomy.
 
Oh, a good milestone happened today. The last of the big snow pile next to the driveway melted. Yesterday I put the garden flag back out. The flowerbeds are still too wet to work in, but the time will come. When it does, I hope to be able to swallow without wincing.
 
I'm off to bed soon, to try to sleep this off. Throat spray and aspirin aren't doing a thing. So I believe I'll just go to sleep. And the animals can all pile up on me, and everybody will be happy.
 
Adore you,
Joan.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

On Not Burning Down the House

Dear John,
 
I feel much better today. I had a good, busy day at work, and got off in time to get my paycheck in the bank, pay the mortgage, and have $20 left over for groceries.
 
I still don't now how I'm going to manage, but today I feel more sure that God does. Last night I felt a lot better after talking to you the second time - thank you for praying for me. After bedtime prayers, I felt almost normal. The animals could tell I was struggling yesterday, and all of them slept piled up on me all night. It's entirely due to them that I've been able to keep the thermostat at 62 all winter - them, and fingerless gloves. I slept well. It was windy and rainy, and I never heard a thing.
 
I'm looking forward to doing some serious spring cleaning. I haven't done the move-everything-scrub-everything cleaning for a few years. First there was that 6-month fibro flare in 2010, then I broke my collarbone in 2011, you got sick and the world fell off its axis, and I've been treading water ever since. I'd hoped to get some cleaning done last summer, but mowing was all the fibro could handle. Since I have that covered this year, I should have the energy for some deep cleaning, and for some gardening, too.
 
I'm going to use the POW cleaning method. That sounds terribly politically incorrect, but you know what I'm talking about. When my uncles were in the war, they worked stateside in chemical research on really evil things like developing substitute cheese for GIs to eat. And they were assigned a Japanese POW to serve as their houseboy. The house had six rooms; he cleaned one room a week.
 
I'm going to do the same thing. That way I will be room-focused instead of task-focused. It works most of the time to focus on chores - sweep, vacuum, clean bathrooms, wash windows. But that misses things you need to do less often, like the lamp globes and clean air return vents and the glass in the picture frames. Each room has cleaning issues specific to it, and that sort of thing gets missed. By me, anyway.
 
So I'm going to use my spring days off to take one room at a time and give it a thorough cleaning. I'll still do all the windows in one day. The garage will need a day, too - I can't wait until it's warm enough to clean it. I need to sweep it out, and I'm going to get out the hose and wash down the floor and get all the salt and dirt off. I'll need a day for the basement - that will include taking the furnace filters outside and hosing them down. I'll probably group that with hosing down the air conditioning unit. And there are the flower beds to do when they get dry enough - there's still some snow piled up in them.
 
I'm clearly better. I'm looking forward to spring cleaning. It does have the advantage of immediate gratification. And it satisfies my anal-retentive heart. Now that the light is coming back and the days are getting longer, I can see what needs cleaning. And I care about it, and that's progress.
 
So it seems that I'm being normal, at least about the grief thing. I'm getting better on the average, with lots of detours into good times and bad times. But the overall movement is in the right direction, and that's what matters. I will keep on keeping on, putting my stubbornness to good use.
 
Adore you stubbornly,
Joan.

Monday, March 31, 2014

A Door Slammed on My Tail and There's No Bridge in Sight

Dear John,
 
I should have know that I couldn't write to you that early and be done for the day. We've always talked at bedtime no matter where we were. So here I am, back at bedtime.
 
I just heard "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and had to talk to you about it. The person the song sings about is what I haven't had since you died. I never imagined that I'd get to this point in my life and be so completely alone. You were my best friend, so I lost husband and best friend at the same time. All my close friends are part of couples. And anyway, everybody thinks I should be fine by now. I am so completely alone.
 
My job doesn't help that - I work alone in a basement office and have little or no interaction with people. That was good the first few months without you, but now I don't think it's healthy. And that takes me back to the employment issue. We've already dealt with that one.
 
I remember one time, when things were hard for us, you said it seemed to you that we were being extruded, that God was putting us through things in order to squeeze us, to force us into the place He wanted us to be. The word has come back to my mind several times in the last week. Maybe I'm being extruded. It has happened before. But you were with me, and everything was easier when you were here.
 
Tonight I'm alone and afraid. I feel helpless and hopeless. My head knows that the Lord is still in charge and won't abandon me. My heart isn't convinced, not tonight. Please, please pray for me. The water is troubled and there is no bridge in sight. I'm going to bed now, to eat my snack and have my prayer time, and maybe cry myself to sleep. Thank you - it is good to know that you pray for me.
 
Love you with all my heart,
Joan.

Dissecting Unhappiness

Dear John,
 
It's 60, the windows are open, the dog is sleeping off our walk, and both cats are in the windowsill. The weather is a hit. (sorry about the papers on the floor - it's tax season)
 
I've been thinking about this thing of being unhappy. It seems to me that it's important to admit it and allow myself to feel it. If I didn't, I would be shoulding myself. I've gone through these two years refusing to do that, and I can't start now. There are things in life that I'm happy about, but the sum total at this moment is unhappy. In the past, there have been things that I was unhappy about, but the sum total was always happy. That has changed - this is another first, and it has to be faced and dealt with. Denial is much worse than unhappiness.
 
It got a little worse today. I got an email from the state Department of Education that Fairfield school system had refused me as a sub. It's probably because they don't have my transcripts yet - these things have a long processing time. Nobody told me that I had to have them in before doing the state application, but I'm guessing that is the problem. I'll go by and talk to them tomorrow. If I'm right (and I can't imaging any other reason to be turned down - my background check is deadly boring), then I'll have to pay the state processing fee a second time. I already have over $100 invested in this process. It wasn't this complicated when we first started subbing, was it?
 
I know that part of my unhappiness is job-related. I'm desperate for a job that pays enough to live on, has benefits, and has a reasonable expectation of a minimum number of hours to work each pay period. I'm up against ageism. I have a BSN and 20 years experience in cardiac critical care, but I'm 58. And, as I've said, finding any job at my age requires an act of God. Matt has expressed interest in hiring me, but I'd rather not have a 45-minute drive to work, and it would pay minimum wage. I'd like to stay in my own career, but there's a glut of nurses in this area, and I'm still 58.
 
Things are a bit challenging right now. You're not completely responsible for my unhappiness - there are plenty of other factors - except that all of this could have been avoided if you'd remembered to take me with you. But I know that you've always wanted to know what I was thinking and feeling, so here it is. It's not very pretty. But neither am I, and you've always loved me anyway. And I need you to pray for me, so you have to know what's going on. You probably do whether I tell you or not - maybe telling you is really so I can work things out in my own head. I always understand myself better after I explain me to you.
 
Thank you for helping me make sense of myself. Thank you for listening so patiently when I babble. Thank you for accepting me and whatever I'm feeling, even when neither is pretty. Please pray for me. My faith muscles are tired and sore, but they probably can benchpress a Buick.
 
Love you for listening,
Joan.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Win & a Revelation

Dear John,
 
We did it. We beat Michigan. It was one of the best basketball games I've seen - close all the way, well-played, well-officiated, a nail-biter to the last part-of-a-second. The temperature reached the upper 50s today, but I left the windows closed - the neighbors would certainly have called the police because of all the yelling and screaming that went on here. We're in the Final Four, and will play Wisconsin on Saturday, on which day I will again have to be sure the windows are closed.
 
This morning I either realized something or finally admitted it to myself. I'm unhappy. I'm extremely unhappy. I've never been unhappy before. There have been things in my life that I didn't like - after all, I worked at The Hospital from Hell. But those have been things I was unhappy with. I've never been unhappy with my life before.
 
I realized this while we were singing the Beatitudes during communion this morning. Blessed are the poor, blessed are those who mourn - I had to drive my fingernail into my nailbeds to be able to keep singing. And I realized, right there in front of God and everybody, that I am terribly unhappy.
 
I don't have any experience at this. When I hated my job, I got another one. When my boyfriend was making me unhappy, I broke up with him. The unhappy things in my life have always been things that I could change or that would change by themselves as time passed. This is for the rest of my life. And so I wonder if I'll ever be happy again.
 
Don't worry about me. I can live like this if I have to. I've always valued contentment much more than happiness, and I value eternal life much more than this temporary life. I'm not worked up about the question. I just idly wonder if I'll ever be happy again. I guess I'll find out. I read back over the first year of letters to you, and found that things got very hard for me as I approached the first anniversary of your death. There is a precedent for my misery. I've made it another year since then, and I'll make another one.
 
This is your fault, you know. If you hadn't made me so happy, I wouldn't be so unhappy now without you. I used to worry sometimes that I'd been so happy and had never suffered. That problem has been rectified. I will be here as long as is necessary for the good of my soul. When I'm ready, I'll be released to come to you.
 
I did find one thing worthwhile that I'm doing now - if I weren't here, the animals would be split up. I know people that would take the dog and people that would take the cats, but nobody that would want all of them. So I'm still here so that my furbabies don't have to lose anymore loved ones. And that is okay, if I save them from further grief.
 
So there it is - my latest bit of self-understanding. I still feel like I'm groping for a foothold in quicksand, so everything I figure out about myself is helpful. You always said that you wanted me to be happy without you, and I always said, tough luck. The happy thing is that I know that you're waiting for me and we will be together again. As I realized as a child, pain is the inevitable price of love. It's worth it. You're worth it.
 
Love you,
Joan.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

One Thing is Right, Here

Dear John,
 
There is one thing right in the world today - UK beat Louisville last night. They won by five, but trailed almost all of the game. They trailed but wouldn't go away. This win is so much sweeter because it was over Louisville.
 
Remember that year that UK and Duke met in the Final Four? We listened in the car on the way to (or from - I don't remember which) Springfield. Everybody agreed that that game was the big one that year, not the final. Those were the powerhouse teams. There wasn't much doubt that whoever won that one would take the whole thing, and that's what happened. Last night felt a bit like that. For UK fans, beating Louisville was the biggest thing. And we did.
 
I was so wound up when the game was over that I had to talk to somebody. Everybody around here went to bed after Michigan won the first game last night. So I did the obvious thing - I called Donna. I had no doubt that she was up! So I got to have my time of celebration.
 
This is a good time to remind you - you really need to get this tech problem straightened out between here and there. I'd love to be able to Skype with you, but I'll settle for anything - phone, text, email, snail-mail. Heck, I'll even get on Twitter if that's what I have to do. If my browser has been a problem, I've taken care of that. I finally went to Chrome. Outlook was giving me so much trouble that it wasn't worth staying with. So check to see if that makes a difference, and let me know. Try to get it worked out by 5:00 tomorrow afternoon - that's when Kentucky and Michigan play. I'd love more than anything to watch that game with you.
 
And that's what's uppermost in my heart tonight - I'd love to watch that game with you. I'm watching basketball this year and enjoying it. But I'd so, so love to watch it with you. So come or call at 5:00 tomorrow. I'll be here.
 
Waiting for you,
Joan.

Friday, March 28, 2014

It Would be Easier to Find a Porpoise


Dear John,
 
Today's high came at 4 AM. It's been gray and rainy and getting colder all day. That description also applies to me.
 
I'm still thrashing around with this purpose issue, and have concluded that it would be easier to find a porpoise than a purpose. I even googled "widow" and "purpose", and was dismayed to find that I am, once again, being normal. Cyberspace is full of women who've been widowed two or three or even ten years, and have no clue how to find a purpose. This is discouraging. And all of this is the result of you forgetting to take me with you. I hope you're sorry. I told you to make a list.
 
For tonight, though, I know what to do with my life. I'm wearing sweatpants and your old UK sweatshirt, and I'm ready to face Louisville at 9:45. Tomorrow is Saturday, so it doesn't matter how late I'm up tonight. Think about your alma mater tonight!
 
And keep praying for me. Gather all the men up there who left too soon, and pray for all of us who wanted to go with you. We really need it.
 
Love you so much more than life,
Joan.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Searching for the Via Media While Falling Headlong

Dear John,
 
The best description I've heard of today is that something is coming down and whatever it is, is wet. Jethro wouldn't go out this morning because it was sleeting. It rained when I drove to work. It was sleeting and snowing when I got Kathy's mail. It rained on my way home. There's been something coming down almost all day, and the most we can say is that it's all been wet.
 
I'm tired of trying to corral my emotions. They've been all over the place since you died. Trying to get a grip on them is akin to herding cats. Part of the time I'm happy and grateful for all the years that I had you. Part of the time I feel like my life is over and there is no point in my continued existence. It seems to be a special kind of bipolar that is unique to widowhood.
 
There has to be a middle ground somewhere, a healthy and admirable via media. I'd love to be able to get my attention away from my emotions, but they're still too strong - they throw tantrums until I have to pay attention to them.
 
I don't feel like I have my feet under me yet. I probably look like I do - I do all the right things and behave properly and all. But I still feel like I'm in that controlled fall that happens when you're running down a steep hill and you're just managing to connect your feet with the ground in time to keep from falling headlong.
 
All of this appears to be normal, if acutely uncomfortable. The only question I have is how long this lasts. Will I someday get my feet under me and achieve emotional equilibrium? Or will I always feel like I do now, just maybe a bit more accustomed to it? It is too soon to have KMN tattooed across my forehead?

The good times are when the pain backs off a little and I get a break from it. The bad times are still unbearable. But I am bearing it. Like the giraffe in the photo, I look ungainly and feel like I'm coming apart, but I'm still upright and standing. I guess I'm being normal again. And I'm thankful to know that I'm not alone. I have a herd of widowfriends to keep me company and look after me, and know the truth about me without launching an intervention.

Pray for me and all my widowfriends, that we continue to keep from falling headlong, and that one day we will get the hang of this. Love you more than life,
Joan.