Thursday, May 31, 2012

Computer Round Robin

Dear John,

As you can see, I have a computer! You're getting the first message from a brand new laptop. This is part of the furniture round-robin that's going on here. The old computer is in the big corner computer cabinet that can't come out of the office without being taken apart; the office is becoming Elyssa's room; she'll start first grade in the fall; her birthday is in July - the solution is obvious. The old computer will be her birthday present. I got a new laptop and smaller printer for the office area I'm creating in our bedroom. I took the computer in today for them to transfer everything to the laptop.

While Microsource was setting up the laptop I did some shopping. I went to Walmart and got desks for Jen's room and mine. I went to Kohl's and got 3 tops and a skirt, all 30% off. I went to Staples and got an $89 printer, ink, and some desk organizers. I had a junior cheeseburger for $1 at Wendy's. I went to Panera for a cookie and to take back the new management shirt you never had the chance to wear. I think there was something else but my brain is too tired to come up with it.

I ran into two of your ICU nurses in Panera - it was so good to see them. I really do miss everybody. When Kirby goes in for chemo I find myself getting all sentimental and wistful because he and Kathy get to spend all day in the infusion room. But it is me we're talking about here. I feel more at home in a hospital - any hospital - than I do anywhere other than home. That may be because I've spent more time in hospitals than anywhere other than home. Whatever my pathology may be, I really do miss the people in ICU and the Cancer Center. There are people I'd love to see again at IU Methodist, too. So many people have been so kind to us.

Do you realize my accident was a year ago today? And what a year it's been - I wouldn't have minded missing all of this. But my survival was a miracle, so I know it's right for me to be here. I'm glad I was here for you this year, so I give thanks for your sake, if not for mine. I can't say if it feels like a year, or more, or less, because time still has no meaning for me. And after all, I did have a brain injury!

I have a wet dog climbing all over me - we're finally getting some rain. Don't worry, the basement is fine. I need go. I love you so, so much! I looked at your picture this evening and had the feeling that you loved what I'd done with the bedrooms and were proud of me for getting Jen's desk put together. Thank you for that!

Love you,

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Not to Worry - I'll Watch Football

Dear John,

Have I ever told you that I love you, adore you, and worship the ground you walk on? I may have mentioned it once or twice . . .

Today I managed to carry a box of styrofoam peanuts up Kathy's stairs without mishap. I'm getting better at this. And I am so stiff and sore from yesterday! I'm just getting too old to fall down. Or, as the tee-shirts in the left-field bleachers at Wrigley used to say: Help - I've fallen and I can't reach my beer! 

We did have some good times in those bleachers, didn't we? It was so much fun when we lived in South Bend and could go to 25-30 games a year, and had our regular seats. We had good friends among the regulars. Remember the day when the Expos were in town, and some guy with a beautiful voice that sang that delightfully obscene version of Oh, Canada? There was always free entertainment between innings, and sometimes before the game when the other team's players would have fun with us. I'll never forget the contest for Oral Herschizer's shoes. 

I've always been glad I married a man that likes sports - I may have told you that a few times, too. You'd get so involved in a baseball game that a band could march through the room and you'd never notice, I'd yell loud enough during football games to disturb the neighbors, and neither of us ever got much sleep in March. Thank goodness you never liked Nascar. (Look, they're making a left turn!) 

Good memories. I haven't watched the Cubs yet this season. I don't think I've missed much, from what I've been reading. But I'm not ready to watch it without you. But I'm okay - it's not time to worry about me until I start missing football games. The countdown to the Hall of Fame Game is on!

I'm off to bed now, to try not to dream about the Cubs. You still haven't shown up in any of my dreams, but it feels like you're always so close. I just wish I could see you and touch you. I know I will - I just don't want to wait!

Loving you impatiently,

PS - I almost forgot the main thing I need to tell you. If I don't write anything tomorrow night, don't worry about me. I may not have the computer tomorrow night. I'll explain the computer round-robin next time. Love you!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Why There are Peanuts Behind the Dryer

Dear John,

Today the president awarded Bob Dylan the Medal of Freedom. That's the best new out of Washington in weeks. Good job!

Howard and Janice came by tonight and we had a wonderful visit. There's nothing quite like spending time with people you've been friends with for a long time. Harold picked up all of your umpire things - pants, shirts, pads, gear, bag, and shoes. He found a good home for them with people that need them. It's all so expensive - I remember that you umpired for a full year to make enough money to pay for the gear. I know it makes you happy to give them to somebody that needs them. He did a sectional in the heat yesterday - did three games, two at the plate. Yikes.

The only other thing of note today is that I fell up Kathy's stairs at work. I was carrying two boxes of styrofoam peanuts; she'll probably be finding peanuts behind the washer and dryer for years. I just have some bruises. I never did get this walking thing down very well, did I? I have no idea what happened. At least I fell up and not down!

The dog and I are off to bed. We have a cold front coming through tonight so it should be good sleeping weather. But it would be so much better sleeping with you.

Love you, miss you,

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

Dear John,

We had a quiet Memorial Day here at home. Jethro wouldn't call it quiet because I spent most of the day hauling furniture around. But quiet as in no barbecues or parades or people. Summer is here and it felt like it today - above 90 here. And now it's also tourist season, and you know what that means: We can shoot them!

I think I know why giving your clothes away has been so hard. It wasn't that their being here made me think you were coming back. It's that, now with them gone, every time I go into the closet or open a drawer I'm reminded that you're not coming back. Does that make sense? It's a constant visual reminder that this is permanent. I knew before that it was, but I wasn't being constantly reminded of it. After all, for three months you weren't here but everything else was, and until the last week I thought you were coming back. 

So many things are different: your clothes are gone, there's so much less in the fridge and pantry, there's only one toothbrush by the sink. And now that I'm hauling furniture around, there's more that's different every day. 

When I was clearing out Jen's closet I sorted through some boxes that I hadn't unpacked after we closed my parents' house. One was full of cards and letters I had sent them, starting right after our wedding. I read a lot of them - news about what was going on with you and me, and what was happening with them. Then I realized that of the four of us, I'm the only one still living. I stopped reading and put the box away. I'll read the rest of them another time. 

On a more cheerful note, Elyssa swam today for the first time without inflatable anythings! Jen sent me a video of the dog-paddling around quite proficiently, and having such a good time. 

We all love you! Jen misses her dad, Elyssa and Danica miss grandpa, and I miss you so very much.

PS - Just found out that the temperature hit 97 today. It was a good day to work inside. By Wednesday the highs are supposed to be in the 60s. I guess that's where the average of around 80 comes from. Good night - love you!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

You Matter

Dear John,

I had a good Sunday morning. I think I forgot to tell you - Brian is in Europe for a few weeks on a Lily Grant trip, so I have the music again for a while. It's good for me right now, to do something so familiar and to have to discipline my schedule. And as I told Brian, he covered for me so many times that I'm glad to do this for him. So Adrian and I did Great Vespers last night and I led the choir this morning. Since the Liturgy hasn't changed much since the first century, we did just fine. Everybody was very nice to me. 

Peter was in town and Luke is back for the summer - both of them were telling me how much they love and miss you. You mean a lot more than you realized to more people than you ever guessed. I tried to tell you that, you know, but you had such a hard time imagining that you could ever matter to anybody. At least after about twenty years of marriage you finally realized how much you matter to me. You always said you didn't understand why, but understanding isn't necessary. You probably do understand it now. Took you long enough!

It struck me during Father's homily today that there are two ways of looking at my new reality. One is that part of me is missing, which is certainly true. But the other side of that coin is that part of me is in the presence of God. Looking at it that way, it's no wonder my sense of time is all messed up. And let's not forget that I had a brain injury a year ago - clearly, nothing can ever be expected of me again.

Tomorrow is Memorial Day. I'm not interested in getting out and doing anything without you, so I think I'll work on the basement. I miss going places with you, playing and exploring. I'll miss you tomorrow - my first holiday without you. Or separated from you. Or whatever it is that I am right now. 

One thing I do know - that I love you right now and always have, since I first met you. So much.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Time is a Ball Bearing

Dear John,

This evening I was coming down CR 40 behind an Amish wagon and 2 Belgians hauling hay, listening to Muddy Waters sing The Same Thing, and it struck me that there was something ludicrous about it. Blues and the LaGrange County landscape at the same time - raw and visceral, next to tidy and polite. Two sides of me existing in tension with each other. The contrast has struck me before, but I love both so the world will just have to deal with it. 

I was talking to you on Mother's Day about having no sense of the passage of time. That's still the case, and I talked to Father about it tonight at confession. I'm joined to you - knew that. You're outside of time now, time being a created thing and all - knew that. So maybe what I'm experiencing is the result of being here, in time, and being joined to you, outside of time. It feels like time is a thing sort of like a ball bearing, rolling underneath me but not affecting me at all. I'm just here in space, with time moving underneath me but not really touching me. 

That sounds a bit insane, but I hope I'm making some sense to you. You know how visual my mind is - I always see concepts in my head as some sort of picture. And right now I'm sitting, unmoved and undisturbed, on top of this rolling thing called time which has no relevance to me at all. 

It probably is insane - I've been called worse. As Father said, I'm missing a part of myself. Being disoriented is okay. If you figure out what's wrong with me, let me know!

I love you so much! The depressed dog sends his love, too. I'll talk to you tomorrow. Love you,

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Sound of my Childhood

Dear John,

I'm better, the dog is psychotic. He's having separation anxiety to the point that he doesn't want to go outside. He doesn't mind me going to work, but he seems terrified of what I'll do when his back is turned. Poor creature. He'll get lots of cuddling this weekend. 

I've been pondering all day: Why is it that when you're sad, listening to Delta Blues makes you feel so much better? Part of it is the lyrics - you know that pain is part of life and you're not alone. And the songs are about plain, ordinary people leading working-class lives. But that's true of other music too. Hank Williams, Sr. leaps to mind. It's more than that. 

I know it's partly a cultural thing for me. The voice and vocabulary of the Delta is what I grew up with, and nobody up here talks like that. There's something comforting for me in hearing the dialect of my childhood. (And no, it's not a foreign language! I'll never forget having to translate Leadbelly line-by-line for you. I hadn't dreamed that he'd be hard for anybody to understand.) It was also part of the music of my childhood. My parents didn't like it - they listened to Big Band music and the Boston Pops. But growing up where I did, Blues was endemic. You couldn't not hear it.

There's something organic in the music itself. The 12-beat measure, the breaking of every beat into a triplet, is as close as you can get to the rhythm of the heartbeat. It's the first rhythm we hear in the womb; it's our mother's heartbeat and our own. It's part of our biology. Even if I couldn't understand the words - you know, if Leadbelly really did have an accent - I'd listen just for the music.

Yesterday I changed out Robert Johnson for Muddy Waters in the car. It feels good to listen to a deep, rich voice sing molasses. There's a rootedness about it. It means continuity for me. It makes me feel like I have a place in the world: somewhere I came from and somewhere I am, but no thoughts about where I'm going. 

Well, better minds than mine have asked the same question. I just know Delta Blues always feels good. There's a rightness about it. You were always so nice to me, learning to understand how it works and coming to like it. That's no small thing for a white guy from Ohio, and I always appreciated it. I'm sorry you never got to hear Robert Johnson. You'd love him.

And I love you, and Jethro is way past wanting to go to bed. So I have to say goodnight. Sleep good!

PS - Remember how much of a shock Led Zeppelin caused with the Lemon Song in the 70s? Well, that line is from a song Robert Johnson wrote in the 30s - Traveling Riverside Blues.  Love you!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

I Miss Your Winter Boots

Dear John,

My back is better but my heart isn't. I'm still trying to get my feet back under me after taking your clothes to Goodwill this morning. There was a big box of my clothes, too, mostly stuff I haven't worn for a while. But I also got rid of all my sexy nightgowns, including the one I bought for last summer's vacation that didn't happen, and never wore. They might as well go to someone else - I'll never wear them again. 

Tonight has been so hard! It hurts to know that your clothes aren't here anymore. Illogical, but I can be just as illogical as anybody else when I put my mind to it. Everybody says it's the little every-day things that hit you, and I guess clothes fit that description. I expected it to be easy to pack up the clothes and hard to order the headstone, but it turned out to be the opposite. It may be because the headstone is for me, too. Packing up your clothes has an air of finality about it. I know - I'm being illogical again. 

It is good that I have a deadline for all of this - I have to have the house ready for Jen and Elyssa to move in around the middle of June. Yesterday I got everything out of Jen's room. Now I have to clear out the office for Elyssa. It looks completely overwhelming, but it will get done. I'll have to set up a work space in the basement, which will mean re-working and organizing it - something I've needed to do for a long time. This will require an electrician, however. I can't get by on one outlet and four bare bulbs.

Sorry to bother you with all these details. Let me sum up: Your clothes are gone. Dog and I are having a rough time with that. We'll get through it. But in the words of the prayers, it was an act of almsgiving in your name, and that is good and right. 

We'll be better soon. Please pray for your little family! 

Love you with all my heart,

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Harrowing Day

Dear John,

I got the spider.  It was in the tub tonight so I smushed it with my shoe. I'm such a big girl!

Oh, and do you remember that blue dryer ball that disappeared last fall? It's accounted for. Today I got out the summer sheets, and there was the dryer ball in a pocket of the fitted sheet. It's been folded up in there all winter. So that mystery is solved.

Spider and dryer ball aside, it was a harrowing day. I packed up all of your clothes, and it was so much harder than I had expected. Every little thing has memories connected with it. The oddest things hurt the most to let go - your winter boots, your socks, even the hat you got at the Cleveland Zoo when the rain started. Your polo shirts would have been the worst, but Jen wants to wear them so they get to stay. And your Nikes will stay, too. Jethro got hysterical when I went to pack them up - the only way to calm the dog down was to put them back in the closet. I can't imagine how good they smell to him. Seeing them there makes me feel better, too.

Tonight my back and my heart ache. Motrin will take care of the first one. There seems to be no cure for the second, just to say I love you so, so much.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Spiders, Jeans, and The Big Bang Theory

Dear John,

WHERE were you this morning? There was a huge hairy spider in the shower with me - it must have been at least a quarter inch across. I couldn't reach it safely, but you're taller - you could have gotten it and rescued me. No telling where it is now. It will probably eat me in my sleep.

I had a good time eating ice cream with you again today. I'm sorry I couldn't stay longer - I was getting sunburned and still had grocery shopping to do, and I didn't get home until 7. I never want to leave when I come to see you.

It's Tuesday - NCIS night - and I actually turned away from it tonight. It was the one that opened with Gibbs dreaming about being with Shannon. The look of pain on his face, when he realized he was dreaming and she was really still dead, was more than I could handle. So I went to TBS for a Big Bang Theory marathon - a good antidote to so much pain. I feel better now. 

The dog doesn't. Tonight I got your socks out to donate and Jethro is quite upset about where Daddy's socks are going. He is having a hard time watching your clothes leave the house. So am I, but I can be ruthless when it's necessary. Yesterday, though, I did decide that I absolutely have to keep your jeans. Your jeans, your turquoise polo shirt, and your house slippers aren't going anywhere. I'll probably put them in the cedar chest with my wedding dress.

I'm managing. But I'd rather be with you. Love you so much,

Monday, May 21, 2012


Dear John,

Monday - a very busy Monday! This is where I pay for taking two sick days last week. I worked 6 1/2 hours today and will go back in tomorrow to just get caught up. But this is the only job I've ever had where I look forward to going to work every single day. So I enjoyed today and will have more fun tomorrow. It's perfect for me - I get paid to be anal retentive. Organizing things all day makes me happy. Kathy has to organize the people - I hate trying to organize people because they don't stay where you put them. Organizing things is so much more satisfying.

I ran into Doris at the post office this morning - had a wonderful time talking to her. Did you realize it's been 12 years now since Red died? Time goes so fast. She said she'd been thinking about me - I told her I've been thinking about her every day, too. Red was a sweet man; I still miss him. 

Yesterday it was in the 90s here, and today's high was in the 60s. I closed the house all by myself yesterday! You thought I'd never turn the AC on without you here to make me do it, didn't you? I turned it on yesterday morning before I left for church. I couldn't leave Jethro to deal with the heat and humidity. I turned it off last night, though, and opened the windows as soon as the temperature dropped to 80. Tonight you'd probably close the house and turn on the heat, but you know me - the windows will be open and I'll sleep in my blue-&-white flannel PJs and be happy as a clam. Clams do sleep better in pairs, but I'll have to make do with the dog. One night last week I half-way woke up and reached out to touch you, and couldn't figure out why you weren't there. Then I woke up the rest of the way and remembered. 

Missing you at night - and during the day - and all the time in between -

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Happy Anniversary

Dear John,

Happy anniversary - our first one apart. Where do I start telling you how I feel?

First, this morning at church we had 40-day prayers for you and Dick. It helped to remember that it's a celebration of your arrival in Heaven. It was so much harder for me since it fell on May 20th.

Remember our anniversary last year? Yet another car disaster - something we were always inexplicably prone to on our anniversary. Our first anniversary was when the battery fell into the fan in Savannah in a monsoon, in that old yellow Vega. Our last one was when we got lost on that dirt road in Michigan and blew a tire - the first tire we blew that day. We decided last year that we would not leave the house on our anniversary, ever again. Like Bob Dylan in the Talking Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues, we'd have a picnic in our bathroom. This isn't what I expected. I would so love to have had a car disaster with you today!

I'll always remember the three things you told me in January in Indy, things you wanted to be sure I knew in case you didn't make it out of the cath lab. One of them was that you'd been happier married to me than you ever thought it was possible to be. And you know I felt the same way. Marriage to you was wonderful, much better than I'd ever dreamed. We were truly one flesh - we still are. I spent all our married years marveling at how happy I was, always grateful. When we got married I loved you as much as it was possible for me to love; 34 years later (and older), I love you so much more than I did then. You were all I wanted - you still are. 

Thank you for so many happy years. Thank you for the life we made together. Thank you for what you helped make me into. Thank you for giving me so much of yourself. Thank you for all of you that is still here, still part of me and my life. 

I'm going to bed now, to cry myself to sleep. (If I cry too hard, I'll remember our wedding night and have a good laugh with you about it!) 

Love you more than all the world put together,
Your wife.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

My Tummy is Broken

Dear John,

It was a good day until about 2 pm. Then Tummy Virus Part 2 started. I have too much to do; I don't have time for this. But my GI system just doesn't care about my schedule.

I was watching an NCIS marathon tonight. You would have loved it - they showed Kill Screen twice. I got to see Gibbs shoot up the mainframe two times in one day. You would have been so happy. 

You have no idea how glad I've always been that you didn't like chick flicks - just as glad as you were that I didn't like action/adventure films. We had the same taste in TV and movies, overlooking your thing for Japanese monster movies and underappreciation of Charlie Chan. You're the only guy I dated that liked sports, so of course I had to marry you. Your favorite was baseball and mine was football, but since we're Cubs fans it was never a problem - meaningful baseball never conflicted with football season. When I fell in love with a show I was always afraid you'd hate it, but you loved them all - NCIS, Numb3rs, Criminal Minds, Bones, Dr. G - we sound pretty sick, don't we? If you'd wanted a man cave, you'd have had to share it with me. Sort of like that couple on Psych that turned out to both be closet geeks. Except that we never tried to hide our geekness, from each other or from anybody else. As Jeannie put it once, I have a masculine brain. And thank goodness you didn't want a girly-girl! I wanted you and you wanted me. And that never changed.

Thank you for wanting me just as I am. Still wanting you,

Friday, May 18, 2012

Just What is Broken Here?

Dear John,

I'm better. I started feeling human at 5 pm today, ate normal food for dinner, and am getting some energy back. Henceforth I will keep Gatorade in the house. 

Brain function resumed around 5 pm, too. Tonight I've been pondering myself, my life, the universe, and everything. (You know I prefer small subjects.) It feels like I'm still the same, it's just that the whole world has changed around me. Suddenly I'm living this completely different life that I don't know anything about. Everything has changed: the house is different, and will get more so as I sort through your things; people are treating me differently; my schedule and routine are different; all my thoughts and plans for the future are gone; things I liked to do and places I liked to go are gone; all my friendships are changed because I'm not part of a couple anymore. There is nothing that has not changed. My life doesn't fit me, it's not comfortable - it doesn't feel like it's really mine. 

What started me thinking was a bit of a song that I heard on TV tonight, a line about being broken. And I thought: I'm not broken, my life is. I don't need to heal as much as I need to learn how to live this new life. I want my old life back, but I can't have that. I'll learn to live this one; it will gradually start to fit better, maybe one day it will even feel like it's mine. I will learn to be content here, maybe even learn to enjoy this life someday.

I guess that's another way of saying what I've always told others about loss: you don't get over it, you learn to live more comfortably with it. I've had other losses; what I didn't know was that loss this big changes everything. It's just that I don't feel like I'm any different. (You know, like Joe Walsh says: Everybody's so different; I haven't changed.)

I'll have to come back to this, probably many times. To sum up where I am at this point: I'm the same but this new life stinks. I do hope that summary alters in the future. But I'm not holding my breath. At least I know this separation is temporary. How do people live without that assurance? We never did figure that out, did we?

I have a dog here wanting to go to bed, so I'll take my ponderings off where they won't annoy you any longer. Thank you for your prayers. I love you. I promise to do my best here without you.

Miss you so much,

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Dear John,

I'm feeling a bit better. I only threw up once today - tried solid food too soon. And Zofran is helping the nausea. I'm having a full-blown fibro flare, which I usually do when I'm sick. I did get to Fastlane for Gatorade today. I had that and instant oatmeal all day, except the one ill-advised foray into soup and half a sandwich. I spent the day on the couch and slept about half the day. The rest of the time I could get either NCIS, Burn Notice, or Big Bang Theory, so the day went by fast. 

I really have to get to work tomorrow - please pray for me. I still feel pretty bad. And I miss you so much. It was great having Gatorade today, but having you would have made me feel even better.

I love you so very much,

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Dear John,

I'm sick. Tummy virus. Upper and lower. It hit about 4 this afternoon. I'm finally keeping liquids down - I found one last Sun Drop in the fridge - remember when you found them at Wal-Mart and got me some? I hadn't seen one since I moved north in 1968. I hope to be tummy-stable enough to go get some Gatorade in the morning. 

This is my first time of being sick when living by myself. I don't recommend it. It's lousy. But you've been looking after me again: Sun Drop, all those little bags of Baked Lays that you had - that's all I've been able to keep down. I've learned something today, though. You know it's always been a rule: keep Benadryl and Immodium in the house because when you need them you can't go get them. I'll have to add Gatorade to that list. I've needed it, and absolutely can't go get it. Thank you for the Sun Drop and Baked Lays! I'm going to have some warm liquid Jello in bed tonight - I have your mother to thank for teaching me that. What would my life be without you?

I got a lot done before I started throwing up. I got through the list of phone calls I had to make, mostly about medical bills. All of them had recently been paid (even the anesthesia bill from last fall) except the last ambulance run, and they just needed our insurance information. Everybody I talked to was so nice to me. Maybe Jen's right: being newly-widowed gives you a free pass. No surprise there - she's always right. We raised her well, didn't we? 

I miss you tonight, in a different way. When I was sick you could always just touch me and I'd feel better. (I can hear the smart comment - I'm touched whether you're here or not!) I miss being looked after. Jethro has cuddled with me. But he can't drive or make liquid Jello for me, and he's just not you. Please do pray for me tonight! I hope this goes away quickly and quietly, and that I get some sleep tonight. 

Love you, miss you, so much,

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Hurdles and Milestones

Dear John,

Today was about hurdles and milestones, though I can't always tell one from the other. Jumping through the hoops went much easier and quicker than I had expected.

I went first to the Social Security office in Elkhart - brought knitting and came prepared to spend most of the day. I got finished in 2 hours, which was much better than I'd expected, and everybody was very nice and helpful. I applied for your lump-sum death benefit - $255, which hasn't been increased since that was enough to pay for a funeral. Your Disability had already been stopped. It turns out that they don't pro-rate. You have to live the entire month to get disability for any part of it. But I'm grateful for the months we did get it. It helped keep us afloat for 3 months. It turns out that I can apply for your monthly Social Security payment when I turn 60; it seems ridiculous that that's only 4 years away. 

Then I went two doors down to Inova, and they were very nice, too. They pulled the original loan documents, found the credit life clause, scanned in the death certificate, and extended their sympathies to me. So that loan is closed and done with. 

Then I actually went to Panera for lunch (3 PM is still lunch, right?). I needed to turn in your store keys and cards that I'd found when excavating your briefcase, and they had saved your name tag for me, bless them. People had been looking for your grave - I gave them directions, so you will have more visitors soon, which will be very nice. They love you as much as you love them, and they are all so nice to me. It was good to be back there, just a bit hard when I was leaving. You always kissed me when I left, no matter who was looking. I missed that today. 

Oh, and Meredith called somewhere in there and left a message. Anthem finally corrected your date of death and Goshen Hospital has re-submitted all the claims that were being disputed. After three weeks, they did accept the death certificate. 

So I think that's it with the legal/financial stuff except for the appeals that are pending with Anthem. The bottom line is that they and the hospitals will have to come to some kind of compromise or I'll have to file for bankruptcy and nobody will get anything. There's no way I can ever pay a quarter of a million in hospital bills, so there's no need to worry about it. They'll do whatever they'll do. 

You know, you really planned ahead so I'd be taken care of. The Inova loan is gone, most of the credit cards were in your name, and people loved you so much that they're looking after me now. No matter what the commercials say, your not having life insurance (except what came with, from Panera) wasn't your fault. Nobody in their right mind would touch you - you were an actuary's worst nightmare. But I'm on my feet and will be okay. So don't worry about me.

I love you so, so much! Tonight I'll cuddle up with the dog, listen to the crickets, and fall asleep pretending you're there. 

Love you always,

Monday, May 14, 2012

First Day of Summer

Dear John,

Today was the first day of our family summer! The Chief is open - I love their ice cream - I've never been there without you - I can't imagine eating there alone - I can't imaging starting summer without their ice cream - the solution was obvious: I took the ice cream to the cemetery and ate it there with you. It seemed right. And it was SO good. 

While I was there, a young woman named Teresa came by walking a 6-month-old German Shepherd named Johnny. I was his first non-family socialization, and he warmed up to me after a minute or two. She was very nice - acted like it was the most normal thing in the world to come upon a woman sitting cross-legged on the ground eating ice cream beside her husband's grave. 

So I got sunburned again, and a little teary leaving. It is so hard to walk away from you! I want to stay and stay. But there is only so much sunburn I can stand, and Jethro had been alone for about 10 hours. The grass seed is coming up; soon your spot will blend in. In a couple of weeks our headstone will be up. And I'll join you whenever Jen lets me!

In the meantime, rest well and pray for me,

Sunday, May 13, 2012

One Month Anniversary

Dear John,

Well, it's been one month today. I have no sense of time - I can't how much time it feels like. Wherever it is that I am now, time isn't measurable. It feels like I'm stuck in a place without time, just waiting to get out of here. Somehow the days come and go without any time having passed. Maybe it's because I still can't look at the future. Maybe I just have nothing to look forward to. I don't understand it; I just feel like I'm in a sort of eternal present with no future ahead of me. 

Progress is measurable, though, and I'm almost done with the legal/financial stuff. I filled out the paperwork today to enroll in COBRA. After Tuesday all I think I'll have left is the medical bills that are being appealed and Anthem's problem with your date of death. Medical bills can drag on forever - I remember that it took a year to get everything settled after I was in Memorial with sepsis. Insurance can be a place of neither time nor progress!

This is also another first - my first Mother's Day without you. Jethro didn't have a card for me; last year he sent you out to get one. But he slept a good part of the evening in my lap and that was plenty of loving from him. I'll never get another "from husband" Mother's Day card. Jen called me and I called your mother, and it was good.

It was a quiet day. I stayed home - woke up with an awful sinus headache. Cloo was running a Mother's Day Burn Notice Marathon. It was much-needed, considering what the other channels were doing for the day. So I crashed, watched TV, and alternated between knitting and petting the dog. 

I'm off to bed early tonight. I'll need to get up early in the morning. Before I go to work I need to make the lap downtown and make a couple of phone calls. If it get off work early enough, I'll come by to see you tomorrow. 

Loving you, missing you,

Saturday, May 12, 2012

And Granite is Good

Dear John,

Today's been busy but sedentary - I was ready for it! I spent the morning dealing with finances and legal things and such, and the afternoon and evening writing thank-you notes. I'm slowly chipping away at the to-do list - it feels really good. After next Tuesday almost everything should be done. (Tuesday I'll be camping out at the Social Security Office in Elkhart, filing for death benefits and stopping your disability. Then I'll go down the street to Inova. I'll take lots of knitting with me.)

It's amazing what a relief it is to have our headstone taken care of. I think I've been dreading that. It turned out to not be bad at all, and I'm not sure why. Maybe because my name is on it, too. I was picking out my own headstone. And it's a very visible, tangible reminder that I'll end up beside you again. It was good to look at the computer rendering and see our names together. I would have liked to have him put in my date of death sometime next week, but as I've said, Jen won't allow it. We'll just have to wait for each other. What we go through for the children!

Looking forward to sleeping beside you again,

Friday, May 11, 2012

Granite and Cell Phones

Dear John,

I've had another busy day. Went to the Post Office, then to the bank to report an email scam involving town internet addresses, the bank, and a trojan. Then to work for about 6 hours. Called Panera Benefits in St. Louis. Then to the monument company. Talked to your mother in their parking lot. Talked to Jen for almost 3 hours tonight. Now for the details:

I got another call from Goshen Hospital this morning - Anthem is still insisting you died in January. So I called Erin, faxed her a copy of your death certificate, and predict that there will be blood tonight. The hospital is being very patient with all of this. After all, their records agree that you were very much alive after January. But they are being much nicer than they have to, and I appreciate it. 

Your mother called after I left work this afternoon. I had sent her an arrangement of pink roses and carnations for Mother's Day - I asked them to deliver it today in case she's out with Jim and Irene tomorrow. The arrangement sounds just like the picture on FTD, which is unusual and gratifying. It is so good to talk to her now! I didn't send her a card; they don't make any Mother's Day cards that are appropriate to send to your mother-in-law right after your husband's death. In fact, I didn't find any that are from daughter-in-law to mother-in-law. Serious deficiency. 

I ordered our headstone today. I ended up going to Always in Stone; it's the only one in Goshen now, and they're used to working with Oak Ridge. I got a simple one - Hockman at the top, our names and dates on the right and left under it, and a budded cross between our names. We found the cross on Yahoo Images on the computer there. The stone is simple and beautiful. I had expected to have difficulty choosing the type of stone, but that was easy. Walking around outside looking at the headstones on display, I saw one with unpolished edges and knew it was gray granite. It looked just like the stone I grew up with - like Stone Mountain, Clingman's Dome, and all the rocks that stuck up out of the ground. Well, it is gray granite, and it is from North Georgia. So that's what we have. We'll end up under the stone I grew up climbing and skinning my knees on. And the edges will be unfinished - they will look just like granite right out of the ground. I'm in love with our headstone. I'd like to be under it with you in a week or so, but Jen has absolutely forbidden that. So I'll be patient, and just look at it for a while.

Jen called tonight, just to chat and catch up. We talked for about 3 hours - I know you can't imagine that - and had a wonderful time. I can't figure out the logistics, but I know that somehow she's really ours. I can't imagine life without her - it seems like we've always had her. I do love the child to death.

That's all the news - I suppose it's enough for one night! I love you so much, am so grateful for all the years I had with you, and am looking forward to being with you for all eternity. It's the time in between that's hard. But it's all worth it. I'll get there whenever Jen lets me!

Sleep well tonight,

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Relative Happiness

Dear John,

Good day, bad night. I've been finding ways to put off going to bed, just like a kid. It's another one of those night that I don't want to go to bed without you. 

Tonight I discovered a thought pattern that's going on in my head. Whenever I enjoy something or think something is good - pretty day, good food, enjoying something on TV - my mind immediately says that it would be so much better if I was enjoying it with you. I wondered how long I would do that, and realized I may never stop. I can't imagine anything in my life, ever, no matter how long I live, that wouldn't be better with you here. 

I don't know if I ever told you: on the way out of Dr. Ansari's office after that first visit, it came into my mind that I would never have another happy moment. That wasn't quite right - as a species, we're more resilient that that - but it was true that I'd never have a moment that was as happy as it could be if you were here. 

This was all just a bit depressing to realize tonight. So I'm still up after 11:30, making excuses to not go to bed. But Jethro is getting sleepy and insistent, and I do have to go to work in the morning. You know that I wouldn't be so sad now if I hadn't been so happy with you. But that's what happens when you marry the world's only perfect man, isn't it?

Poor Jethro's having a hard night, too. I got out a pair of your pajamas to wear when I came home from work. He got so excited, then was sad and disappointed when I put them on. I think for a moment there he thought maybe you were coming back after all. 

Please pray for both of us tonight - we love you so.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

On Commercials and COBRA

Dear John,

The house is clean! I'm having a hard time getting that done since I'm not doing it for you any more, but Audora came over today, so I had enough motivation. It looks live-in-able. And we had a wonderful time. It did me so much good to talk to her. And she's the only person I know that's had as rough a year as I have. And she brought chocolate pudding, of course. 

I was watching TV late tonight - 2 old episodes of Big Bang Theory, to recover from the new Criminal Minds episode. (It was good, but not one I wanted to go to bed by myself right after.) Anyway, the commercials were tough tonight. First, the romantic what-to-get-your-wife-for-Mother's-Day ones are out in full force. Second, it's the start of summer so they're advertising the romantic movies that are coming out. Not fun. But I did see one that surprised me - a commercial for Channel #5. I didn't know they even made it these days. What a blast from the past. 

I'm off to bed with a scratchy throat - just started hurting when I swallow. 

Oh, first, some surprisingly good news! I got the COBRA paperwork yesterday. It turns out that I can COBRA for 3 years since the insurance was lost by death instead of quitting or getting fired. And this makes no sense, but I won't argue: You know when we both were on it last time it was $1200 a month for 2 of us; now it will be $400 a month for just me. Whether the difference is because it is Panera or because it is Anthem, I don't know. Personally, my money would be on Panera being the good guy here, not Anthem, but I do have a slight bias. So I wanted you to know that I will have decently-priced insurance available for 3 years. So you don't have to worry about that - I'll be fine in that area. I've always been glad you worked for Panera, but I keep finding more and more reasons for that. I'm so thankful that Melinda and I went into the one in Mishawaka that day, and I wrote down the web address on the "hiring" sign. Now I just have to get myself to go in and buy raisin bread - still not quite ready to go back. 

Now I really am off to bed, still with the sore throat. I'll try to rest it and not talk in my sleep!

Love you so much,

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Dear John,

A long workday today - almost 8 hours. I got a lot accomplished and had a good day, then came home and crashed with the dog. 

I got 4 hours sleep last night - it's your fault, for not being here. I went to bed around 11, was still awake at 12 so I took Benadryl, was still awake at 3. This morning I discovered I hadn't taken my fibromyalgia pills at bedtime - no wonder I was awake at 3 and hurt all day. If you'd been here you'd have asked me at midnight if I'd taken my pills. See what trouble I can get into without you? 

Going down CR 42 on the way to work, I saw dicotyledons on both sides of the road. (I always loved being married to somebody that I could talk to about dicotyledons. Normal people just say the corn is coming up. It was wonderful to live with another biology major, and talk about dicotyledons and platyhelminthes and sodium/potassium pumps and other fun and lovely things.) I also saw a very new colt - you'd have loved it. It was trying to figure out what to do with those legs, just like you always said. We've had such a beautiful spring. I wouldn't mind a few nights without storms, though.

In spite of last night, I'm doing a fairly good job of looking after myself. It was just so much more fun with you. Life had meaning with you here - now it's just something to get done with. Spring is still beautiful but it doesn't really matter anymore. I just keep trudging on because I have no choice. If I did, I'd choose to go with you.

Love you so, so much,

PS - Spellcheck tried to change platyhelminthes to plainclothesmen. DYAC. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Tears and Heaven

Dear John,

Well, the storms came at 3 am, and the dog was whatever is hysterical squared. He wanted to lie on my head, which didn't work at all. He was so scared he was trembling all over. Around 4:30 I gave him some Benadryl; he did much better after that. Pollen counts went through the roof yesterday - between that and all the dog-dander commotion, I ended up taking Benadryl too. We got back to sleep around 5:30 and slept until 8. We're both tired now. From now on I'll give him Benadryl when a storm starts - there's no need for him to suffer like that, poor creature.

I read something today from St. John Chrysostom about death, that I knew you'd love:
"Where miracles are, tears have no place. Certainly not in the celebration of such a mystery. In the case of our dead, a great mystery is happening. Angels are present, commissioned from Heaven, sent from the King Himself to call their fellow-servant; and I ask you, Do you weep? Do you not know what a mystery it is that is taking place, how awful, how dread, and worthy indeed of hymns and praise?. For it is a very great mystery of the Wisdom of God. As if leaving the dwelling, the soul goes forth, speeding on her way to her own Lord, and do you mourn? Why, then you should mourn the birth of a child; for this in fact is also a birth, and a  better one than that. For as the sun arises, clear and bright, so the soul leaving the body with a clear conscience, shines joyously. Think what the soul must then be, in what amazement, what wonder, what delight!"
Isn't it wonderful? That is a good reminder for me. I've known all along that my tears are for me, not for you. I'm glad for you - I just want to join you as soon as I can. Save me a seat!

Love you always,

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Dear John,

It's Sunday, and my first one back to church. It was good to be there, but sad to be there without you. After the Liturgy I ended up in the fellowship hall at the Widows' Table - Mary Jo, Barbara, Elsie, and me - talking about all the stuff there is to do these days after a death. It felt good to have that group, and odd to be a card-carrying member now. 

I talked to Father in the parking lot (and got sunburned again). He misses you a lot - misses having you serving at the altar, but he misses talking to you more. He loved you very much. I think it would have been much easier for him to have lost me (in the accident last summer) than to lose you. I've always told you that you weren't allowed to predecease me, but no - you paid no attention to that! Husbands seldom seem to listen to that particular instruction.

I came home and relaxed - put Season 7 of NCIS on the DVD player and curled up with the dog. We're heading off to bed now, to get as much sleep as we can. Storms are predicted tonight, and it feels like they're coming. I wonder if Jethro will want to sit on my head again. If so, I should be able to sleep through some of the storms. You really should see it.

We both miss you. I got lots of hugs at church today, and realized how hug-starved I am without you. Jethro sitting on my head is small compensation, for him or me! I miss your long arms.

Sleep good - there will be no storms where you are. Love you,

Saturday, May 5, 2012

I'm Being Productive Again

Dear John,

Today I was productive again. I worked on financials from 11 am to 9 pm, with one break to go outside and play ball with the dog. I got everything done except some phone calls that I can't make on the weekend - insurance issues, most of which probably revolve around Anthem's uncertainty about the date of your death. 

Now that I have the death certificates, I sent letters to the credit cards informing them of your death, that the estate has no assets, therefore there will be no probate. If the sharks gather I am to send them to Galen. He doesn't think we owe anybody enough money for it to be worth their while to come after the house or cars, and they can't come after me since the cards were in your name only. Once again, I'm so thankful to have a good attorney! Some creditors will come hard after a new widow, but not an attorney. (Soundtrack here: Wayne Brady singing the Yoko Ono hit, Attorneee.

I also did three loads of laundry today. In the process of putting some clothes away, I started getting rid of some of your things that I can't take to Goodwill, like underwear and handkerchiefs. And I got rid of your white terrycloth bathrobe. It was so worn and looked so terrible, but I remember how much you loved it. I got it for you when we were in Cleveland for your brain surgery - bought it that day you had your pre-op cognitive tests and I did all of our Christmas shopping. That was a hard day; I wondered if you would be the same person after the surgery. That was the hardest day I'd ever had, until this year. You wore that robe all the time while you recovered from the surgery. It was so worn out that I'd decided to get you a new one for our anniversary. I'd hoped you'd be at home recovering by then, and would start wearing out the new one. 

I wish you were at home. But you don't have to worry about clothes or bathrobes anymore. I miss you so much. Don't forget to pray for me. 

Love you,

Friday, May 4, 2012

Adventures with Insurance

Dear John,

I got a jolt at the post office today - not the usual thing in Topeka. You might get caught up with the news, have a good chat with friends, but not get jolted. 

We got two letters in today's mail, one from Anthem and one from Goshen Hospital, both saying your health insurance was cancelled on February 1st - and an Explanation of Benefits from Anthem that showed them paying claims through April 13th. I got it all settled with 15 minutes of phone calls - two to Erin in St. Louis and two to the hospital financial department. It turns out that somebody at Anthem entered your date of death as 1/31 instead of 4/13. Don't ask me how.

Erin caught the mistake last week, called them, and was told it would be corrected immediately. Obviously is wasn't. So both she and her supervisor called them today and pinned some ears back - told them that I was a new widow and didn't need or deserve stress like this. The hospital will check on Monday and let me know if it's still wrong. If it is, I predict bloodshed. 

Bless Erin, she's wonderful! After all the time you spent talking to her since July, she misses you and cares about me. And it is good to have somebody in the corporate Benefits Department that cares. I am more and more impressed with Panera. Neither of us has ever had a job that would have done so much for us. That means I can eat shortbread cookies with a clear conscience, right? 

I had breakfast at the Mishawaka Panera the day I took Jen to the airport. I haven't been to the Goshen Panera yet - which means I've had no raisin bread in weeks. I'm not quite ready to walk in there yet. I'm used to seeing you smiling at me from behind the counter when I walk in the door. No, not quite ready for that yet. But I will be someday. Then I'll eat raisin bread again. 

I love you so much - even more than raisin bread!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

At Peace and Sunburned

Dear John,

I'm sunburned. I was on the way to visit you today and spent 20 minutes stopped for a train at the inner track. So I rolled the windows down, cranked Robert Johnson up on the CD player, turned off the car, and enjoyed the sun and the music. I was in the sun when I was visiting with you, too. So I'm quite pink tonight. 

It's so nice where you are - quiet and green, like Bob Crachitt said about Tiny Tim's grave. I brought you a surprise today: a small stone marker that the funeral home gave us. It will be there until I get a monument put up, then I'll bring it home and find a special place in the garden for it. It was wonderful sitting there on the ground with you - I prayed the Akathist for a Loved One Who Has Fallen Asleep while I was there, and just chatted with you. But I'm being a ninny, because you know all of this already. After all, you were there!

Elsie called today - we both had the same plan in mind. We will have the 40-Day Prayers for you and Dick on the same Sunday, and the closest one is May 20th. She didn't know that the 20th would be our 34th anniversary. It will be special and painful, and Elsie and I will go through it together which will be wonderful. It was good to talk to her while I was searching Kroger for the Banquet Turkey Pot Pies. (I never did find them - had to ask somebody after I was off the phone. It's a good meal for 85 cents.)

So tonight I'm at peace and sunburned - both from visiting you. Who knew that would happen?

I can't wait until I'm there, too, sleeping next to you by the creek. Until then, sleep well!

Love you, love you, love you,

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I Had Some Fun Today

Dear John,

I played and had some fun today, for the first time since the middle of January. Kathy and I went to Fort Wayne to Jefferson Point. I actually bought some clothes without you there forcing me to spend money on myself - you should be proud of me. Last summer I reached one of those points where all my summer clothes fell apart at the same time, but I couldn't do anything about it because trying on clothes is the last thing you want to do with a broken collarbone. So today I got two pairs of summer pants, two tops, and a new pair of jeans. It was good to get out and act normal for a day. (I can hear the smart comment coming - you don't have to say it!) We had lunch at an Italian restaurant that you would love. 

I need to get to bed - I have to get up early in the morning. But I couldn't go to sleep without talking to you for just a minute first. 

Good night - I love you so much!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Hanging Out at the BMV

Dear John,

It's still raining - sounds lovely, basement is dry, dish is out. The rain held off until after NCIS - so nice of the universe!

I got a lot done again today. This morning I went to the funeral home, paid them, picked up the death certificates, and picked up your favorite turquoise shirt. I'd hoped they could use that one, but they had to use the long-sleeved one instead because of the IV bruises on your arms. After all, we didn't want folks thinking you'd been in a bar fight! 

Then I went up to LaGrange, paid the property taxes, and spent the rest of the afternoon at the BMV. First - since I finally got the death certificates - I got the car titles changed from both of our names into my name only. Then I renewed both car registrations, and renewed my driver's license. 

I have some much-needed social time scheduled, with Kathy tomorrow and Audora next week. I am so ready for it. Jethro is good company but is lacking in conversational skills. And I've discovered that too much time alone isn't good for me. Being alone is a luxury only when it's a choice. There can be too much of it, even for an introverted hermit like me. 

I wish I was hermitting with you - we were always so happy just being together, no matter what we were doing. "Alone" means something very different now - no longer just the state of being by myself at the moment, but something ontological. That's emotion and not reality. But emotions are real, too, aren't they? 

Love you so, so much,