Thursday, February 28, 2013

Something to Look Forward To

Dear John,
 
It's been a fairly slow day here - laundry and some housework got done, a good amount of knitting, and a rest day for Hunter who is feeling bad after his first rabies shot. And we finally had a day without snow - also without sunshine, but at least without snow.
 
I was planning to call Irene today but she beat me to it. We only talked an hour and a half. And I don't have to worry about that, since I'm using Google Voice to make outgoing calls. The phone-bill month is 3/4 over, and I have only used 100 of 450 minutes. All the hour-long health insurance calls were made through Google Voice. I'm certain that's why God made it.
 
I was going to call Irene because I had a thought a few days ago. (Yes, I know - that's always worth calling about.) I was remembering that you and I had never gotten to make that day trip to Warsaw to explore and play, thinking that it wouldn't be much fun to go alone, and that I'd love to do that with your sister. I'd also like to explore Syracuse sometime, and I've been trying for six months to find somebody that wants to run up to Holland with me and finding no takers. So we talked about it and we have tentative plans. We both want to see the Meijer Sculpture Gardens in spring, so we'll spend a day there and one in Holland, and stay the night between at a hotel. We'll stay here for the rest of the time, and make day runs to places like Warsaw and Syracuse, and maybe Shipshe. After Pascha would be best - this years date is Pascha's latest possible date: May 5th. So sometime in May we'll run around and play and have fun. The Meijer garden should be lovely, Holland is always lovely, and Warsaw and Syracuse are on lakes so they can't help being lovely. We'll have a great time on a very low budget.
 
Resilience
I am quite excited about this. I don't think I've looked forward to anything this much since we were planning on doing the same things last spring after you got out of the hospital and rehabbed your strength back. It feels good to be looking forward to something. I do look forward to little things - having people over to the house, meeting a friend for lunch, wanting spring to come - but this is an event on a larger scale and farther off in the future. And I can't wait. It's been so long since I've had that "I can't wait" feeling. More progress, I suppose. And it feels very good. Have I ever thanked you for having a sister that I have so much in common with? It was very thoughtful of you, especially since neither of us have a sister, and now we're both siblingless. You used to tease me every time I was going somewhere with Irene, asking if I was sure we could find enough to talk about for all that time. And I'd tell you yes, we could talk about you, and stick my tongue out at you. And you'd tell me to come closer and do that again.
 
I miss those jokes, but is feels good to remember them. And I always laugh when I think about them. I feel no compulsion to tell anybody else about them, though I don't mind if people know. But it's enough if only we know.
 
I need to get to sleep. The alarm will go off in eight hours. The dog is asleep at my feet and the cat is hiding out somewhere. He comes running as soon as I turn the bedroom lights out, jumps up on the bed, walks around over me, finds the spot he wants to sleep this time, and settles himself there. By that time Jethro has his spot staked out. It seems I constitute valuable real estate.
 
Please keep praying about my job and financial situation. I pray for you all day, every day. That's because I miss you all the time. Love you so much,
Joan.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

On The Composition of Cats

Dear John,
 
Happy Wednesday night. I apologize for the existential angst I dumped on you last night. And as I say that, I know you don't mind - you always wanted to know what was going on in this head of mine. And I always felt better after you listened. I feel such a need for something like spiritual direction now, some wise person I can talk to. Not a grief recovery group, because the things I want to talk about are much wider in scope than my grief. Doing fairly well can create problems - when you do need help, nobody can see it. You couldn't come tonight after I go to sleep, and just talk to me, could you? No medical crises, no hospitals, no doctors, just sit down and let me talk some of these things over with you? If you can, please come any time.
 
After Sunday's Liturgy, when I went up to receive the Bishop's blessing, I told him that this was the first tonsuring since yours, and that you had died on last Holy Friday. He remembered us, but hadn't heard about your death. I knew he'd seen me crying during Charlie's tonsuring and I wanted to explain my tears to him. He gave me his blessing for my bereavement, which I was so thankful for. And I thanked him for coming, and told him that he had brought the Resurrection with him.
 
These things don't fit into words and concepts very well, but they comfort and strengthen me. It feels good to have that blessing - I will watch to see it work in my life. It may be the reason I had such a good day in Shipshe on Monday. There is great power in a Bishop's blessing.
 
Oh, before I forget, I did get the cat to the vet today. He weighs 5 pounds now. Two months ago he was 1.6, last month he was 3.4, and today he's 5.0. He's growing like a weed, he's long and lanky, and he appears to be made of rubber. He can stretch to an unbelievable length, can put his legs into positions that can't be possible, and he isn't crushed when the dog steps, sits, or lies on him. Clearly made of rubber. No wonder cats are such good jumpers. We'll see how he feels tomorrow, since he had his first rabies shot today. June says he's happy, healthy, athletic, and altogether a very desirable kitten. I guess you get the best when you go to the best sources - like the dumpster at the convenience store. He's a sweetheart, and I do love my cat. And it still feels so strange to say that. You'll get to meet him someday, since all dogs and cats go to Heaven. And we'll see what Caleb and Naomi make of him. Mama will adore him - I know she's grinning from ear to ear over the fact that I have and love a cat.
 
I suppose it has to be hard, having half of the family here and half there. I long for the day of reunion. I won't be whole until I'm back with you. Until then, I do hope to talk to you tonight, but I will understand if you can't make it.
 
Love you better than life,
Joan.

Another Existential Analysis

Dear John,
 
I'm back. The animals were in bed but now they're up chasing each other around the house. I know I have more to say to you tonight. I'm not sure just what, so I guess we'll find out together.
 
I have the crock pot out to remind me to put some boneless pork ribs in tomorrow morning. And I looked at it a minute ago and wondered why I was bothering with it. I know I have to eat, and when I can do something healthy with what was on sale yesterday, that's even better. But what my head was trying to say is that care for nutrition implies that life is precious and has meaning and purpose, none of which I can say about mine, so why bother? I'm just taking up space until it's time for me to go. It sounds terrible to say that I'll spend my life waiting to die, but it's the truth. I'll do what good presents itself for me to do, try to do no harm, focus on repentance and humility, and take up space. My purpose was you - you were the reason I went to work, managed the house, cooked and cleaned, did laundry, decorated, canned, sewed and quilted, did home improvements, took care of myself, got up in the morning.
 
Now I am taking a step of faith when I get out of bed every day - that anybody will care that I'm up, that there will be opportunities for me to do good, that what I do will matter to anybody, that the necessities of life will somehow be provided for me, that if I die that day I will go to Heaven, that if I don't die that day there will be a reason for me to get out of bed the next day.
 
Remember those charity walks that were so popular in the 1970s? After a couple of those I discovered that walking is really a process of putting one foot out and falling on it. That's what all of my days feel like now. I get up and put one foot in front of the other, one step at a time, in faith that there will be meaning and purpose somewhere, and that there will be provision for my earthly needs there, too. Every step is pure faith, and every routine is an attempt to keep chaos at bay. I can look ahead and see no way that I can matter to anyone, and also see no way for me to get by financially. I try to refuse despair and hopelessness, and cling to faith. Every minute that I live without you is a leap of faith. I'm flying through the air using my Orthodox scarf as a parachute, living on a prayer - no moorings, no home, no support, no witnesses. I take my daily leap of faith and I'm as alone as a raptor in the sky.
 
When you have to live that way, you don't think about the future much. And you limit how much you think about the past because it was so good and you can't live with the contrast between it and the present. And things that were terribly important become meaningless. You know we worked so hard for our top-notch credit rating. Now that I'm widowed, I probably don't have a credit rating at all. So this is the perfect time to tell the two billing entities that are trying to cheat me that your estate is liable for payment, your estate had no assets, therefore was not probated - basically, here's the stone; good luck getting blood out of it. And that wretched timeshare my parents insisted on leaving me, after we'd begged them to sell it - I'm not paying over $1000 in fees any more years for. I'm defaulting on it. Or somebody is. No matter how much documentation we sent them after Daddy died, they refused to take it out of his name. And no matter how much we told them that I was the heir, they put it in your name instead of mine. So the two people they insist are the owners are both dead, and the latest one left no estate. I don't care a mite about my credit rating. I have no debt except the mortgage, pay my bills on time, and pay off my one credit card every month.
 
But none of it matters. There are people here that I care about, some that I love dearly. But it's not the kind of love where you give all you are and have to the other person - not like it was with you. I was indispensable to you, but I'm certainly not to anyone else. So I'm like a living ghost, an accidental being whose purpose is in the past, hanging around the edges of the group and barely visible, a relic of another time, and an unpleasant reminder of mortality. I am completely superfluous. So I take up space, and try to do so graciously, pleasantly, and as productively as possible, while leaving as little footprint as I can.
 
It is starkly clear to me that all I have is God - to care for me, to care about me, to provide for me. And the more clearly I see that God is all that I have, the more peaceful I am in knowing that God is all I need. I have no one else to look to for aid, support, love, comfort. and provision; and I need no one else because He is all-sufficient. I have no one else to cling to, and I'm realizing that I need no one else. He is the God of widows and orphans. I take great comfort in that.
 
So my life is at once both very rich and completely empty. I have dear friends and am absolutely alone. I have a handful of legal and financial crises going on and I don't care one whit. In my world there is love and there is faith. That's all. Everything else went to the wall over a year ago. Just love and faith. Only love and faith.
 
I love you for listening,
Joan.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Ideal Pacemaker

Dear John,
 
The winter storm is here - so far it's been freezing rain with a few short intervals of snow. We're supposed to get 4-6 inches of snow tonight. So I may or may not get the cat to the vet for his last shots tomorrow afternoon. I'm curious to know how much he weighs now. He's growing so fast.
 
A few days ago I had Robert Johnson on in the car; he still reminds me of all those days I drove to Mishawaka to see you. My first thought was that I wished I was on my way to see you, wished I could still visit you. Then I thought about it, and I have to be glad you're not still going through all of that. It was a good rehab place, but you were just too complicated for them. Managing your fluid status required either an ICU or me, which is the same thing. We never did get them convinced that you had to have Lasix before getting a unit of blood. It was hard on both of us to be always trying to convince somebody of something, and I know you never really felt safe. And it was hard on them, too.
 
You should have gotten this model . . .
What it all boils down to is that it was just time for you to go home. The radiation damage was too great, and everything seemed to unravel at the same time. I had hoped the pacemaker would keep things together, but then the V tach came along, and the dominoes started falling.We'd been able to patch things up for so many years, but it just reached the point where there was too much coming apart. You'd done so well in spite of all that patching, that I'm still finding people who had no idea you'd ever been sick before the summer of 2011. And that's really amazing.
 
I wouldn't want you to go through any more of that. So now I'm going through this, but it's no different from what most women live through. Except that I lost the world's only perfect man. But at least I had him! And I give thanks every day for the years we had together. I decided before we married that I'd rather have a week with you than a century with anybody else. It was a good call.
 
Love you, adore you, worship the ground you walk on,
Joan.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Health Insurance, Snow, and The Ray of Death

Dear John,
 
You'll be happy to hear that my prescription coverage has been reactivated. They lost all my prescriptions, so I talked to Peggy today and they will get them ordered. Anthem is still not convinced that you lived into April, so Health, Dental, and Vision are still cut off. But Panera Benefits has raised my problem to their "highest level" - which seems to mean that they're going after Anthem with the big guns. I'll try not to get sick until it's settled. Bless Whitney - I messed up her Thursday with this schemozzel, and she's calling me from Houston every day with status reports.
 
I'm home tonight - I don't know if you remembered that I was supposed to have taken Dick and Esther to Indy today for a doctor's appointment in the morning. I was making one last weather check yesterday evening, and found out that we have a major winter storm coming tomorrow. We should have rain-sleet-freezing rain starting around 8 am, turning over to snow by noon, to rain in the middle of the afternoon, then a mix (the pink stuff on the Weather Channel maps) in the evening, for a total of about 6 inches here. I'll try to work some tomorrow, but it will all depend on the track and timing of this thing. It's creating blizzards over the Great Plains, 18 inches of snow in Texas, 6 feet of snow in Kansas, and tornadoes south of the snow areas. We could have gotten to Indy with no problems, but Heaven knows when we could have gotten home. The trip is re-scheduled for mid-March, which should be less adventurous.
 
Meanwhile, today was sunny and 40s. I opened the front door to let the sun in, and Jethro and Hunter curled up together in the sun and went to sleep for over an hour. Then the phone rang, Jethro jumped up barking, and Hunter took off like a shot for some hide-away spot. I didn't see him again for a couple of hours. But it was lovely to see the sun. I ran to Walmart today because of the weather forecast. I wanted to pick up everything I'd need if I couldn't get out of Topeka for a few days. Dog food, cheese, yogurt, and meat on sale - the essentials.
 
I meant to tell you last week and I kept forgetting: I've seen the first sign of spring. Last week the sap buckets started appearing on the maple trees. And today I saw the second sign - there was a dead skunk in the middle of the road. You know how slow and drowsy they are when the first come out of hibernation. There are new calves in the barns, and in a few weeks we'll see lambs in the fields. You missed all of that last year, though I took pictures for you to look at. I hope you can see and smell spring this year.
 
That's all the excitement here - we're just watching and waiting to see where this storm goes. It's Topeka, so we'll be fine. I can put on boots and walk everywhere I need to go. I'm glad you're warm and dry and safe!
 
Love you, miss you,
Joan. 
 


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Widowhood: A Surprise in Every Box

Dear John,
 
As I expected, it's been a long and lovely day. Having Bishop ANTHONY here was wonderful. This parish has known him since he was first ordained a priest, so we've loved him for years and are so thankful to have him as our bishop. The tonsurings were wonderful, too.
 
And I got a surprise this morning. (That seems to be one of the constant things about widowhood - there's a surprise around every corner.) I would never have expected it, but Charlie's tonsuring hit me hard, and I cried through it. This is the first one we've had since you were tonsured a sub-deacon, and in a sense he's taking your place. I'm glad for it, and for him, but it was very emotional for me. I didn't see that one coming.
 
Lunch was fun and good, as always. I sat between Charlie's parents and Steven, Rachel, and Chris. So I had a good time, and I got to know Charlie's family some. And ate way too much; that didn't surprise me.
 
The choir did really well this morning, especially with the convolutions of the hierarchical liturgy. But what strikes me is not the technical achievement but the emotional cohesiveness of the choir. Brian is doing wonderful things with the music. But he's also better at handling people than I am, and it shows in our little group. And as I've said for years, I organize things, not people, because people don't stay where you put them. Brian is much wiser than I am in the interpersonal area. He reminds me of you, that way.
 
And the big surprise of the day: Father did the last round of house blessings this evening - ours was his last.  I found out about it after lunch, so I came home and tidied up a bit and swept up the worst of the dog-and-cat hair. House blessings are always wonderful, with so much meaning. It seemed odd that you weren't here for it, but it was good anyway. I hope he gets some rest tomorrow.
 
And I hope I do, too. I was supposed to leave tomorrow morning and take Dick and Esther to Indy for another doctor's appointment. But we're under a winter storm watch for Tuesday, and if it's even half of what they're predicting, we wouldn't be able to get back home. So they decided to cancel the hotel reservations and change the doctor's appointment to another time. I do need to get to Walmart for some groceries I can't get in town, if there's a big storm in the offing. But I don't have to get up early for it.
 
And that's good since it's getting on toward midnight. It's past all our bedtimes. The animals are sound asleep, and I think I'll join them. Please keep praying for me, and tonight you might want to pray for Adrian and Charlie, too. You know their road.
 
Love you so much, sub-deacon!
Joan.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Bishop is Coming! The Bishop is Coming!

Dear John,
 
I'm happy tonight. I was at church today for an extra choir practice - we found out on Thursday that Bishop ANTHONY will be here tomorrow. So we're all happy and excited. And working on the special music, and planning lunch, and cleaning, and a hundred other things. While the Bishop is here, he will tonsure Adrian a reader and Charlie a sub-deacon. It's a big day for our little parish.
 
Brian and a bunch of volunteers have been busy for a couple of months getting the interior finished. I'll have to take some pictures to show you. This one was in the Goshen News today - they actually did an article about it all. And they got most things right. They said that Christ was the incarnation of the Father, but you can't expect sound understanding of the Trinity, I suppose. The photo is of the east wall. Brian's work is amazing.
 
And I'm being obedient to Father. He doesn't want me tithing until I'm making enough to live on without puling from savings. It is good to have his counsel and his prayers. And sermons - we love his sermons. And I'd love your prayers, too. I didn't hear from Panera Benefits yesterday, but there was freezing rain in Nashville so I expect the office was closed. I want to be sure I'm doing everything I should be doing. And that's much harder without having you to talk to. I trusted your discernment much more than I do my own. So please do pray for me, especially for the insurance, appealed medical bills, and income situations. And anything else that you think needs it! If you can't be here with me, then I'm glad you're there to pray for me. And to save me a seat next to you.
 
Love you more than everything here put together,
Joan.
 


Friday, February 22, 2013

Siblings, Sleep, & the Bathroom Sink

Dear John,
 
Today was mostly about the animals. That's because there's snow with ice under it, and I didn't go anywhere all day. I did laundry and a few chores - nothing exciting.
 
I woke up this morning dreaming that I couldn't breathe. And I really couldn't. That was because the dog was sleeping on my head and he had my neck bent funny. I suppose he had moved my head into the position that was most comfortable for him to stretch out on. The cat was spread-eagled over my feet (which were nice and warm). I never know who will be where when I wake up. Jethro was cuddly all day and Hunter seemed to want some alone-time. So the cat slept in the office chair and the dog spent most of the day in my lap.

Lately the cat wants to be in the bathroom sink while I'm trying to get ready in the morning. Jethro has assessed the problem and developed a strategy - when I'm in the bathroom and Hunter comes in, he grabs the cat by the neck a drags him back into the bedroom. He's gentle about it, but very determined. And I really do appreciate it. Hunter seems to accept Jethro's authority - whether due to size or seniority, I have no idea. And Jethro is maturing into the older-sibling role, but he still has some times of wanting to be the only child again.

They're fascinating to watch. I'm sorry you're missing all this entertainment. I still can't get my head around the fact that you're not coming back. When I re-arranged some things in the bedroom, I stepped back and looked at it and thought, "I can't wait to show this to John when he gets home! He'll love it." I still store up things all day that I want to tell you about later - that's the reason you have these letters to read. And when something major happens, I still reach for the phone to text you at work. But, as we've noted before, my calling plan doesn't reach that far. Oh, how I wish it did!

That's all the news here. We're all off to bed. I wish you could come with us!

Love you with all my heart,
Joan.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Revenge of the Date-Of-Death Zombie

Dear John,
 
It's back. The Death Date Zombie has returned. Today I found out - quite by accident - that all of my insurance was cancelled in November. I wasn't notified. Joe's office tried to call in a prescription and Express Scripts told Kim that my coverage had ended in November. So I called Express Scripts, and they set up a 3-way call with Anthem to get it straightened out, which would have been great except Anthem also said my coverage ended in November. Remember when they un-corrected your date of death, and cancelled me for not making COBRA payments in February and March? Of course you were alive then, and I didn't COBRA until May. I'd explained all that and it was supposed to be fixed. But somebody at Anthem is bound and determined that you died on January 31st, and isn't impressed by little details like death certificates.
 
So anyway, I have an appeal filed with the Panera Benefits Administrator. He should shake the appropriate trees at Anthem in the morning and get it fixed. Panera Benefits is tripping over themselves apologizing, and none of this is their fault. But they are willing to go charging into battle on my behalf. And it is good to have an ally.
 
Weariness.
I know it will all get straightened out eventually. I'm not stressed over it. I'm just weary, and tired of battling with agencies over your date of death. I must have explained the situation at least 50 times by now - to Panera and Anthem multiple times, and at least once to every billing entity involved in 90 days of hospitalization. And people are being very nice to me. I'm just finally fed up with it. Somebody really needs to slay this zombie for me. Every time I think it's over and done with, the darned thing rises from the grave and it all has to be done over again.
 
If this zombie is out and about tomorrow, it will be in danger. There's heavy system snow expected. They're saying 3-4 inches tonight, then a layer of freezing rain to top it off in the morning. We'll see what happens; I'll keep you posted. And I'll update you on the state of the zombie. And my weariness with the whole thing. It looks like we were right on the first guess - it will take over a year to get all the medical bills settled. That I expected.
 
Sorry to complain at you. I'm weary tonight, and wish you were here to look after me - you know, let the dog out, make me toast, jump on your gallant steed and go tilting at insurance companies on my behalf. Instead of all that, please pray for me, and I'll know you still have my back.
 
Love you so, so much!
Joan.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Flying With Broken Wings

Dear John,
 
The cat just discovered the television screen. From now on there will be a cat-shaped silhouette in the center of the image.
 
I've had a wonderful day. I met Audora for lunch in Shipshe, and the girlfriend time was so good! We ate there at the Old Davis Hotel. (Yes, I know - it's called the Davis Mercantile since the fire and re-building. But it will probably always be the Old Davis Hotel to me.) After lunch we went to Lolly's, where I promptly got drunk on color. It was a good, special time.
 
After Audora had to get Paul home for his nap, I decided to stay and play for a while. I got to talk to Kris and Elsie - I hadn't seen them since your death - and get caught up. When we first met them we'd never have guessed how connected we would be after all these years. I'd meant to go across the parking lot and look at yarn, but I ended up spending all my time at the little shops at the Davis Hotel. And I did something shocking: For the first time since June, I actually spent money on myself. I bought an Evelyn & Crabtree perfume that I fell in love with last summer. Now I smell wonderful and I don't even feel guilty. Be proud of me - I spent money on myself without you here to make me do it.
 
I learned something today. I found out that I can go out like that and have lots of fun by myself. And I need to do that. I'll go back and do that again. Just looking at beautiful things made me feel good and happy. And I enjoyed talking to people. I met another widow that also lives in Topeka, and we exchanged phone numbers. So I seem to have made a new friend.
 
I didn't expect to have fun going without you, but I did. I suppose that's progress. We did everything together for so many years that it's an adjustment to do things like that alone. Now I've learned that I can still enjoy them. Not as much as I would with you, but more than not doing them at all. And that's good.
 
Once again, you had more faith in me that I did. And, as usual, you were right. But I'm still never, ever, ever going to Mackinac Island without you.
 
Love and adore you,
Joan.

Keeping Me Warm for Eighteen Years

Dear John,
 
It's been a cold, windy, snowy day. The wind has howled for the last 36 hours. What snow fell here is probably coming down in Cuyahoga County. The noise has the animals jumpy. Driving is a challenge - not because of slick roads, but the strength of the wind. The wind chill has been pretty brutal today. And we're having wind fade trouble with the dish.
 
And so, tonight I want to thank you for keeping me warm. When we knew we were coming here, you got me that dark red parka for Christmas. It was 18 years ago - Northern Reflections was still at the mall, and you got it there. You knew how different winter would be out here in open rural country, with no buildings to block the wind. So you got me the warmest thing you could find. It's windproof and waterproof, the hood ties tight around my face, the waist and bottom tie, and the cuffs clip tight around my wrists. I've always worn it to shovel snow. And this year I'm wearing it almost all the time. I wear it to work because I'm on county roads and want my warmest coat in case of car trouble. My black wool coat is pretty, but the wind cuts right through it and there is no opening that I can close to the wind.
 
It meant a lot to me that Christmas, that you were so concerned about keeping me warm out here in the wilderness. It meant just as much to me today, when I was carrying two bags of groceries all the way to the end of the aisle at Walmart, at dusk, and in 36-mph winds. The coat has held up wonderfully all these years. I feel sentimental about wearing it now - it feels like you are still looking after me and being sure that I stay warm enough.
 
So, thank you for looking out for me. Be assured that I'm keeping warm. The house is set at 64, and the window quilts are up. Having a dog and a cat vieing for the prime real estate of your lap can help keep you warm, too. It's supposed to be 40 by the weekend, so we're all hoping for  warm-up.
 
Thank you for looking after me. Thank you for worrying about whether I'd be warm enough through a winter here. Thank you for buying for me what I probably would not have bought for myself. And thank you for still looking out for me. I am safe and warm and dry
 
With love from under your wing,
Joan.

Monday, February 18, 2013

On Holding Hands at Our Advanced Age

Dear John,
 
No nightmares last night. I spent a good part of the night with fairytale creatures, evading dragons. But that was fun. Every time I woke up, the animals had arrayed themselves on and over me in new and different configurations. Altogether a pleasant and entertaining night.
 
A very special memory has been rattling around in my head. It was a bit of nurses' conversation outside your room in CCU at Methodist last winter. One of the nurses had just left the room, and we heard her say to a group of other nurses, "Wow.You can tell they really love each other." She sounded amazed, and the rest of them agreed and said how special it was to watch us together.
 
I remember we looked at each other and giggled a little. Then we talked about it, wondering what was wrong with all the other married couples they saw every day. I'd always thought we were fairly normal - well, not in many ways, but at least in loving each other. After all, that's usually why people get married.
 
But we were different. After 34 years of marriage, we loved each other  more like teenage kids than settled middle-aged adults. It drove my parents to distraction; it made Mama take me aside when I turned 25 and tell me we were too old to hold hands in public. The way we felt about each other was always obvious, and people either loved it or hated it, I guess.
 
It probably goes back to the same old thing - we never had the luxury of taking each other for granted. I'm still realizing how central that was to who we were and what our marriage became. We cherished every moment because each one could be the last. And the last one came two months after the nurses had that conversation. I'm thankful to know that you (and everybody else in sight) knew how much I love you. Neither of us left anything unsaid. That comforts me right now. I love you, adore you, and worship the ground you walk on. I did from the day I met you. I always will. I never cared who knew it, and I still don't. I told Mama that you and I would still be holding hands when we were old and gray and in the nursing home.
 
My hands are empty now. But they will be filled again one day. My heart aches, but it isn't empty - it's still full of you. And it will stay full because you are more fully alive than I am, not gone but only out of sight for a while. Separation is painful, but thanks be to God, temporary. I always pray for all the medical people who have cared for us. Maybe the same nurses will see us together again and see that we still love each other.
 
With love that will not die,
Your wife.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A New Kind of Nightmare

Dear John,
 
I dreamed about you again last night. This time it was a nightmare with a variation. So I guess I have to give you credit for creativity. Oh, the heady excitement of a new kind of nightmare!
Nightmares
You were being discharged from a rehab unit of Methodist, and the time was current. And you were doing fine. We stayed a few days in Indy, ran around and shopped and had fun, then you were going to go straight back to work. It was nice, but I was troubled about something that I didn't mention to you for a few days. Then I finally sat down and talked to you about the fact that I was confused - it was obvious that you were here and fine, but I was sure that I had watched you die back in April. And I'd written all those blog posts about life as a widow. So I asked you which was real - were you dead or alive? I told you that I couldn't go on thinking of you as Schroedinger's cat. I needed to know.
 
And you said that you'd been wondering the same thing and had no idea. The doctors seemed to know but wouldn't tell us. I was left with the impression that you really were dead, but we had been given this time together as a gift. So it became hard to enjoy being together because we didn't know what or when the ending would be. Nasty dream.
 
Evidently I need to be more specific with you. I asked for an end to dreams about medical emergencies, and you gave me that. But I wanted us to do normal things, and spending our time trying to determine if you are alive or dead just isn't normal. I want to dream about you before all this happened, or you as you'd be if none of this had happened. And maybe that much suspension of reality isn't possible. So my mind has conflated the nursing nightmares I've had since the start of my career with my widow's nightmares. There are nights that I'm afraid to go to sleep - I wonder what awful nightmare events will come this time, and shadow me for days.
 
Well, it was better to see you up and around and feeling fine, than to be trying to rescue you from another medical cataclysm. So it was an improvement to that degree. But the dream has haunted me today. The lesson seems to be that it is best that between us there is a great gulf fixed - when we were together in the dream, it was wrong and unnatural. But I can talk to you and pray for you, and you can pray for me. And I will see you, not in my dreams, but in the Kingdom of Heaven. And that is better.
 
So sleep well tonight and pray for us who love you. And give my dreams a break tonight - come in peace this time!
 
Love you completely, love you forever,
Joan.  
 


Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Meerkat Group Hug

Dear John,
 
Here's the latest photo of me. I saw this on Facebook this evening and knew it was me. Actually, I'm the one way down in the middle that you can't see. This is the gigantic group hug that I have found myself in.
 
You know most of them. The tall ones in the back are family. They're your mother, and Jim and Irene, Lesa, and your nieces and nephews, and they're Mama's cousins and my second cousins, and John and Mary Jean on Daddy's side. They've always been here at my back just in case I'd need them, and they carry a large part of my identity with them. They are where I came from, and they know the part of my story that happened even before I was born.
 
The ones in the middle are our old friends - some for forty years and some for ten. There are childhood friends, friends from the group of us that got engaged, married, and were newlyweds together, friends from work and friends from church. We've worked on each other's weddings and houses, built church buildings and new denominations side by side, birthed children and buried parents together. In their memories lies the continuity between who we were and who we are now. They bear the stability in our journey.
 
Around the edges are the social media friends that I've come to know and love over common experiences and catastrophes. Whether it's widowhood, fibromyalgia, a common childhood, or a common faith that we share, they let me know that I'm not alone in it. From every corner of the globe, they give me company on the journey.
 
Also guarding the edges is my infrastructure - doctor and optometrist, lawyer and CPA. And all the people in town keep an eye out for me - bank, post office, Tom at the pharmacy, both hardware stores, Bob to keep the car running, JJ to answer my plumbing questions, Menno if the washer breaks down, Lana to keep my hair under control, DeWayne, Janet, Adam, and Craig and Dee to keep an eye on the house.
 
Down in front are our young friends - daughter and granddaughters, godchildren official and unofficial, children we offered years ago to take if their parents got tired of them, the wonderful people that bring fun and a sense of the future to my life. They remind me that it may be a good thing that life goes on.
 
Being Orthodox tells me about another group - the saints and loved ones that went before. I've been wonderfully supported through all of this by my Grandmother Keistler. I never knew her, but our marriages and widowhoods have much in common, and she has been right my by side all this time. I've known I had your prayers, and those of Fr. Anthony and Fr. George, St. John and St. Theodora, and so many, many friends and family members who are with you now. They aren't visible in the photo but I know just as surely that they are there.

So I am surrounded by a great cloud of love and comfort. No one person could ever brace me to face life like you did. And I miss that. It takes a village to replace The World's Only Perfect Man. Thankfully, I have a village, and they love me and look after me. Most of them are grieving for you, too.
 
May God bless and reward each one of them richly - grant them many years, all earthly and spiritual good things, and a place in His Kingdom. I am totally undeserving of such unselfish love and support. And I'm grateful.
 
Thriving in the meerkat group hug,
Ever your wife,
Joan.


Friday, February 15, 2013

My Autumn

Dear John,
 
My cold is better. I worked today then went grocery shopping. It's a quiet night.
 
On the way home I had the radio on. I heard Night Moves, and was caught by the last four words: With autumn closing in. And I thought about that for a long time. When you were here, my life was in late summer. But the day you died was my autumnal equinox - the day when the darkness catches up with the light, when day and night are tied, the day things start to die. Every day after that, there is a little more night. The days get shorter and shorter, the darkness comes a little earlier and stays a little later, until the winter solstice comes with the longest night.
 
So I'm in autumn now. There is no calendar for me to see, so I have no way to know how much longer before my winter solstice. I an eager for my shortest day, for the coming of my night. I'll keep my promise to Jen - I won't dig when I visit you at the cemetery. But I will welcome that long night whenever it comes. Because the long night opens onto eternal day, uncreated light, the fruit of Christ risen from the dead and trampling down death by death.
I am content to wait my turn. But I do long to come. Please pray for me that I will wait well - that, as the liturgy says, I will spend the remainder of my life in peace and repentance. Pray that I will one day hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant." Save me a seat beside you.
 
All my love,
Joan.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Romance of Phone Contracts

Dear John,
 
Happy Valentines Day. Bah, humbug. Thank goodness we never made much of this holiday. I'm ready to have a holiday come and go that isn't terrible the first time without you. But I do miss our one Valentines Day tradition: making our annual trip to Verizon to see if we want new phones.
 
It's probably just as well. Going today without you would be tough. We discovered by accident that on this one day of the year, they're not busy at all. So every year we'd to go to South Bend for lunch, the go look at phones. 
 
It's because of you that our renewal date is different. When I went to Verizon last April to have your phone taken off of our plan, that date became our renewal date. They were nice about it - they didn't require a death certificate. And death is about the only thing that lets you make a plan change like that in the middle of a contract. I guess I looked like a new widow, whatever that looks like. Maybe it's my age that makes me look trustworthy.
 
That plan change did turn out as expected - one fewer phone cut the bill. I expected that to happen with the car insurance, but I found that a 57-year-old widow is more expensive to insure than a 57-year-old married couple. Go figure.
 
So today I look at my phone and nothing changes. There's no lunch in South Bend, no Verizon visit. Jen brought me chocolate-covered raisins, bless her. I needed chocolate today. So I removed future temptation by eating all of them immediately.
 
I enjoyed all those Valentines Day phone contracts! It was so like us, to do something totally practical and make a romantic tradition out of it. That's one more thing that I'll do alone now. But at least not on Valentines Day.
 
Love you with all my broken heart,
Joan. 
 
 
 


Last Year's Lingeree

Dear John,
 
It's been ten months today. The number still has no meaning. I just remember what was going on this time last year. You were just back in Goshen's ICU after two days of coming home from Indy while bronchitis turned into pneumonia. The weekend was terrible. You needed more than I could give you at home so we got the squad there to take you to the hospital. By the time you made the decision, I couldn't get you to the car by myself.
 
When we were in Indy, I went to Kohl's for a sale. They had their Valentines Day gowns and pajamas on sale before the holiday. I got a nightgown and a pair of pajamas for a great price. At that point we were still expecting you to be discharged in good shape - we'd say in Indy a few days just in case something came up. But we planned to enjoy the time together and do some running around while we were there.
 
Well, none of that happened. You were discharged with bronchitis and on oral antibiotics and oxygen. So we had to come straight home. And the negotiations with the oxygen companies would have been more appropriately handled by the Secretary of State. What a mess it was! Then the longer you stayed home, the worse you got. So you weren't even home long enough for me to bring the dog home.
 
I know it sounds silly, but it's so sad to me that you never got to see my new nightgown and pajamas. I'd bought them for you. I wear them - when the weather is warm enough - because I love them and I really needed more sleep stuff for summer. And every time I put them on I think about how much you'd have liked them.
 
I'd hoped to come by to see you after work today. But I ended up working eight hours, cold and all, and not getting home until 9 pm. I miss you when I don't get there for a while. It's that time of year - cold, wet, bad weather, early darkness. But the season is turning, so I'll be coming back more often. And some of the Panera people are talking about walking again and coming to see you when the weather is warmer. When The Chief opens, I'll bring ice cream out to eat it with you. I can't wait!
 
Love you more every day,
Joan.
 


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Enjoying Memories Not Made

Dear John,

I've been thinking about all the things we wanted to do after you got better. Remember how we'd talk about it in Indy? It was good to think about things outside the hospital walls. I remember that your wants were simple - the Direct TV channel guide, our mattress, and the dog. Those were always the things you missed most when you were in the hospital.

And we'd talk about other things we wanted to do. The first plan, after you felt better, was to run up to Michigan. We'd planned to get a hotel in Holland and stay a few days. We loved to wander the little shops downtown. We could spend two or three days just walking the streets and going into places that looked interesting. Like most things, it was really about being together. After you had time to get your strength back and earn some vacation time we'd go back to Mackinac, maybe for our anniversary again. And we wanted to go back to the Keys and see all the things we'd never had time for when we went to see the kids. I wanted to stay a few days in Key West, tour some of the historic houses, see the sunset, but I didn't have you talked into that yet. We did agree to take a day and go to Dry Tortugas. We'd both have to be in shape for that!

We always had little dreams - drive Route 66, get to San Francisco. Our vacations were as much about the getting there as the being there. We loved to drive and look at the land, stay off the interstates and see the little towns, avoid the chains and eat in the local places. And we were both morning people - we were up with the sun and sleepy when it went down - completely diurnal.

You were the perfect person for me to travel with. Let's face it - you were just the perfect person. I miss all the memories we never got to make. But we made so many good ones! We enjoyed all the time we had together. Maybe we enjoyed it more because we knew there was a chance that there wouldn't be much time. And now there's no more, at least not on Earth. But I'm grateful for what there was, so grateful! Thank you for all our days together. Thanks for the memories.

Waiting to be with you again,
Joan.
 
 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Why God Made Social Media

Dear John,
 
I had lunch at the hospital today with a new friend and her husband. We met on Pinterest. She repinned a photo of Goshen Hospital from my board "Hospitals I've Known and Loved," and commented that the Cancer Center was so good. So I commented back, then we friended on Facebook. She was here for her 1-year check-up - a huge milestone  - and had a break between MRI and MD. So we had lunch in the cafeteria. It was wonderful to meet them. We had a good time.
 
While I was there I ran into Kim 2, which was a delight. It seems that your doctor is still talking about how hard I fought for you to be treated agressively, and she says that without that you'd have died a long time before you did. It's good to hear that from somebody else, and said as commendation, not like "why did she drag things out so long." Because you were beating the cancer. I think the world of her and she cared so much about you. On the way out I saw Tracey and talked to her a bit. I know how much it meant to me when patient's families would come back by and you'd see that they were doing alright, and Tracey seemed to feel that way to. I also ran into Connie, which is always good. I told Peggy that you know you've spent too much time in a hospital when you can't walk far without running into a friend. Oh, and you'll love this. Peggy was going to see Candice, so I sent our love to her.
 
I've been realizing how important social media have been to me this past year. When you were in the hospital I could post on the first blog, send out a mass email that there was a new blog post, and get back to you. I could keep everybody posted without taking the time away from you, the phone battery time, and the money for overagess to make two dozen phone calls. And no matter how much you love people, there are times when you've given all your emotional strength and there's nothing left over for anybody else.
 
Since your death, Facebook has been a godsend. Even when I hermitted at home, I was never out of touch with people. I heard from people every day. They could know how I was without worrying about whether or not they should call. And hearing about their lives every day made it easier to avoid total self-absorption. And it cheered me up - even the politics. There was much to laugh about.
 
The second blog is writing that I would have done anyway. But putting it out there has been better than just writing in a notebook for myself. People that want to know how I'm REALLY doing can read the letters, and they can take a break when they need to. Maybe it's even been helpful for others. I've had some young readers tell me that this look inside a happy marriage has been enlightening and encouraging. It has helped me far beyond what I expected. This routine of sitting down at the end of the day and talking to you, just like we always have, has given me a concrete awareness of continued relationship and communication. And that gives me hope, and makes me feel less alone.
 
From Pinterest - knew you'd love it.
Pinterest doesn't look very applicable at first glance. But it makes me look at the outside world, and more importantly it makes me think of things I want to do in the future. That's the hardest thing for a new widow to do - plan for the future. I've carved out goal and dreams that are entirely due to Pinterest.  It's a place for self-expression where you can meet like souls. And it is good. 
 
So God bless social media! My world would be much narrower without it. I would have no idea of the wide, loving support system I have. I would have no plans and dreams. I wouldn't have the visual representations of my emotions, the symbols and commemorations that are so important to me. And you wouldn't have to read a letter every night. But since time is a created thing, and you are outside the material creation and therefore time is not present for you, you have plenty of non-time to read letters.
 
I love you so much! The people at Goshen Hospital remember and love you. The church remembers and loves you. All those people on Facebook love you. And what I pin about widowhood has helped other widows out there. The memory of you still inspires and encourages people who knew you. And it, and the hope of being reunited, keep me going. That and oatmeal. And ricotta cheese with flavored Stevia. All you need is love, oatmeal, cheese, and social media. And I need you, and here is one place that I find you. Thanks for being a faithful reader, of mind, heart, and blog.
 
Love you for all time and all non-time,
Joan.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

On Self-Discipline, Courage, and Rambling

Dear John,
 
It's been a nice, rainy Sunday. It's getting easier to go to church as more time passes - today it was much less painful than it's been. I know people love me and worry about me when I'm not there, and I love them and miss them. But it's been so painful to go without you. I don't know how many times I've gotten up, dressed, and ready to go, and at the last minute couldn't make it out the door.
 
And in that vein, I've realized how much self-discipline and will-power it has taken for me to keep going. To get up in the morning, go to work, do laundry, go to the grocery store, pay bills, go to church. My response to pain this great is paralysis - you know, curl up on the couch, watch bad television, and eat PopTarts.
 
I had to keep going the first two months because the girls were coming and I had to have the house ready. When they were living here, I was accountable to somebody. When they moved out in early December is when the self-discipline was essential because I was on my own. It helped to have the dog to look after and to have had several months to form habits, to set up a life without you.
 
It still takes so much effort to do so little. Self-discipline is the easier part for me. I am anal-retentive. And I was raised in a different time and place, and taught high standards for homemaking. I'd never dream of leaving the bed unmade or not cleaning up the kitchen. Somewhere inside I'm afraid that letting those standards slip would immediately cause the planet to descend into anarchy and chaos. Courage is harder, and life seems to be requiring an enormous amount these days. The financial position is a large part of that. But there are lots of things that are scary - all that's involved in living the rest of my life alone.
 
Look at the chat rooms, blogs, and Facebook pages and you'll see how much self-discipline and courage it takes to live with fibromyalgia. Unremitting pain and exhaustion are hard to live with. Living with it alone is not unusual - over 75% of fibromites are divorced within a year of diagnosis. But it's hard not having you to lateral to on the days that I just can't function, and your unconditional love. 
 
I have to conclude several things. I am more self-disciplined and courageous than I thought. It's no wonder I've been tired. It was okay to give myself the freedom to loosen up the standards on food and exercise. It was okay to say no to things that I didn't think I could handle. My job is as much of a godsend as I've always thought it was. And I have received an abundance of God's grace this year.
 
Logically, all of those things are still true - it's all in the perfect tense, to dig out my Greek. The only thing that changes now - I hope - is that I'll feel less guilty about not being perfect. (And yes, I just felt that Gibbs-slap from you.) I'll try to give myself some credit. Just because most women go through this doesn't make achieving survival any less commendable, maybe even laudable. (The back of my brain just came up with other, unprintable words. Those, too.)
 
I've rambled for a long time. Thank you for listening. And thank you for believing in me, for never doubting my ability to survive. Thank you for always having more faith in my than I've ever had in myself. But then, I did the same for you, didn't I?
 
Love you more than I can say,
Joan.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Love of a Dog

Dear John,
 
I spent most of the day doing housework. I think I got the bedroom furniture in its final location, and moved some things on the walls. You'd like what I did with the bedroom - I put my Grandmother Keistler's chair where the chest of drawers had been, and made a reading corner there. I hung the shadow box with her things over the chair and my big hat on the wall. It looks good.
 
I have to tell you another animal story. The cat disappeared while I was sweeping and dusting. When I got done, I looked for him and couldn't find him. He's still little and can hide easily. I asked the dog where he was. Jethro got up and led me right to him - he walked to the bathroom and stood by the door. Hunter was drinking from their common water bowl. (I don't remember if I told you that. The cat won't drink from a water bowl of his own, only from Jethro's. So they share a water bowl.) After we all had dinner and I cut Hunter's front claws, they lay down together in my lap and slept for two hours, all cuddled up together.
 
Photo Postcard, 1912
You know I worried for a while about whether we'd done Jethro a disservice bringing him home. We got him on April 8th, 2011. He had about two normal weeks with us. Then the world fell off its axis. I thought maybe he'd have been better-off with somebody else. And you actually had tears in your eyes when I voiced that to you. He was so good for you during those weeks that we were struggling to get the heart failure under control. When you couldn't do anything but sit in the recliner, he'd come, curl up, and sleep in your lap. I saw how good that was for you then. And I saw how happy you were to see him right before you died. I should have known the answer to the question - life without a dog has always been unthinkable for us. And you love him so much. But you settled my mind that day.
 
Jethro is happier now with the cat, but I know he still misses you. I can tell when he smells things that were your. I wish I could do that! I loved the way you smelled. But I have a human nose, and can never smell you again. I know your heart, though, and I can feel how you'd feel and what you'd think and say. And for a human, that's more important than smell. And I will see you again. But I doubt that people smell in Heaven.
 
Loving you, and loving your smell,
Joan.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Big Brother Jethro

Dear John,
 
It's late, and all's quiet here. The dog is asleep at my feet, and the cat is on the top of his tower trying to keep his eyes open. It's been a long day, and a good one.
 
The freezing rain missed us - it just slipped by us to the northwest. We had sun most of the day. It's supposed to be in the 40s Sunday and Monday, and rain on Sunday. The last of the snow should be gone by Tuesday morning.
 
I've told you that the animals are getting very fond of each other, and I have to tell you something they did last night. I was sitting on the couch eating dinner, and the cat was determined to help me eat it. I was tired and hungry, and I was getting frustrated. Jethro looked at both of us - his eyes looked like he was evaluating the situation and weighing alternative solutions. He came up and took the cat by the neck - not the nape of the neck, really by the neck - and slowly and gently pulled him away from me. Every time Hunter tried to move back toward me, Jethro stopped him. After three tries, the cat gave up and lay down with the dog.
 
I was floored. Jethro did just the right thing, and so calmly and gently. Hunter got the point. And I got to eat in peace. I've never seen that depth of maturity and judgment in Jethro. No, that's wrong; I've seen it once. I saw it when I brought him to the hospital to see you. This time he took the role of older sibling, keeping his baby brother out of trouble when Mom was tired and cranky.
 
So be proud of Jethro. The animals love me, and they love each other, and all is well in our little peaceable kingdom. We'll all go to bed soon. And we'll miss you there.
 
All my love, and lick from the dog, and a nuzzle from the cat,
Joan.
'

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Pinterest & McCartney on a Rainy Night

Dear John,
 
It's near 40 and raining, I can hear the train whistle blow from the county line. The dog is outside getting muddy, and the cat is next to me playing with a yellow-and-white felt mouse. It's a good night
 
I just had a Pinterest orgy. I saw that one person had pinned an icon, followed it to an Orthodox board, followed another pin to another Orthodox board, and you get the idea. I'd opened a door into a wealth of Orthodox Christian boards out there. It will take weeks for me to explore them all. I repinned lots of things to my boards The Orthodox Church, Favorite Saints, and Books Worth Reading. The people who follow me on Pinterest will be inundated with Orthodoxy.
 
On the way to work today I decided to try the radio for a while. I turned it on in the middle of an old, old Beatles song. "While I'm away, I'll write home every day. And I'll send all my loving to you." And that's what this is all about - what I'm doing here. You're at home; I'm the one who's away. So I write home every day. And send all my love to you. Paul didn't know this kind of separation when he and John wrote the song, but he does now. I wonder if he hears the song differently these days, like I do.

Thank you for not showing up in my dreams last night. I'd been meaning to have a talk with you about that. I've dreamed about you every night for a week or so, which should be a good thing, but you really need to re-think what activities you plan when you come for a visit. Every dream has been about trying to save you from some kind of medical crisis. And I do think we've done enough of that, don't you? That's been going on since our 3-month anniversary. Enough is enough. I'd love to have you come visit at night. But can we do something innocuous? Let's go to Mackinac, or run up to Holland, or just stay home and talk. Those dreams follow me all day and leave me emotionally worn out.

There are a lot of trains this time of night. You can only hear them when the wind is out of the south - that's why it's raining instead of snowing. We have a chance of sleet and freezing rain in the morning. Don't worry - Jen and I will be careful.

Now go check out my new stuff on Pinterest, while I get the animals off to bed. I wish I could spend this lovely rainy night with you!

All my loving,
Joan.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Night the Lights Went Out in New Orleans

Dear John,
 
And now, back to the Superbowl. Sunday night I told you all about what I was doing instead of watching it. Tonight I'll backtrack and give you the highlights.
 
First of all, the Ravens won. Considering that they shouldn't exist, that shouldn't happen. But if they hadn't, the 49ers would have won their sixth Superbowl. And I don't want my Steelers to have to share first place with anybody. So there's a good side.
 
Halftime was definitely a low-light. Now I know why I never paid any attention to Beyonce'. I saw enough of it to miss Bruce Springsteen's halftime show. There's quite a furor over her costume - basically, she performed in a black bustier. And now PETA is adding to the fun, I hear. I'm assuming there was leather or fur or something involved. I doubt that any animals were harmed during the actual performance. Unless, of course, they were in earshot and couldn't get away. Maybe I'm getting old and stodgy, but I still prefer performers clothed and talented. (Wow. That was nasty. I would say I was sorry, but you wanted a smart-mouthed woman, and here I am.)
 
The real highlight was a temporary loss of power. And they haven't found the cause yet. The first assumption was that the power draw blew the breakers, but it turns out that the power draw was less that that of a usual Saints home game, so that wasn't it. One of the networks consulted a voodoo priestess to see if a curse was to blame, but she said no. This is why the E is in EPSN.
 
The most interesting thing about the game is that it pitted the two Harbaugh brothers against each other. Commentators and sports reporters have talked about that at length for weeks. Trees have died over this. But the best commentary on the situation is this - it's been doing the rounds on Facebook. Priceless.
 
You know, I'm still not really watching sports. Watching with you was so much a part of sports for me, that I just miss you too much when games are on. I try sometimes. I'll start watching something, but before long I'm too aware that you're not here. There were lots of times that you weren't actually here, but you were only a text away. And as I was transcribing those texts we sent each other, there were so many that were game updates. For some games, my texting approached play-by-play. Now it's just me, and that's still a bit too painful. I'll get back to it when I'm ready. I don't know when that will be, but when it comes I'll know.
 
I miss you so much. There was nothing in my life that you weren't a central part of. I'm paying for that now, but you're so, so worth it!  I heard a dating service commercial tonight that promised to lead you to the love of your life. I don't think they can do that for me.
 
Love you, waiting to come to you,
Joan.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Playing Like Cats & Dogs

Dear John,
 
There's not much going on today. I had a nice busy day at work. After I got home I made burgers out of a pound of ground beef, and sauteed onions and bell peppers to go with it. And there was a new NCIS on, which was really good.
 
The animals have provided plenty of entertainment tonight. Jethro still looks like he's devouring the cat - he likes to take the cat's head in his mouth - but Hunter just purrs and lets him. Hunter is more than twice the size he was, and he can hold his own very well. Twice I've seen Jethro grab Hunter gently by the nape of his neck and carry him, and the cat made no objection. Obviously there's instinct at work here.
 
Tonight Hunter was on his tower and Jethro was sticking his head up toward him. Hunter was batting at Jethro's head with his front paws, and Jethro was letting the cat shove his head back down. They seem to have gotten quite fond of each other. And that's a good thing, especially considering Jethro's tendency be jealous. He will still push and shove for my undivided attention, and I'm careful to be as equal as I can with my time, but I'm not concerned that he'd ever want to hurt the cat.
 
I'm napping. Don't touch my toy!
If you were here, we could take turns playing with them and he'd be happier. But, as I've said before, if you were here Jethro wouldn't have gotten so depressed that I had to get him a cat in the first place. I do think you'd like Hunter, though. It's fascinating to watch his mind work. You'd love how quick and curious he is. At least for now, he's very cuddly and affectionate. That may change as he gets older, but I'm trying to do all the bonding I can with him now while he's a kitten. And he and Jethro have certainly bonded! Some days I come home and they're both so worn out that they sleep for a couple of hours.
 
Now it's me that's worn out. So we're all off to bed. It would be a nice bedfull if you were here, too. But now Jethro sleeps on your side of the bed - very properly, too, with his head on your pillow - and Hunter sleeps on whichever side of me is facing up. A few nights ago I woke up and reached out for you again, and was surprised to touch dog fur. Then I remembered.
 
Forever reaching for you,
Joan.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Consider Me Gibbs-Slapped

Dear John,
 
I've been struggling for a few days with something that I didn't tell you about because I knew you'd Gibbs-slap me. I've been feeling like somehow your death was my fault. I never knew how - sometimes I thought I had missed something medical, or not gotten you to the hospital soon enough, or given you MRSA myself, or even that God was punishing me. But somehow it had to be my fault.
 
Having come out of that, I have no idea what was wrong with me. But it's close to the worst feeling I've ever had. We all have a tendency to believe lies. And, as Julia Roberts said so well, the bad stuff is easier to believe. I've gotten my head back on straight, and it's because of an awful dream I had last night.
 
It was long and rambling, and involved Jen, a van full of church people, a couple that ran a Wendy's, weather forecasting, rental wheelchairs, badgers, and lots of other disconnected things. It was one of my usual novel-length dreams. I tried for all day to shake it and couldn't. So I finally sat down tonight, took a good hard look at it, and saw what it was really about.
 
You were alive in my dream, but the cancer had spread to your brain. You were having times of impaired motor skills, communication difficulties, and personality changes. And the times were getting more frequent and lasting longer. But your body was doing fine and you were going to live for a long time. And it was so hard on both of us and everybody else. And tonight when I looked at the dream, my first thought was, "At least we were spared that." And that was my Gibbs-slap.
 
I've always known that what you really died of was the radiation you got when you were 19. What I don't know is what would have been ahead of us if you'd lived any longer. Looking at things medically, I know that it wouldn't have been anything good. I don't know just what your death spared us, but I can imagine quite a lot. Your quality of life had been decreasing ever since you had myocarditis a few years ago. Between that and the radiation damage to your mitral valve, your heart failure was getting harder for you to live with. Radiation damage to your vocal cords and esophagus had been causing choking problems for a few years. Then the cancer came along, and that cancer spreads so easily to the brain. It's not a pretty picture.
 
So I got reminded that not living any longer can be a great blessing. As it was, you got time to prepare for death, we had three months being together most of the time, Jen got to spend time with you, Danica got to see you, you got a lot of time with your family, and you were spared any more deteriation from the radiation. It wasn't about me at all. It was about you.
 
So consider me Gibbs-slapped. The dream, and the processing of it, got something important through my very thick head. At least for tonight, I'm not listening to the lies. I regret not having made meatloaf more often. But that's a small issue in looking back over 34 years of marriage. It was good - you were good to me - I was good to you - we loved each other - we still love each other. None of it is my fault. Like we both said in the fall of 2011, if I weren't a critical care nurse, you wouldn't have survived that August. I have nothing to beat myself over.
 
So I'm off to bed, feeling much better and not beating myself. I'll try to keep it up. Do feel free to smack me in the back of the head as needed.
 
Love you with my big heart and my hard head,
Joan.