Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Watching for the Stagecoach

Dear John,
There are two hours and fifty minutes left in 2013, and I don't care. I don't care about much of anything. Grief is so big and heavy today that I can't move. I didn't expect the turning of the year to feel like this. It was never a big holiday for the two of us, except that one year that we had free Showtime, and we watched the South Park movie - that was epic.
But New Years Eve marks the passage of time, and I'm looking back at two years that I wish hadn't passed. Everybody is looking forward to 2014 with excitement and optimism, and I just can't do it. I see no reason why next year - or the next, or the next - should be any better than this one was. You'll still be gone, so what does it matter?
And that's the crux of it. Today I feel like nothing matters. Nothing has since you took your last breath. I'm treading water, doing what needs to be done and going mechanically through my days. I've had enough days. I want out. I want to see that big stagecoach in Purgatory that comes down from Heaven for people. There is no point in my staying here.
But that's emotion talking. And today my emotions are shouting at the top of their voices. If there is one thing the last three years have taught me, it's to trust, to accept whatever comes, knowing it is what is best for me. You always knew that; I was the one that had to learn it the hardest way possible.
It's all about the revealed character of God. If He is all-knowing, all-loving, and all-powerful, then that is all we need to know. So I don't have to know the stagecoach schedule. I don't have to know how the COBRA bill will get paid this month, or whether my job will still be here in February, or even how much snow tonight's storm will bring. I've done my part - I even got the snowblower out of the shed today. I will trust for the rest. 2014 is coming in a little over two hours, whether I like it or not. 
I will make the best of it and try to make you proud of me. And I know I'll feel better when life gets back to normal on Thursday and we're done with holidays for a while. Tonight I'll have to hurt and cry and mourn, and that's okay.Tomorrow I'll bake cookies and put away the Christmas decorations. And somewhere along the line I'll find hope again, and maybe even purpose.
Miss you, love you with all my heart,

Monday, December 30, 2013

On Cuddling, Purring, & Female Dominance

Dear John,
It will be a short note tonight because I'm leaning over three animals to type. I'm on the couch, and have two cats and a dog nose in my lap. The rest of the dog is crowded between the laptop and the back of the couch. It sounds like a purr-fest in here.
There. I have some room now. Hunter decided he needed space, Abby followed him, and Jethro followed Abby. I have been deserted. But I can stretch out my legs at last, and revel in splendid solitude.
The critters are about all that's happening here. I worked today - another Monday because of the holidays - then got my hair cut. I should be able to get the presents finished tomorrow. The animals have been very cuddly lately. I don't know if it's the cold weather or just the passage of time, but the cats are nearly inseparable. I often find them on the bed curled up together. And for the last few days they've wanted to be in my lap at the same time. Since Hunter's about twelve pounds and Abby is around eight, that's quite a lapful. There's nothing quite like having a cat climb into your lap and purr itself to sleep.
Hunter is definitely the male - non-dominant and very affectionate. He's a lovely tiger, and his eyes are turning more and more green. He rarely makes a sound except to purr whenever I touch him. Abby is learning that she's the female - dominant and undemonstrative. She's young still, so she's very vocal. She makes the oddest noises for a cat - she squeaks, grunts, yowls, cries, and purrs. It will be interesting to watch how this plays out as they grow up. Neither of them are the least bit haughty now. Abby is gradually becoming more dominant, but she clearly loves Hunter, and they spend a lot of time grooming each other.

As usual, I'm sorry that you're missing all of this. I'm sorry you never got to know a cat. Even you wouldn't be able to hold out against a warm bundle of fur that lies in your lap and purrs. My three critters just melt my heart!

Hunter just climbed back in my lap, so I'd better stop here. Oh, how I wish I could cuddle up with you and purr!

Adore you,

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Oliver Twist and a Sine from God

Dear John,
I'm having literary musings tonight. Odd, but somehow typical for my mind to go wandering. Bless you, you always enjoyed wandering with it, and wanted to know what strange things were bubbling up in my head.
I was working some more on Christmas presents for Saturday, and out of nowhere I remembered when Bill Sykes kills Nancy. I have no idea what brought that to mind. So I was pondering the fact that Oliver Twist witnessed the murder, and no matter how rich he was at the end of the book, he'd have to carry that memory for the rest of his life.
That led me to meditate on Charles Dickens' propensity for coincidence. At least, that's what I was taught in school. But that may not be right. Think about Dickens' dates. He wrote in a time and place that held a strong belief in the providence of God. I doubt that many of his original readers would have characterized these things as coincidence.
You have been measured and found a decibel short
and a meter slow.
I'm not surprised that it's seen that way today. We live in an age of atheism, when lives are seen to be controlled by impersonal forces, and the miraculous is scorned. And this is where understanding history requires some understanding of church history and historical theology. You can't understand an era without understanding its religion. And the people Dickens wrote for had a very strong belief in miracles and in the providence of God.
It's just a thought. But, hey, I had one today, so that's good. I probably should have run this by Becky before talking to you about it. If she says I'm nuts, I'll come back and tell you. And you won't be surprised, but we'll have had fun speculating on it.
I miss your mind. I miss talking to you for hours about some random thought that one of us had, bouncing ideas off of each other and testing them, puzzling over obscure things. Ponder this one, and let me know what you think. And I'll tell you if Becky says I'm crazy. I promise. And enjoy the picture - great pun, isn't it?
Adore you,

Saturday, December 28, 2013

We Weren't Ready for Prime Time

Dear John,
It's been a lovely spring day, just a bit out of place on the calendar. It was 50 and sunny here. We may drown in all this mud and melting snow. But it's been a treat.
I spent the day working on Christmas presents for the celebration with Jen on Saturday. You'll get details about the presents later. I stopped long enough to watch a special on the first five years of Saturday Night Live - the Not Ready For Prime Time Players. It was fun to see the bits of the early shows, and made me think about you.
I remember watching SNL together in your dorm every week. It ended at 1 AM, which was when open house hours ended. So you had to miss the end or watch it in the downstairs lobby, which was always packed to overflowing. So Heaven and earth were moved for SNL - they gave us fifteen extra minutes on Saturday nights. Sometimes fifteen minutes wasn't enough for three elevators to get everybody down from  twenty-two floors, but they gave us all the time we needed.
And that shows just how important SNL was: UK changed open house hours for it. The only other time those hours were altered was during the blizzard at the beginning of the 1978 spring semester. We were stunned at the time, and I find myself marveling at it thirty-five years later. It's quite a compliment to the show.
Good memories. And good times. I loved you so much then, and love you even more now. I wish you had open house hours in Heaven. But I would never want to leave, and I would never ask you to come back here. So we can only pray that I get to come soon. Maybe before this New Year starts?
Packed and ready to go,

Friday, December 27, 2013

Can We Cancel the Future?

Dear John,
Christmas has come and gone, and I am inescapably aware of the approach of New Years Eve. And I dread it. I can't stop thinking about how we celebrated the end of 2011, saying that 2012 couldn't help but be better. We can be spectacularly wrong, can't we?
2011 started with me in the middle of a 6-month flare, included my car accident, then moved on to your lung cancer diagnosis. It was the roughest year we'd ever had. But things were looking up in December. You were much better, back to work, and beating the cancer that everybody said couldn't be beaten. The future looked good. And so did you - Taxol had cost you your hair, but you have a lovely head so that didn't bother anybody. The finances were straightening out. I had a job that I loved, we had Jethro, we had visits over the holidays from your family and Jen and Danica, and we were delighted to see the backside of 2011 go out the door.
The first fourteen days of 2012 met expectations. The on the 15th you passed out at work, went to Goshen Hospital, and were transferred to Methodist in Indy, and it all went downhill from there until your death on April 13th.
What we didn't know that New Years Eve, was how bad the radiation damage to your heart really was. I'm amazed that you did so well for so long. And, as I've said before, I'm glad we didn't know. We lived with enough of waiting-for-the-other-shoe-to-drop, ever since your first heart surgery in 1987 when we found out that you had continuing radiation damage. It was nice to have some time of blissful ignorance.
So now I'm waiting for yet another new year, and I don't care at all. It just means that I'll write the wrong year on checks for a while. It measures another year without you. Next Tuesday night, I'll go on to bed like it's any other night. And maybe cry myself to sleep, remembering how we celebrated only two years ago. It seems like two centuries.
It you think of me at the stroke of midnight, come kiss me on the cheek. And remind me that each year passed is another year closer to the day I get to come home and join you.
Adore you,

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Soup, Jane Austen, & Your Ideal Woman

Dear John,
I had a long day today and am off tomorrow. So it's okay that it's late - I can sleep as late as I want to in the morning.

I had a good, busy day at work. Kathy and I met and discussed her business plans for the future, which will me a great deal more responsibility for me. This job has certainly changed - it's not the one I took two-and-a-half years ago, working ten or twelve hours a week. And I'm glad. I needed a simpler job then, when I was dealing with your illness and then your death. But now I welcome the increased responsibility and challenge.

Kathy asked me to stay after work, so we opened a can of soup, got my cheese sticks from the basement, ate the leftover oatmeal cookies I'd brought with me, and watched the next part of Pride and Prejudice. I'm loving it, and loving watching it with Kathy. I'm just sorry I can't watch it with you - I know you'd love it.

I never stopped being amazed that we enjoyed the same television shows. Every time I found one I liked, I'd feel so anxious when I had you watch an episode. But you liked everything I did except Charlie Chan movies, and I loved you in spite of that deficiency. As I often told you, I'm so glad you don't like chick flicks - that I could not have put up with. And you never minded having a wife that watched ESPN and Spike. You loved NCIS and Burn Notice and Criminal Minds and The Glades - not a chick show among them. And I introduced you to your ideal woman: Fiona Glenanne.

But you bore up very well under having me instead, and I thank you for that. Until I get there, here's a pin-up photo to enjoy. Let it remind you, just a little bit, of me, too!

Love you, adore you, worship the ground you walk on,

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Of Hairballs, Mice, & Redemption

Dear John,
Christ is born! Glorify Him!
The Nativity liturgy was wonderful. I got home around 1:30 this morning and got to bed around 3:30. I slept until 9:30, and have had a nice, slow, lazy day.
Still scorning secular Christmas . . .
I did a much better job this year of separating the Nativity from Secular Christmas. It helps to work alone in a basement office. The only shopping I've done since Thanksgiving has been regular grocery trips. And as my radio stations have gone to nothing but Christmas music, I switched over to CDs. I haven't seen any of the Christmas movies this year. I saw the first part of White Christmas, then turned it off. I wasn't in the mood for a sentimental happy ending.
Avoiding all of this made it so much easier to focus on the Nativity. And that is even more joyful for me than it was before. The Incarnation is the first step toward our redemption, the great act of love for mankind. The Nativity of Christ began the events that made our salvation possible - it's why you're in Heaven now, and why I can hope to join you there. It is beyond human grasp, beyond our concepts - Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One. We can affirm it; we can't understand it. For our sake, the eternal God was born as a little child.
So, while I scorn secular Christmas, and avoid the pain it brings to me now, I joyfully embrace the Feast of the Nativity. Christ is born! Glorify Him!
Eager to join you,

Monday, December 23, 2013

Take Him Away and Feed Him!

Dear John,
It was a long day and a good one. I worked for almost nine hours, then Kathy asked me to stay for left-overs and the next segment of Pride and Prejudice. If you haven't seen it or read the book since you left, you really should. You'd love it. Jane Austen wrote your kind of heroine - you know, independent, strong-minded, smart-mouthed women, like the one you married.
There was one delightful bit tonight when the cousin has proposed to Elizabeth and she has turned him down, and the household is in hysterics, and a friend offers to ask him to dinner to give them a break. The response is a delight. "Take him away and feed him!" I haven't laughed that hard since my last foray into DYAC.
That's exactly the kind of line that you and I would hear once and make a permanent part of the family vocabulary. I can see us muttering it to each other under our breath any time we saw an ill-tempered man. Take him away and feed him! That sums up so much of life, doesn't it?
Well, you're not here to mutter this line to. But, in your honor and in recognition of your silent and unseen presence with me, I will mutter it to myself for the rest of my life. Take him away and feed him! I will not promise to behave properly at times when this line would be appropriate. I will giggle to myself, turn red in the face, snort, and, general, make a spectacle of myself. And I will know that you're giggling and snorting with me, but probably not turning red in the face. I'll smile, and know that you are smiling, and we'll share the moment, the humor, and the acknowledgement of our shared human frailty.
Take him away and feed him! Tonight I will giggle myself to sleep.
Thank you for our shared jokes, and all of our shared years,

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Polo Shirts & Inadequate Packing Skills

Dear John,
It's been another cold, gray, damp day. We had some freezing rain early this morning - I woke up to a coating of ice on everything. Then it rained all day, snowed about an hour, and moved out. No excitement.
You know I kept your polo shirts, which means everything except your dress shirts. They're hanging in the closet because I can't bear to get rid of them. Yesterday I found this idea - making a dress out of old knit shirts. What do you think? I could make it with an empire waist and put matching ties on the back. You had so many shirts in so many colors, since it was what you wore every day and for work, that I should have some good options. What do you think? Would it make you happy for me to wear your shirts as a dress? Let me know - I'm seriously thinking about it for warmer weather. I'd have to re-set the sleeves on the top one, since your shoulders were so much broader than mine, but that would be an easy thing to do.
There are a few things of yours that I just can't get rid of. You know about your Nikes - they still live in the closet, and the dog still sniffs them whenever he goes in there. I still have your wallet, your chessboard, and I'm not done with going through your briefcase yet. As I find things that should go other places, I take care of it. I found a thermometer that belonged to the restaurant, and some pens you'd gotten for them, and took those in a few months ago. There are lots of little things that I can't let go. And that's okay. Since you forgot to take me with you (drat it!), I'll let myself do whatever I need to do to get by as long as I'm here.
See, if you'd made lists before going on a trip, like I asked you to do, you would never have left without me! And we always said that moving is harder on the one left behind than the one that moves. We were right.
Between the WFFs and my critters, I'm surviving your inadequacies at packing for travel. When the time is right, I'll join you.
Adore you,

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Of Ducks, Dynasties, and Dissent

Dear John,
It's been raining all day. And the basement is dry as a bone - bless you again for the sump pump!
I'm sure you've been hearing about the Duck Dynasty shemozzle. I've never seen the show. but I've had to weigh in on the issues and raise some questions. First, should tolerance be extended to all ends of the political spectrum and to all religions? Second, are there limits to tolerance of positions one disagrees with, things so taboo that they override the taboo on having taboos? Third, am I the only person who has the rule to not ask a question that you don't want answered? Fourth, as somebody else asked, when you sign a contract with someone because they're a certain type of person, why would you fire them for being that type? Fifth, is there anything else going on in the world that we're missing?
My first comment on the matter was that A&E has made a serious mistake - they ticked off the Boomers. Our generation  has never had any patience with not being allowed to have or voice an opinion. Political correctness is not the product of the Boomer generation. We're the most politically incorrect group to come along in over a century - we made our reputation being as incorrect as possible for the fun of it. And we love guys with long hair and beards, and have little love for big corporations. And we've made an art form out of protest and boycotting. And we're big. Ticking us off has economic consequences.
My second comment was to just post this. I've been trying to say this for years, decades, and I've never been able to say it this well. I love a man that gets this, and even has the courage to say it out loud. This is the crux of our long-time affiliation with the Democratic party. But even it seems to have forgotten this now.
It seems fundamental - respectful disagreement, unconditional compassion. And it has a crucial corollary - we have a responsibility to judge positions and beliefs, but we dare not judge persons.
And all of this is part of why I'm Eastern Orthodox. The Church Fathers got this. This morning I was reading the Athonite Gerontikon, the chapter called "On Criticism and Accursed Judging," and I kept thinking about this situation. Our generation was right - love is the answer. But not everybody realized that love of that kind isn't possible apart from Christ.
I'd love to hear your thoughts about this situation. Phone call, text, Skype, Facetime, or a visit would be fine - whatever works for you. You have no idea how much I want to talk to you about this. So try to work out something for me. Of course, I'd be more than happy to come to you!
Love you, miss you, want nothing in this world except to come to you!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Sublimation & Other Meteorological Adventures

Dear John,
There's a whole lot of sublimation going on. The temperature went into the 40s, so all that snow has been busy vaporizing and turning into fog. Area schools were on a 2-hour delay. I was on a 1-hour delay leaving for work. I'd hoped the fog would clear some by then. But it didn't clear a bit all day. It was dark when I came home, and not at all fun to drive in, even at 30 mph.

The yard is mostly mud now; there's very little left of that eight inches of snow. And there is standing water everywhere. What will happen over the weekend is anybody's guess. We know there will be precipitation of some sort almost all weekend. But the temperature is supposed to stay right around freezing. We will have rain, freezing rain, snow, some combination of those, or perhaps igloop. You can never discount the chance of igloop.

It was beautiful. The fields are lovely when there's sublimation. There's white snow and white fog, and everything trails off into emptiness. Whether you're looking at the road ahead or the fields outside your house, you see white on white disappearing into more white. There's actually a lot of light because everything is reflective on days like these. And fog seems to absorb sound; it's the most silent thing I know. Nothing moves - if there was any wind then there wouldn't be fog. And animals stay still when they can't see very far. I can stand on my front porch and look out across the fields, and see nothing move, hear no sound. There's a still, mysterious, silent heaviness to everything. You're wrapped in your own quilt of white, apart from the rest of the world, and nothing can reach you.

Anyway, I like foggy days. I prefer not to drive in dense fog, but if you take the deserted roads you're not likely to meet much traffic and you can go as slow as you need to. And you will still be wrapped up in your own little white quilt.

I'll miss you tonight, sleeping alone with the dense silent fog outside. I'll miss you more if I'm snowed or iced in this weekend. I have plans for Saturday and church on Sunday, but I'll watch the weather and road reports and won't take chances. Your little family loves and misses you.

Adore you,

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Punctuated Pandemonium

Dear John,
You didn't come talk to me last night, so I have to assume that you expect me to act like a grown-up and learn to know my own limits without your supervision and advice. I'm beginning to think that this whole adulthood thing is overrated.
If you had come to see me last night, you'd have had a hard time finding me under all the critters. I don't know what got into the cats. Jethro slept cuddled up with me, which is normal for him. But the cats spent the entire night sleeping on me, and they've never done that before. Hunter slept on my side - whichever side was up at the time - and Abby slept draped across my knees. I got up three times to go to the bathroom. I had to wake them up and move them every time. They both went to the bathroom with me, then went under the bed for fifteen or twenty minutes, them jumped up on me and settled into their previous positions. I have no idea what that was all about.
The alarm was set for 6:30, and for some reason we all woke up at 6:00. Jethro and I stayed in bed, and the cats spent the half-hour rampaging around the house, chasing each other at full speed and full volume. It's amazing how much noise two cats can make when they're running on laminate floors. And Abby is a vocal little thing. I can't tell if she's trying to talk, sing, yodel, or yowl, but she succeeds in making an amazing array of noises.
We'll see what happens tonight. After last night, I believe I'm prepared for anything they could serve up. Lately we seem to be specializing in pandemonium, punctuated with brief periods of group cuddling. If you come to visit, feel free to join us in the mammal mound. There is always a spot just for you.
Adore you,

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Self-Flagellation Exacerbation

Dear John,
I went to the South Bend airport and back with no problems. Jen and Elyssa are in Florida, where the humidity has already given Jen an afro. I gave her hugs to give to Danica and Tanya. And I got the car washed and had dinner at Chipotle. And the freeing rain has been moved back to tomorrow night.
This week shows why you shouldn't have left me here alone. Last week I worked extra hours, including one night that I got home after 9:00, and I had the energy for it. So I had a list of chores for the weekend and got none of them done. I didn't even have the energy to knit.  Without you here to rein me in, I've been beating myself up for being lazy and irresponsible.
You were always my reality check. When I was too exhausted to realize why I was exhausted, you'd remind me that I'm dealing with a chronic illness whose primary symptom is exhaustion. It appears to be self-evident, doesn't it? But not to me, it isn't. You leave me here, and what do you think's going to happen? I'm going push myself too hard and then beat up on myself when I crash. You left me here alone, and you know that I can't be trusted with myself without supervision.
To sum up: I need your help. I always trusted your perspective, and I need to hear what you see and think. Am I doing too much or too little? Is it okay if the house doesn't always come up to my standards? Should I die of shame over the state of the floor around the dog's water dish, or should I accept my limits and just put a big brown rug in there? Or do I have to do the hardest thing of all - learn how to make these judgments for myself?
As I see it, you have three options. Either come and talk to me about this, or pray for me, or both. I'd prefer both. Tonight I miss your wisdom that I relied on for so long. Can you still share some of that, and not leave me quite completely alone?
Love you so, so much,

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Red Coat: You Still Keep Me Warm

Dear John,
I worked a short day. There were wheel-tracks in the roads this morning, so I got to work without any problems. I left early when the snow and wind picked up. The roads still weren't bad - the problem was knowing exactly where the roads were. There were times I was following the telephone poles. The driveway is under a foot or so of drifted snow. But it's supposed to be sunny tomorrow, and the precipitation on Thursday and Friday has been changed to rain, so it should go away without my interference.
I broke out my old red parka today. You gave it to me for Christmas right before we moved here. You said I'd need something warm, with a hood, that would break the wind, since we wouldn't be in the city were there's shelter from the wind. And you were so right! That was 1994, 19 years ago. I've worn it ever since on really cold, windy days.
And once it came in handy that it's red. The day we came up on that accident at the corner of State Route 5 and 500 South, I paired up with a man in a yellow coat to direct traffic down to one lane. He volunteered for one end of the accident, and I said I'd take the other end because my coat was red and that would make me more visible. Lots of people stopped and residents came out to help. So by the time the police got there, we had the wrecker there, auto parts swept out of the road (I've never seen a push broom as big as the one the Amish kids brought out of the barn), the girl wrapped up in a blanket, her mom on the way - the only thing left was the paperwork. Then we all went on our ways. But I was glad my coat was red.
So, thank you for the coat. I'm wearing it and loving it. You're still keeping me warm in the winter. And, from the looks of this coat, you'll be keeping me warm for the rest of my life.
Adore you,

Monday, December 16, 2013

Remembering the White Apocalypse

Dear John,
Let's start with a metaphysical question: If you came to visit me, could you get snowed in?
Last night's low was 5, and we had sun this morning. Now it's snowing hard again. We're supposed to get a couple of inches tonight, and have a warning out for blowing and drifting snow tomorrow. Wednesday should be okay, then the forecast Thursday and Friday is for frozen mix. I'm supposed to go to work tomorrow, and I do hope I can get there, considering that Thursday and Friday are looking less likely as the days pass. The last thing I want is to get there and not be able to get back. We'll see what things look like in the morning.
Every time we have a major snow, I remember that night when you were working in Kendallville. You tried to get home from work during a snow emergency - that was probably not a good idea. You went off the road on State Route 5. That was quite understandable, since there was no trace of State Route 5 for a good week. You called me and said you were going to spend the night in the car, and I told you that if you thought you were doing that, I was coming to get you. That was a calculated risk - I knew you wouldn't let me try to drive out there in a minivan. So you agreed to walk to the nearest house and ask to stay the night. What you found was an elderly woman who lived alone, and agreed to take you in regardless of her fear. Then you did the second smart think of the day - you called me, and put me on the phone to talk to her. So she was reassured, I was content, and you were safe and warm. Bob came and pulled you out the next morning, and all was well.
We've seen our share of snow emergencies, but none like that one. No emergency services were going out that night no matter what happened. It's the only night I've known that police, fire, and EMS were not coming to any calls at all. And they were right to do that - they wouldn't have gotten anywhere anyway.
I got up first thing the next morning and started shoveling the driveway so you'd have something to pull into when you finally got home. Jen came by, saw me, and stopped and helped. By the time you got here, we had one lane cleared off so you could get into the garage. The snow on the driveway was a good 18 inches deep, and we had drifts in the yard 4 and 5 feet deep, completely over the fence and the porch railing. That took a while to melt.
Well, it's nothing like that today - just a good old-fashioned snowstorm, not the apocalypse. This is what the house looked like yesterday afternoon. We've gotten 2-3 more inches since then. And it's still coming down pretty hard. The thing about Topeka is that there's no way to get anywhere without traveling on county roads. But we have enough here to get by. And all of it can be reached on foot. So we're good.
If you can get away for a visit, this would be a good week for it. Come and get iced in with your little family!
Adore you,

Sunday, December 15, 2013

One Tin Soldier Rides Away

Dear John,
I just heard that Tom Laughlin died today. He was still married to Dolores Taylor, had been since 1954. He seems to have moved into directing after the Billy Jack movies, but that doesn't matter. For our generation, they were huge. Billy Jack was our hero, bigger than life, with enough integrity and courage to triumph over Hell itself. And every girl of our generation fell in love with him.

So I watched the One Tin Soldier video and, as always, burst into tears when the kids all raised their fists into the air. I haven't seen the film in years - I know it was simplistic and a bit cartoonish with the good guys so good and the bad guys so bad and all, but it still has a lot of power for me. I've been wondering why that is, and I think maybe I know.
That film was my first realization that people of my blood faced discrimination. I heard more of it later in high school, and people were always quite shocked when I told them that they were talking about me. Through my grandfather Keistler's side, I'm legally Cherokee. I don't know exactly what people expect that to look like. I certainly have the facial bone structure for it, and so did Mama.
Of course, you didn't care one way or the other except that it made vacations a bit more fun. When we were first married, Louisiana and Virginia still had the old miscegenation laws on the books. According to their legal standard I was colored, not white, so our marriage was illegal in those two states. And every time we passed through Virginia we made sure we spent the night. It was lots of fun spending the night in a hotel in a state where we weren't legally married. We did so love breaking that law. If the Louisiana census lady had asked Mama all the questions she was supposed to, my birth certificate would say that I'm colored and illegitimate, since Mama and Daddy's marriage was also invalid under Louisiana law. That would have complicated my life.
I exposed you to all kinds of new things, didn't I? Collard greens, muscadine hull pie, the Cyclorama, graveyards with CSA markers in them, regional barbecue, blues, and all kinds of cultural delights. And pleasant ways to break a bunch of state laws. Did you ever think that you'd inadvertently married a colored woman - at least, in the eyes of Virginia and Louisiana? I wouldn't have mattered to you what anybody thought of my lineage. And you never thought about it at all. Except that we had fun breaking Virginia laws. I never imagined that I'd reach this age and have such fond memories of criminal behavior!
Love you and adore you,

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Snow With Absolutely No Dashing

Dear John,
Greetings from your winter wonderland! The winter storm arrived last night and stayed until this evening. I haven't heard snow totals but it's an inch or so above Jethro's knees, so we're probably looking at 6-7 inches today. He's enjoyed playing in it, but he doesn't have Caleb's thick undercoat so it's not long before he wants back inside. The cats have enjoyed watching it but have shown no desire to be outdoor cats.
Now we're all waiting for the lake effect to kick in. We're supposed to get another couple of inches tomorrow. And the wind is going to pick up overnight, so there will be blowing and drifting. Great Vespers was cancelled tonight. I'll get up early and check out the weather and the roads before I try to get out for church. Actually, I'm not sure that the driveway is passable at this point. The snowplow has been running all day, so the roads in town should be fine. But the county roads depend on wind as much as the amount of snow.
I've had a nice, quiet day. I've spent a good bit of it on the couch (with the animals taking turns in my lap) working puzzles and watching a Psych marathon. I've had a headache all day - I woke up with it. Aspirin helped a bit temporarily, but now it's back in full force. I'll be off to bed after this episode. I've gotten caught up with the 2013 season today.
 I still miss cuddling with you on these winter nights. I have that song stuck on my mind, and it's painful. I used to love that song. Now, it just reminds me of how much I love you and how not-here you are. And I'll have to miss you like this for the rest of my life. May that be brief!
Love you, adore you, worship the ground you walk on,

Friday, December 13, 2013

Things That Won't Happen

Dear John,
Today was a chronic fatigue recovery day. I took a nap after breakfast and another after lunch, and will probably go to bed early tonight. I needed it and feel better for it, but days like this can be so depressing! There's no productivity, no human contact, just the frustration of being too exhausted to use my day off either to get things done or have fun. And these are the days that I miss you most.
Thank you for working so hard on my dreams. These last two nights have been much better. Last night I dreamed that the lawsuit over the accident - the one that settled a couple of months ago - hadn't settled and had come to trial. I was having a good time because, in the dream as in reality, I didn't care at all what happened. I was seated next to the man that brought the suit, and after a few minutes we became friends.
Thursday night I dreamed that you and I had gone camping with your mother and Jim and Irene. You weren't especially enjoying the camping part of it, but we were having fun with your family. Early one morning I was telling you how much you would have enjoyed the trip to Florida for your mother's 90th birthday, and you said you were sorry to miss it, but "That was when I was dead, wasn't it?" And I said yes, and that I was glad that was over.
You did well - it was a happy dream, and you didn't die again at the end of it. That's what we all want, so spread the word! It made me happy all day, until I got Song for a Winter's Night stuck on my mind and cried myself to sleep.
But that seems to be normal for me now - alternating between happiness and heartbreak. I'm getting better at it. I rarely get motion sickness now. I enjoyed the dream, but I know you won't really come back. I have to come to you. And I can't wait. But in the meantime, it's good to feel your hug now and them.
Adore you,

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Song for a Winter's Night

Dear John,
It's another late night - it will be tomorrow soon. But I get to take tomorrow off since I worked yesterday, so there's no hurry to get to bed.
I finally got to sleep at 2:30 this morning, what with working late and computer trouble. I woke up at 8, got up, and looked at Weather Bug to find out that it was -3 outside. It got up to 17 today, and now we're under another Winter Weather Advisory. We're in the area to get around 5 more inches of snow tomorrow and Saturday.
If I do get snowed in, I have over a gallon of milk and plenty of work to do. I could be snowed in for two months without running out of work that needs to be done around here. It was much nicer to get snowed in with you. Long winter nights don't seem right without you to cuddle with. But then, nothing seems right without you.
This conversation has gotten completely out of hand. I was going to tell you about work today, and standing in the freezing wind putting gas in the car, and going to work without my lunch or my phone. But all I can think about now is Gordon Lightfoot singing Song for a Winter's Night:
If I could only have you near to breathe a sigh or two, I would be happy just to hold the hands I love on this winter night with you.

I miss you on these long cold nights, and I love you with all my heart,

Of Shred, Giltter, Liver, & Leaches

Dear John,
Today was nothing like what I'd planned. An indication of that is the fact that I'm writing to you at 1:00 tomorrow morning.
I slept in, had breakfast, vacuumed, and started laundry. I checked my phone after the vacuuming and found a text from Kathy asking if I could work for a while this afternoon. It turns out that she got an order last night for twenty gift baskets to be delivered tomorrow morning. And she had today booked solid, with no time to do anything about the order. So I left home at 2:15, drove through the snow to Walmart for supplies, picked up lunch to go, and went to work. I got the gift baskets done and packed for the morning (now, this morning), and unpacked and cleaned up everything that she'd taken with her to a Christmas bazaar earlier today. The place looks respectable now, but it won't last long. She has an open house on Friday and Saturday, so tomorrow (now, today) we'll be busy setting up for that.
So I spent over five hours tonight working with shred, glitter, and cellophane, three things which, in the list of things I like, rank down there between leeches and fried liver. It's good for me, and I'm getting better at creating this kind of gift basket. But I spent probably twenty minutes cleaning up glitter, and bits of shred, and shards of cellophane. When I brushed my teeth tonight, I still had glitter on my face. I guess I'm just not a girly girl.
I told Kathy I'd be in late tomorrow - I'm not setting the alarm. That will give me time to run a couple of errands here in town that I was going to take care of today. And I'll get some sleep. I've been trying to write to you for two hours, and the computer kept jamming up. I thought the computer was the problem, so I did a system reset that didn't help at all. The culprit turned out to be the router/modem. I re-booted it and all is well.
All this adds up to me having to be much more competent than I like to be on my day off. I need a day of planned incompetence and inconsequentiality. Shall we plan that for Saturday? If you come by for your stocking and to bring me my avocados, remember that I'll be incompetent and inconsequential on Saturday.
Love you more than avocados,

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

National Hate Florida Day

Dear John,
There's nothing interesting happening here. I worked 8 1/2 hours, went grocery shopping, and got home a little after 7:00. The cats are somewhere, Jethro is asleep with his head on my left shin, and NCIS was terrific tonight. If you missed it, go onto cbs.com and catch it.
I saw the second half of Bonnie & Clyde last night. It was hard to watch. It gets harder and harder as you get close to the end, when you know what the end will be. I had touble getting to sleep after it - not scared-by-a-horror-movie trouble, but my mind wouldn't settle down. I kept thinking about the two of them, who they each were, how they acted on each other, how the era acted on them, and so on. It's so sad to watch events progress toward that end.
Facebook has made a nationwide declaration. Today is National Hate Florida Day. When I got up this morning the temperature was 2. Heaven knows what the wind chill was. I wore a turtleneck under my shirt today. When I went to the store, the Salvation Army people had set up inside. It was cold. This map is ugly. Unless you live in Florida. And that is why we all hate them.
I know it's nice and warm where you are. Does your new body feel temperature, or is that irrelevant now? I'm pretty sure you don't get hungry anymore, but I had a wonderful baked potato with cheese and salsa and sour cream for dinner. I forgot to look at the price of avocados at the store. But since it's Heaven, you probably do have avocados, don't you? Maybe you could bring a couple for my stocking when you come by to pick up yours. You can get your dusgusting honey roasted peanuts and meet Jethro's kittens. And put those long, long arms of yours around me, and hold me for a hundred years.
Love you so much,

Monday, December 9, 2013

Boomers, Bellbottoms, & Bootcut

Dear John,
I've had a busy day off. I had finances, filing, and going-through-stuff to do. And I have a list of errands to do tomorrow, if I get off work in time, or Wednesday. My three animals have taken turns napping in my lap when I've been sitting down.
I found this on Pinterest today. It's part of a design website that was differentiating between classic mid-century modern, mod, and hippie design styles. I was curious and had to prowl through it. This was, obviously, and example of hippie style. I stared at it for a long time, and had to puzzle over my reaction to it. I'm so anal, so organized, and one of my favorite styles is Shaker. And I love this. I felt extremely warm and comforted by it. I felt safe and happy. I wanted to walk into it and sit down. Cross-legged and barefoot on the floor, or course.
So I went spelunking in the back of my head. It looks like every off-campus apartment I saw when we were in college. And that must be the source of my comfort. It means good friends and wonderful years. Life was safe and happy, and there was nothing to be afraid of. "We'd live the life we'd choose; we'd fight and never lose. Those were the days."
Well, I'm older now, and maybe a little bit wiser. But I wouldn't change a single minute of college. Except for dating Tom. That I'd like to change. But other than that, I wouldn't change a thing. And my love for this room is another reminder of my long-buried Bohemian streak. And yes, I'm still wearing bellbottoms (under the new name of bootcut, but still bellbottoms) and peasant tops, and little enough make-up to drive Kathy to despair. But this streak will continue to find its way out, and in ways that I don't expect.
And, like all Boomers, I'm self-absorbed and self-analytical. If I can't still sit on the front porch at a party discussing whether Tolstoy was right, I can have fond memories of it. And this room brings back a lot of good memories.
Adore you,

Sunday, December 8, 2013

I Know You Were Here

Dear John,
It's been a good Sunday. The church is beautiful with the tree up. It's sprinkled snow off and on all day. And since I've been home, the critters are taking turns sleeping on me. Hunter and I took a nap together - I lay down on the couch, he came over and lay down on my left side, and we slept for almost an hour.
I had a scare last night. I got on the healthcare website to look at plans, and they were quoting me either $1000 a month premium or a $6000 a year deductible. This is with an annual income of $12,000. So I called them on the phone, played minesweeper for half an hour, then got a real live person who solved the problem. It turns out that they haven't finished processing me - they need a letter from my boss stating that I'm not eligible for health insurance at work. Until they finish the processing, they show the full price of the policies. That's so you'll be really, really happy with the final price they offer you.
And I found unmistakable evidence that you've been back. Look at this - only you would have written the quadratic equation on the curb. It even looks like your printing. Are you dropping a trail of breadcrumbs for me to follow? I'll keep an eye out for pi to twenty places on an overpass. This brings back good memories. I remember when we used to study together in your dorm room on the weekends. Sometimes you'd rub your bare feet against mine, and I'd keep turning pages occasionally so you wouldn't know that you were rendering me incapable of studying. I remember telling you about that after we'd been married about thirty years, and how hard you laughed. You laughed even harder when I told you that you could still do that to me. My feet miss you!
Love you, adore you, worship the ground your adorable feel walk on,

Saturday, December 7, 2013

New Wreaths & Empty Stockings

Dear John,
I finally did it - the Christmas decorations are up. And I hung four new wreaths, one in each of the front windows. I took out the screens and washed the windows - that big storm a couple of weeks ago blew crabapples off of the tree and smashed them into the house, leaving a mushed red mess on the windows. The house looks good from the street.
I didn't put up the tree - it didn't seem wise with two cats, one four months old. I wanted my favorite ornaments out and needed to hang them somewhere out of cat-reach. So I hung some garland on the wall over the television and hung ornaments on that, and I like it. I put some of my favorite fragile things on the shelf over the coat rack. I'll be able to do more next year when they're older. Unless Jethro continues on his present pace of collecting one kitten per year, in which case this situation may be permanent.
So the house looks nice, inside and out. And just as I was finishing up and sweeping, I realized that not a single living soul will see it. The neighbors will see the wreaths outside, but nobody will see the inside. Everybody is so busy with family and shopping this time of the year. But the cats are enjoying the garland and I like it. That has to be enough.
There's no place to put presents, but that's okay - all there will be is one for Jen and one for Elyssa. I hung up our stockings today. If you want your usual Ghirardelli chocolate, new underwear, and wretched disgusting honey-roast peanuts, you'll have to come and get them. Come any time, and don't bother to knock. Don't forget to bring chocolate-covered raisins for me!
Love and miss you unbelievable amounts,

About That Dead Mouse in Your Boot . . .

Dear John,
It's late - it's tomorrow already here - but I found this on Facebook and just had to show it to you. Today was St. Nicholas' feast day. Facebook has had all kinds of comments encouraging us to celebrate by punching Arians. But I had to show you this one before I went to bed. Enjoy! And show it to Father George, if you see him. He'll love it.
I promise to be more cheerful in the morning - no more Dali or Tim Burton for the rest of the weekend!
Sleep good,

Friday, December 6, 2013

Escher, Dali, & Tim Burton Film My Biography

Dear John,
I worked a long day today, over nine hours. I was tying things up to get off at 5:00, when an order arrived by UPS at 4:30. I had to get milk, butter, and salsa on the way home. So I got home to my hungry animals a little before 7:00.
On the way home I was pondering my car accident in May of 2011, and the fact that it still doesn't seem real to me. And that makes sense because I have no memory of it, and with the head injury, not much memory of the month of June. Nothing unusual there.
Then I realized that everything since that accident has a sense of unreality about it. Your lung cancer was diagnosed in late June, while I was recovering from the head injury and everything was still a little strange and disconnected. And the world went spinning right off of its axis. 
Everything after that - your hospitalizations, chemo, even your going back to work, then your last three months in hospitals, your death, and my life without you - all of that seems wildly impossible. It feels like a surreal, sick parody of my life. It's like Escher, Salvadore Dali, and Tim Burton collaborated to film my biography.
I wish I could wake up in the Parkview ICU and find that I've dreamed all of this. Then life could go back to normal. Nobody shot JR, and Bobby didn't die, and Bob Newhart is still married to Suzanne Pleshette, and everything is alright. Wouldn't that be lovely? When I wake up, can I keep Hunter and Abby? I know you'd love them.
But I'm not going to wake up from this, am I? This twisted, surreal existence really is my life. And it doesn't seem real at all. But I keep on functioning - relating normally to people, feeding the animals, and brushing my teeth and doing laundry. And it seems like it's somebody else's life and not mine.
But the IRS, the post office, and the credit companies think it's mine, so it must be. I wonder how long it will be until all of this feels real to me. I'll let you know when it happens. In the meantime, thank goodness for automatic pilot! I'll keep on keeping on. And I'll try not to think about Dali too much - I'll look at the sane ordinary beauty of Vermeer and Van Eck, or just stand in front of my icons and pray. But part of me still wants to wake up in Parkview.
Adore you,

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Synchronized Cycles & Bad Dreams

Dear John,
You guys need to get organized up there and pray for your wives. We all had terrible days yesterday. It seems that our bad-day cycles are synchronized. It's probably the Christmas season getting to us. Whatever it is, yesterday was unpleasant. Today we seem to be cautiously getting our heads above water, but still feeling a bit like drowned rats.
And while we're at it, can you and I have the dream conversation one more time? I keep dreaming that you're having heart catheterizations at Methodist. Several times every night I'm back in that waiting room, knitting and talking to Jim. You remember him - he's the person responsible for looking after all the family members and keeping them informed about what's going on in the back. And he seems to be the best thing that's happened to the hospital since antibiotics. He's worth his weight in gold.
I did spend an inordinate amount of time there, didn't I? You had four procedures in a week, which set a new record for them. They felt so bad for me that they kept giving me vouchers for free meals. But I was really fine - after all, I was director of a cardiac cath lab and am quite at home there. And the doctors were very nice to me. They even brought me back to the lab at the end of your first one. Not a thing had changed since my days, except that the computers do wild and wonderful things.
I digress. All of us love our men very much. And, for whatever reason, we're all struggling right now. And we could use your help. Please pray for all of us, and be kind when you come into our dreams.
Love you, adore you, and have had enough caths with you,

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Wake Up, People! I Have Good News!

Dear John,
I know it's early, but I have good news that wouldn't wait. Jill has been accepted for a heme/onc fellowship at IU. I'm so happy for her, and I knew you would be, too. It's an excellent program, and her husband won't have to make another job change. I'm also gratified to know that IU has enough sense to want her.
Do you realize that it was a little over two years ago that she first helped take care of you? It seems that time flies whether or not you're having fun. She was so good to you, and was a Heaven-sent angel for me. When we all got turned out of our hotel rooms for the Super Bowl, I was quite prepared to bunk in your room for a week. After all, I went to college - I've slept in worse places. And I certainly know and love critical care units at all hours.
But spending that week with her gave me more that a softer and quieter place to sleep. It gave me some real relaxing time. And it gave me a new friend, and that's what matters most. We had a sort of prolonged slumber party with red velvet cupcakes. And Jill and I laughed so hard - we'd both been warned by our friends not to do it. That was the greatest unexpected kindness that anyone ever did for me.
So she gets her dream, and I'm so excited that I had to stop in the middle of the day and tell you. Keep her in your prayers. You know when the program starts - we both know that dreaded date when all the nurses in all the teaching hospitals all across the country start over training a new group of docs, the day that Marcie always wore her "Who Are These Guys?" button to work at Duke.
You can go back to doing whatever you do all day - that's all the news. I knew that you'd want to know right away. If you can, Skype with me tonight!
Love you, adore you, worship the ground you walk on,

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

There's a Bathroom on the Right for a Long Long Time

Dear John,
The radio is getting decidedly worse. Sentimental Christmas songs have infiltrated all of my stations. Tonight I stumbled into Blue Christmas, bailed out, and landed in Linda Ronstadt singing A Long Long Time. On the brink of despair, I ran down the dial, found Creedence, and took a deep breath. Appropriately enough for the season, it was Bad Moon on the Rise. Or Bathroom on the Right. Whichever you hear in it.
Somehow, all of this got me thinking about our first married Christmas. Things were pretty dismal - you were on chemotherapy, I had mono and was in liver failure, and we'd lost our last appeal to have our health insurance pick up some portion of your surgery, chemo, and all of that. I remember that I finally dragged myself out to look for a tree. We were living in that tiny basement apartment and didn't have much room or any money. And I found the perfect tree. It was about six feet tall with a big bare spot in the middle, and was one of the last trees left on the lot. I made an offer and got it for $10 - and he even cut it off in the middle of the bare spot for me. It ended up the perfect height to stand on the dining room table.
Our first year of marriage was tough. But I'd highly recommend it to any newlywed couple. In our first year we had to deal with the medical bills, your chemo, my liver failure, and my job at The Hospital From Hell. We had to write wills and talk about advance directives. We sat on the floor on opposite sides of the toilet and took turns throwing up, and you had to tie my work shoes for me when my liver was enlarged. We took turns looking after each other, pulled together financially, and learned to laugh about all of it.
And that little half-of-a-Christmas-tree symbolizes that year for me. We made a beautiful tree out of something that nobody wanted. And we made the root of a wonderful marriage out of a year nobody in their right mind would have chosen. All the way up to the end, we still laughed about our first year.
Can we do it all over again?
Love you so, so much,

Monday, December 2, 2013

Muddling Along with Judy Garland & Grumpy Cat

Dear John,
It's been a busy day. I took Abby in for her last round of childhood (kittenhood?) vaccines. Then I ran errands, rushed home to get Elyssa from school, ran back with her to Michaels, then home for Jen to pick her up, then I worked for an hour or so on my healthcare application. The running was necessitated by Elyssa's babysitter's tummy virus.
The application work was necessitated by a government website error that decided that, with an income of $1000 a month, I could afford $475 for health insurance. I had to delete my application and start again. It's a small price to pay if the check I just wrote for COBRA tonight is my last.
Abby did fine. She weighs  5 1/2 pounds now, and is long and lean just like Hunter. I'll take her in for neutering in early January, hopefully before she goes into heat the first time. June says she's completely health now, eyes and nose are clear. And does she ever hate riding in the car, poor baby!

A Widow's Christmas - Enough Said

Elyssa and I had a good time shopping. It was fun watching her see all the Christmas things in Michaels. I enjoyed the grandma time. And I confirmed that I'm planning the perfect thing for her for Christmas.
I'm enjoying some of the Christmas stuff this year, but the music is still tough. I keep hearing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, and no matter which words they play, the ones I hear are the original ones Judy Garland sang. So far I haven't actually cried in any stores. So I'm doing a little better this year. But grumpy cat still sums up the season for me. Apologies for the language, but it's perfect.
Someday soon, we all will be together, if the fates allow. Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow. So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.
Muddling my way through without you,

Sunday, December 1, 2013

End Run Around Grief

Dear John,
I did it. Or, it did it. Something did it. Maybe it did itself.
You know that I've been struggling with watching sports alone? This weekend I got over the football part of that. I am SO overdosed with football! There's been so much of it that I can't ever remember what all I've watched.
Yesterday was wonderful - college rivalry day. Ohio State and Michigan State, Tech and Georgia, Bama and Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee, South Carolina and Clemson - it was football heaven. I watched until mid-afternoon, then I listened to it while I sewed curtains. And today was the pros. The Colts just beat Tennessee in a great game.
I don't know what happened in me. I didn't even realize it had happened until today, when I thought about how overdosed I am. Then it dawned on me that I've spent the holiday weekend watching football and enjoying it. College and pro. I have no idea what happened, but I'm glad about it.
And Abby discovered the television today. She seems to like football, too, and clearly expressed a preference for the Colts. Hunter, on the other hand, has always preferred NCIS. Jen looked at the photo and said that it seemed to her to be the team physician's rear that had Abby's attention, and she may be right. Abby won't be old enough to neuter for a few more months.
That's all the news. I'm enjoying football again. I must be doing a little bit better, healing some. Please keep praying for me - I have three more sports to go.
Adore you,