Friday, February 28, 2014

Walking Each Other Home

Dear John,
It's 9:00, Pandora is playing "Time in a Bottle," and I'm remembering listening to it with you when we were in college. And now, it seems to be the perfect love song from me to you. By the time we listened to it the first time, I already knew that you were the one I wanted to go through time with. And there wasn't enough time. There could never be such a thing as enough time with you.
So it's a good thing that there is eternity, isn't it? I hate this period, this gap, where I have to wait until I can begin eternity with you. But the certainty of Heaven is what I live on now. Endless as it seems, this life is brief. I didn't get to spend the rest of my life with you. But you chose to spend the rest of your life with me. And eternity is coming.
I went to the viewing this afternoon. It breaks my heart to know what Jim is going through and what he has in front of him. I walked the steps he's had to take these last few months, as well as the ones ahead of him. I do hate how well-traveled this path is. I'd rather be the only one on it. But as I've said, if we have to travel this road, let's travel it together. I hope Jim knows that he's not alone.
And this is really it, isn't it? We're really all just walking each other home. Pray for Jim, and for all of us. Pray for me, that my road home will be short!
Love you more than I can ever say,

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Sports, Recovery, & Real Women

Dear John,
Thank you for listening last night - it helped to talk to you. I couldn't go to sleep so I got on-line and did some more digging. The ER question is taken care of because I got POS added to the policy - it means that Anthem will cover emergency costs at any hospital. And I dug through the Parkview site and found out that LaGrange Hospital is in network because it's part of the Parkview system now. All I will lose is the South Bend Clinic, and that's not anything terrible. If Joe doesn't want to handle my asthma, I'll get transferred to Dr. Patel. He's known us for years and he's local.
Getting to work was interesting today - snow, blowing snow, drifting snow, ice, and poor visibility. We're under another wind chill advisory and blowing-&-drifting advisory, and they're still debating whether we'll get a major winter storm this weekend. Just in case, I stocked up on milk, dog food, cat food, and kitty litter today. We're prepared for whatever comes.
I got off early and got home in time to watch the Cubs' first exhibition game this season, and the first game in their new park in Mesa. I think it's the first whole game I've watched since you died, and it felt good. I enjoyed the feel and rhythm of it. It didn't hurt to see that it's warm somewhere. You'd love the new park; it was built to mimic Wrigley Field. And that's something I'm so sorry that you're going to miss - this year is Wrigley will turn 100.
We had so many wonderful days there, didn't we? When we lived in South Bend we went to about twenty games a year, and always sat in the same place with the same group of friends. Then we ate at Leona's or Leona's Sons on the way home, and reeked of garlic for days. Good memories.
Maybe this year I'll be able to go back to baseball. I've tried for the last two summers, but all I could see was that you weren't watching with me. I've lost touch with the team and will have to get to know the new people. But there's a certain amount of that every year, so it's okay. I won't pressure myself - I promise. But I'd be happy to be able to enjoy it again.
For now, it's dark outside and ESPN is carrying Arkansas at Kentucky, so it's SEC time. I can finally enjoy watching games at Rupp Arena. We went to the first game there, didn't we? When I was a freshman, I went to games at old Memorial Coliseum. I don't think we ever missed a game. More good memories.
I must be making progress - there are more thing we did together, that I can enjoy alone. Like I said Sunday, I'm learning to take things on their own terms instead of being overwhelmed by the awareness that you're not here. Your mother approves, and I know that you do, too. It boils down to making the best of a bad situation.
Thanks for the memories,

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Warning: I Need to Vent

Dear John,
I'm frustrated. I need to vent. So strap yourself in to listen.
It's been a busy day off - I need to go back to work to get some rest. I spent most of the day taking care of financial things. Most of it was good - just paying bills and planning ahead for the next round. I called Panera Benefits and cancelled the COBRA. That was an easy financial decision, but not so easy emotionally. Panera Benefits was my rock for eighteen months - they slew the date-of-death zombie and sorted out so many problems for me. I could call on them and they would use their clout to help me. They stood between me and all the entities that try to eat new widows. I appreciate them more than I can ever say. But I can't turn down a plan that gives me the same coverage for $350 a month less, with a $2000 lower deductible, especially when I could only COBRA for another year anyway.
The new coverage is good, but it brings frustrations with it. Hospitals and clinics that I've worked with for years have made the decision to not accept any insurance that comes through the Marketplace - they will only accept insurance through an employer or Medicare. It makes no sense to me, since their reimbursement is the same that it was through my COBRA coverage. Either the paperwork is more complicated or they are making a political statement. My cynical streak suspects the latter. No billing department will explain to me why they have made that decision, of course - that's private and confidential.
I can adjust to most of this without any problem. I'll have to have Joe take care of my asthma - there are no asthma specialists within two hours who will take my insurance. But I'd been considering that anyway, so the loss is primarily sentimental. I'll have to go back to driving to South Bend for mammograms. I have hospital options in Fort Wayne and South Bend, so an elective hospital admission would be no problem. But the only ERs that will accept me are an hour away. No hospital that EMS would take me to, would accept me. If I need an ambulance, every place within their range would turn me away. because I don't have private insurance. And that stinks.
If you were still alive, I'd be raising holy hell about that. That's because you mattered. If I need an ambulance, I don't mind just not calling anybody. I don't give the proverbial flying fig about my survival. But not everybody has that luxury. I know this will get worked out - it's one of the early bugs in the system, and it isn't sustainable. We went through a few years that our regular providers couldn't work out a contract with our insurance companies - we made our temporary adjustments, and they eventually realized that not having a contract with a  large insurer was hurting their bottom line. That will happen with the Marketplace, too. No provider can afford to cut off a large portion of their patient population. You can't cut off Anthem for long. I just hope I don't need an ER in the meantime.
Thank you for listening - I feel much better now. Venting to you has always made me feel better about things. I've made the only viable choice. I couldn't keep COBRA and keep the house. The money just isn't there. I had to overestimate my income to qualify for Marketplace insurance and avoid Medicare. It would serve all these providers right if I switch to Medicare - then they'd have to take me, but would make much less off of me. Oh, for the rule of common sense! I get to keep Joe for primary care, and that's what matters most. Everything else can go, including ERs. So there. Aren't you glad you're missing all of this?
Missing you so much,

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Patches Make the Goodbye Harder Still

Dear John,
You may want to hang out around the gate tomorrow. Marg died Sunday evening, so she should be there soon. I didn't get to see her; please give her a hug for me.
I'd appreciate it if you'd pray for me on Friday. I'll be going to the viewing and I'm already struggling with it. I'm not crying so much for her. Her death was a lot like yours - she'd earned her rest, and she seemed to be ready. But I can't stop crying for Jim. I've been to some viewings since you died, but not one where I knew the new widow as well and as long as I've known Jim. I'm afraid I'll get there Friday and bawl. I suppose worse things could happen. But I don't want to make things any harder on everybody. And it would be nice to be able to communicate coherently.
Maybe I'll cry it all out before then. That would be good. But I seem to have a bottomless well of bawling, so it's unlikely. All I can do is my best. But I'd really appreciate your prayers. And I know you'll be praying for Jim and the kids. I don't think he's on Facebook, but I want to be sure he knows about our widow's group and knows that he's welcome to join us. We'd be happy to have a token man.
I woke up this morning humming Cat Stevens, and one verse stayed in my head:
And though your dreams may toss and turn you now, they will vanish away like your daddy's best jeans, denim blue fading up to the sky. And though you want them to last forever, you now they never will. And patches make the goodbye harder still.
I didn't want you to live forever, just not to go before I did. But I know the odds -  at best, women live longer than men, and you'd had your first cancer when we were nineteen. I hoped we'd beat the odds. But every little girl grows up knowing she'll most likely be a widow someday. And Cat Stevens was right - it is the patches that make the goodbye so hard. Now Jim is learning what I mean. Please pray for him.
Love you with all my heart,

Monday, February 24, 2014

It's Not Happening Today!

Dear John,
I had a lovely, busy weekend and I've spent today paying for it. But that's okay, because it's a day off. I woke up, assessed myself, and cancelled all my plans. Everything will keep.
You were so good about understanding that fibro and CFS are different every day, and that every day of activity will exact its price in the future. Thank you for that. Your understanding helped me to accept my own limits. You made it easier for me to be easier on myself. I'm getting better at taking care of myself without you being here to make me do it. I suppose it's more important that I do that now, since I don't have you to fall back on if I have a major flare.
Thank you for teaching me so much about myself. Thank you for loving me, and so making it possible for me to love myself. If I mess up, feel free to Gibbs-slap me.
Love you great bunches,

Sunday, February 23, 2014

And Now for Something Completely Different

Dear John,
No nightmares last night - thank you for your prayers. I only slept an hour at a time, but at least it wasn't unpleasant. Sometimes I still have trouble sleeping without you.
I find this to be quite encouraging.
This is big news: I seem to have turned some kind of corner. Yesterday I finally faced the fact that going to church has still been terribly difficult for me - you were so much a part it, and it's been so hard to not see you there. And I admitted it publicly. To my great surprise, people understood and sympathized. I didn't expect it to make sense to other people. Nobody criticized me.
Doing that seems to have changed something. This morning I got up and had no hesitation about going to church. I got there before the start of Orthros. Brian didn't have another chanter, so I sang Orthros with him and had a lovely time. We had our annual parish meeting after the Liturgy and coffee hour, and I gladly stayed for it.
Being there was different today. For the first time since your death, I was able to experience church on its own terms. It's all been centered on you for the last two years. Everything has - I don't think I've lived any minute on its own terms since you went into the hospital the last time. Today it was just me, my church, my life, not dominated by the awareness of your absence. That doesn't sound like a good thing, but it feels that way. I have to begin to see myself as I am now - as just me, not as your wife - and to deal with my life as it is instead of as it was or as I wish it could be. None of that means that I love or miss you any less; it just means that I'm dealing with reality. And reality has a way of following you around and not going away.
I don't know if this will last. I may have turned that corner, or I may have just gotten a glimpse of it. We know that nothing about widowhood is linear. Either way, I know that there really is a corner and that there is life on the other side of it. It's encouraging. And it feels healthy. Thank you for helping me get this far. There's a lot further to go, but this feels like an immense milestone. And it is good.
Love you, adore you, worship the ground you walk on,

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Nightmares & Rowing to Syracuse

Dear John,
Jethro is my Protector
I need help with this dream thing again. I got to sleep around midnight last night, and got up at 2:30 to get away from the nightmares. I kept waking up screaming. Jethro stayed right by me, bless him, even though I kept waking him up screaming in his ear. The cats stayed close, too, Hunter under the bed and Abby on my legs. They do love their mama.
I don't remember much about the dreams, except that they were horrific. The theme seemed to be this disgusting hunk that people were trying to force me to marry and that I was running from. In the last dream, somebody broke into the house and stabbed him. He came to me for help and I pushed him away, and woke up screaming, "I don't care. I just want John back."
That's when I decided to get up. I sat up with Facebook and Pinterest for two hours. Then I went back to sleep with no more nightmares, just average dreams. I can't imagine why I had such awful nightmares. It's been years since I've had dreams that terrified me like those did. It took me two hours to get the courage to turn the light off. If I didn't have a German shepherd, I'd probably still be up. I didn't do anything different, so it must just be my head. I hate thinking that I have things like that in my head.
Going South out of Topeka
Today was Nicole's baby shower, so I've had a lovely day. It was good to be together with church friends and have time to sit and talk. I know that I don't get as much time with people as I need, working alone in a basement office. Today was good for me. I thought I was going to have to row there, though. Three of the four roads out of Topeka were under water and closed; the fourth was just under a couple of inches. I went state and US routes all the way, and still drove through some areas of running water. It was worse coming home - in some places, the water was three or four inches deep and we were all driving through at dead-slow speed. It will freeze tonight, so getting to church in the morning may involve cross-country skiing instead of rowing.
I'm afraid to go to bed tonight. The nightmares were so horrible and I don't want to do that again. All I can do is pray about it at bedtime. Remember how, whenever I had a nightmare, you'd wake up and pray for me, and I'd go back to sleep and not have anymore? Please pray for me tonight, that I won't have nightmares and that I won't be scared to go to sleep. And keep that scary hunk away from me!
Missing you,

Friday, February 21, 2014

Grace Slick vs Cheap Trick

Dear John,
It's a conundrum. Ordinarily I'd choose Grace Slick over Cheap Trick without a second thought. But when it comes to questions of love and widowhood, Cheap Trick has the advantage.
Let me explain. After I got off work I had to get groceries. I turned north from County Road 42 onto US 33. That was a mistake. That low-lying section of US 33 about half a mile north of 42 was under water. The road needed to be closed but wasn't, and there's nowhere to turn off or around, so all of rush-hour traffic - such as it is around here - crawled through running water at 5 mph.
That left a lot of time to listen to the radio. First I heard Cheap Trick's The Flame - "You were the first, you'll be the last." That nails my state of widowhood quite well. Grace Slick was up next, which would have been good if she'd been singing about rabbits. But she was telling me that I have to find somebody to love. And I can't agree with that.
I never could, you know. I never went looking for somebody to love. That's a recipe for disaster, because you end up picking the least-objectionable person in sight and making do. I've loved twice - you and John 1.0 - and I wasn't looking for love, in right or wrong places. I just met somebody that I fell in love with. When you and I met, we were decidedly not looking for love. I'd just been dumped by John 1.0 and didn't want anymore guys distracting me from getting through college, and you thought it wouldn't be fair to ask a woman to go through pre-med, med school, and everything else with you. None of that kept us from falling in love; it just kept us from realizing it for a couple of years.
So Cheap Trick wins the Flooded Road Love Sweepstakes. Love isn't something to be shopped for, like a new car. When it comes, it's a gift to be received. And it doesn't end. It certainly isn't at the mercy of a temporary separation like death. You were the first, you'll be the last. You're stuck with me. So there.
To come down to the mundane, the basement is recovering. Those two low areas are a bit damp, but we learned almost 20 years ago to not put anything there, so it's not a problem. There is standing water everywhere, and it's busy turning into sheets of ice. As another song says, I can't decide which is worse.
Pandora is playing Let it Be -  that's sound theology. There is still a light that shines on me. And I try my best to say, as Mary did, "Let it be to me as you have said."

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Noah Called

Dear John,
Well, that's another day gone completely pear-shaped.
It started at 6:00 this morning, when I awoke to Jethro sitting on my head. We slept in the mound again last night, and all was well until the first crack of thunder at 6. Bowing to the inevitable, I got up early. Unfortunately, I was still having serious tummy troubles. So I called in sick and went back to bed, still in the mound except that the dog stayed on my head for about an hour.
It was raining hard when I got up, so I checked the basement. The dehumidifier and sump pump were doing their part valiantly, but there was so much water that it was seeping up through the floor. We had about half an inch of water over roughly a quarter of the basement. I brought the push broom downstairs and swept it all into the sump hole, and the floor had almost dried out as of an hour ago. I'm glad that I keep everything damageable up off of the floor.
So that's been my day - sweeping water in the basement and taking Benadryl for nausea. Now it's raining hard again. And thundering. And the dog is in my lap, so any typos are his fault. Tomorrow morning is anybody's guess - snow, rain, ice, freezing rain, fog, and possible thunderstorms are all in the forecast. We are currently under four alerts at once: flood watch, flood warning, wind advisory, and - last but not least - a tornado watch.
Aren't you glad you're missing all of this? Nobody can complain that this winter has been boring. As I said last night, I've always wanted to try boredom to see if I like it. Now would be a good time for that. Know that your little family is doing fine - there's no damage done in the basement, Jethro will survive the thunderstorm, and the cats are getting accustomed to the sound of rain beating on the house. We miss you so much, but we're all making it. Thank you again for the sump pump!
Adore you,

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Thinking about Mama at the Eighth Fence Post

Dear John,
It's been an action-packed day off, and it's not 4:00 yet.
We slept in this morning. For some reason, everybody slept in a mound last night. Jethro was beside me, Hunter on my ribs, and Abby on my knees. I was sore from shoveling yesterday and it was nice to have three heating pads.
I had errands to run today - I got dressed to go to the bank, deposit my paycheck, get my IDs out of the safe deposit box, and then go to Fairfield and fill out my sub paperwork. I had breakfast and prayer time - and a lovely cup of chai tea - then realized that Jethro had been outside for way too long. He got over the east side of the fence this time. And he wasn't interested in coming back because Craig was plowing his driveway and Terry was spreading manure, and the neighborhood was just too entertaining.
Grumpy Cat ponders the weather forecast.
Or reads Eugene O'Neill. It's hard to tell which.
So I changed into work clothes and went out to shovel the back yard. I cleared snow from all of the south fence, all the east fence, and about a quarter of the north fence. In between talking to passing neighbors, there was nothing to do but count the fence posts and multiply by six feet, so I know that I cleared 120 feet of fence. While I was shoveling, Jethro came back, climbed the fence into the yard, and back out, and back in again. That let me know exactly how much snow he needed in order to get over the fence, which was good, but it wasn't much, which wasn't so good, so I kept on shoveling.
Anyway, the snow around the fence is cleared. It's sunny and in the 40s today so the snow is wet and heavy. I was thinking about that while I was shoveling, and that middle-aged people shouldn't be shoveling it, realized that I'm 58 now, and that I just passed a free stress test. (I still think I'm 35, then I look in the mirror and wonder what on earth happened.) So I got my cardio and weight training for the day, and must be in better shape than I thought.
I got done and we came back in, and I sniffed and smelled horse manure. Jethro had rolled in what Terry was spreading, of course. So we went off to the bathroom for more cardio. I gave the dog a bath, then cleaned out the tub, then cleaned out the tub drain, then cleaned the rest of the bathroom, then started a load of laundry with clothes and dog towels in it. Then I had lunch.
At this moment, the animals are all asleep in the sun, jeans and towels are in the dryer, the bathroom is spotless, and every inch of me hurts. And I never did get to the bank, much less to Fairfield. But they will still be there, and the dog is safe and clean, and all is well. It's supposed to be near 50 and raining tomorrow, so the snow will start melting and the basements will fill up and the roads will be blocked by standing water and we'll all drown. The county sheriff's office put out a bulletin today about where to go to get sandbags. I don't believe I've ever seen that particular bulletin before. My childhood did not prepare me for any of this, except for the extent to which my mother's calm assurance in her own competence prepared me to handle whatever came along. Please thank her for me, and tell her that I was thinking about her as I passed the eighth fence post.
Since you took care of the basement and put in the sump pump, we should be dry here. I'll keep an eye on things but I don't expect any excitement. I do believe we've had enough excitement for a while. As you and I always did, I find myself wondering if I'd like boredom - I have never had the opportunity to try it. I fear that is unlikely to change.
Well, that's enough for one day off, isn't it? I may join the critters and take a nap in the sun. And no matter what happens tomorrow, I can swim.
Love you, adore you, worship the ground you walk on,

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Winter Olympics: Don't Try This at Home

Dear John,
Your family got athletic today and had our very own Winter Olympics. The driveway was clear when I went to bed, but the wind shifted during the night and I had the usual 3-foot drifts when I got up this morning. I had to get to work and the snowblower wouldn't start again, so I shoveled for three hours and went to work for five.
Today was the day Jethro picked to test the snowdrift in the back yard - the one that was as high as the fence - and it did hold his weight. I let him out during breakfast, after I shoveled and took a shower. When I got ready to leave for work and went to let him in, there was nothing but dog tracks in the snow. You know Jethro, bless him - he never goes far. The tracks went around Adam's house. So I went out in the driveway and called the dog, and he came running as fast as he could and followed me right back inside. That's the German shepherd in him.
The driveway before this morning's Olympics
And that's where the Winter Olympics became a family affair. I was texting Jen and told her about it. She was working from home today, and came over during her lunch hour and shoveled the snowdrift away from the fence. Bless her, it was wonderful to come home and not have to go out and shovel for another hour! And Jethro can pee without risk of untoward excitement.
Somebody did something wonderful for me today. I went to the Post Office and had a package. I was expecting the gadget for the car, but it was two packages of chai mix from Tastefully Simple. Jen swears she didn't do it, so somebody else out there must know me and like me. You didn't do it, did you? I would appreciate the thought, but it would be like that day you dropped the rose off at the dorm and didn't stay and visit. If you can send me chai, you can certainly manage Skype, so it better not have been you. Assuming it wasn't you, it was a lovely surprise and I can't wait until tomorrow morning! If I have any tonight I'll never go to sleep. It's almost worth doing anyway, but I'm being good - I restrained myself.
I have a conference call in ten minutes, so I'd better get ready for it. To sum up the day: Jethro and I got our exercise, I hurt all over, the dog can go out safely, and I'll have chai in the morning. All in all, life isn't too bad.
Love you more than chai,

Monday, February 17, 2014

Snow & Cat Wrestling

Dear John,
I'm so sorry I didn't get to talk to you last night. By the time I was ready for bed it was 3 AM, and you know what it's like to talk to me at 3 AM. So I spared you that.
I spent yesterday afternoon paying bills and getting finances caught up. I managed to cut nearly $150 off of the car insurance bill without changing our coverage. I signed up to get the policy on-line instead of paper and to put a monitoring device in the car. Since I spend the majority of my driving time on County Roads 40 and 42, the device will likely die of boredom. I'm finally paying less to cover just me and one car, than we were to cover both of us and two cars. It still amazes me that premiums increase when you're widowed, and that it's legal.
Last night I closed the Lia Sophia party. It was after 11 when I was ready to submit the order, and I found that Bank of America was off-line and not working. I don't know if it was scheduled maintenance or a problem, but it meant that I couldn't submit the order because my credit card wouldn't go through. I kept trying until 1 AM, then I gave up and put the order on the debit card. And got to bed at 3 AM. It was the first time since your death that I've wished I had a second credit card. But the debit card did fine, so I go the order in under the wire and all is well.
After being up until 3 AM, I slept in until after 11 this morning. I was sitting in bed with the laptop, and all the critters came and joined me. Jethro lay on my feet and the cats wrestled on my knees. The photo looks like they're hugging each other. But it was the beginning of a wrestling match that ended with both of them falling off the bed and onto the floor. Jethro wisely watched from a distance. A good time was had by all.
They've stayed cuddly all day, alternately competing for and sharing my lap. It's been good to have their warmth - it's cold and windy, and has snowed up to two inches an hour at times. The driveway has disappeared again and the snow is drifted above the back doorsill. They're still predicting temperatures in the upper 40s by Thursday, but for now it's definitely winter. We have flood warnings and winter storm warnings at the same time. Nobody can complain about boredom.
Tomorrow's a work day, so I need to round up the animals and get us all off to bed. I've missed you so much today - there's no special reason, but my heart seems to have its own reasons and rhythms. As usual, we're all ready to come and join you as soon as we can.
Adore you,

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Quiet Saturday

Dear John,
It's been a quiet, restful Saturday. I did some regular chores, some laundry, and gave the kitchen a good cleaning. Then I knitted and watched Netflix. I'm trying to get caught up on Bones - I've missed a lot of during the last couple of upside-down years. So I had my own marathon today.
My Lia Sophia Facebook party is ending tonight, so I've been on the phone and the laptop getting the order in. It's good to be able to do parties this way, since everything I had scheduled for the last month had to be cancelled because of the snow.
God bless the internet! Losing you would have been so much harder without Facebook, Pinterest, and all my new widowfriends. If it weren't for Facebook, I wouldn't have Hunter. Without already having Hunter to love, I don't know if Jethro would have brought Abby home. All of this has helped fill the hole in my life that you left behind. None of this would have been necessary if you hadn't forgotten to take me with you. But you never did pack for a trip without forgetting something, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. Your little family is ready if you want to come back and get us!
Adore you,

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Good, the Bad, & the Baffling

Dear John,
Let's take this chaos in order, shall we?
First, the good news: Today is the official Hockman family First Day of Spring. Today pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training. This was always the end of winter for us. It doesn't look like it outside, at least not here, but in Arizona and Florida, there is baseball. And that is good. There is hope for spring.
Second, the bad news: Ralph Waite died. He was my very favorite television father, Jackson Gibbs. I understand that some people associate him with The Waltons. But, to me, he'll always be Jackson Gibbs. I will miss him a lot.
Third: What were you thinking? Last night you showed up in a dream with another woman and introduced her to me as your new wife. Don't even try to tell me that you fell in love with a silly, fluffy, clinging, fluttering, helpless woman. I know better. I know YOU better. You wouldn't be able to stand five minutes of conversation with her. If you were trying to make me mad at you so that I wouldn't miss you on Valentines Day, you should know better. If you want to fool me, try it with a woman that's more your type. I'll never feel threatened by  a weak, flighty, helpless female. I will watch for airborne porcine activity. It was so absurd that I woke up laughing.

And so I've survived another Valentines Day. I've concluded that love is one of those diseases that you can only get once, then you're immune. You vaccinated me against all the other men on the planet. For now, I'm spending my evening with the animals, my Facebook friends, the box of Raisinettes that Jen gave me, and my Gordon Lightfoot station on Pandora. I'm cheerful and content. And as has been said before, my heart is, and always will be, yours.
Love you forever,

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Living On, Alone: Twenty-Two Months

Dear John,
Happy 22-month anniversary of your arrival in Heaven! You do know that I'm glad for you, don't you? You went through so much and tried so hard, and did it so gently and patiently. And, for you, I'm glad that it's over. For me, this is still terribly hard. But I really am glad for your sake.
This is kind like the summer that I moved to Durham three months before you did. I went ahead to start work at Duke and find a place to live, while you stayed at home to keep working and try to sell the house. You always said that it was harder for me than for you, because you were still at home with the dog and the family and our friends, while I was alone, working third shift, and renting a room in a house with seven college students. This time I'm here with the house and dog and family and friends, so I should be okay. But the parallel breaks down - you're not alone, not working third shift, and I understand that the living conditions are quite a bit different there - I can't imagine that you have to gang up on Tommy to get him to wash his own dishes.
We were only apart for three months - you came down for visits and we talked on the phone. It was something we decided together to do so you could go to seminary. And it had an end - I knew exactly when you'd be moving down. I know that this separation is temporary, too. We will be together again; I just don't get to know when. You can't visit me, and I understand that. If you could get the Skype issue worked out, it would help immensely. I do know that this is temporary, but from this side it feels so permanent sometimes. It's not forever, but it is for the rest of my life. And that's a hard thing to look at.
I guess it's really nothing like those three months, is it? It's not like anything at all. It just is what it is. And I'm happy for you. And when I get to come join you, then I'll be happy for me, too. Until then, know that I love you more than life. And I can say that now because I've found out that it's the truth. Only other widows can understand that.
Counting the months until I'm with you,

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

For Claire

Dear John,
I had fun today. I had an appointment this morning with Sonya, then I walked down to the Electric Brew for soup and chai. Did I tell you that they moved? They're around the corner in the place the used bookstore used to be. It has more space, which they needed, but otherwise it's the same, which is good. Then I went across the street to the yarn shop, picked up some lovely yarn at 40% off, and got my fix of color and fiber for a while.
I called Mayre Lou after I got home to check up on her, since Atlanta is getting hit with a snow-&-ice storm. I ended up talking to Claire for over three hours and having a lovely time. She's the only friend I have who knew me when we were children, and one of the few people that I can say absolutely anything to. I believe we've known each other for over fifty years. That sounds outrageous - I can't be old enough to have known anybody for over fifty years. But it's true. And I cherish that friendship more than I can say.
Our mothers were best friends and we did lots of things together as families. Our childhoods were a kind of backwards - in so many ways, she was what my parents wanted and I was what her parents wanted. Neither of us knew that at the time, of course. All we knew was that the other one was held up as the example of what we should be. We discovered our common plight one summer day a few years ago, when I was traveling through Atlanta and staying with them overnight, and Claire and I were cleaning up a trash pile the former owners had left in the back yard. That was an adventure in itself - we discovered some amazing stuff in there. And we sat up and talked well into the wee hours of the morning.
Claire and I always had each other's backs. Our mothers would get together and weep about what disasters we had turned out to be - you know, she became a truck driver and I married a Yankee. Then they'd talk to us about each other and we'd stand up for each other to our collective parents, which, no doubt resulted in yet more weeping. But I think we both came out rather well. And this is now a two-generation friendship that has lasted over half a century.
And we had each other's backs because we were both doing the same thing: We were being ourselves, no matter what our parents thought about it. We went our own ways and did what was right for us. We've both always been that magic combination that you loved - independent, strong-minded, smart-mouthed women. It was just coincidence that I looked like what Mayre Lou wanted and Claire looked like what Mama wanted. We were really the same thing. Swapping us out wouldn't have prevented any of the weeping.
You always loved watching Claire and me together. You saw through both of us and knew that our differences were not even skin-deep. You never understood why our mothers couldn't see that we were the same. Surface things never distracted you - you had a way of seeing what was significant in people. You knew in a minute how much alike we are. And you knew a lifelong friendship when you saw it. I believe you had as much fun as we did when we were together - you so enjoyed watching us.
Well, that's really all I have to say tonight, just that I'm grateful for an old friendship and for your enjoyment of it. Did you have just as much fun as I did today, listening in on our conversation? I know that our three-hour conversation made you happy. And it made me happy, too.
Sleep good tonight, and thank you for being so wise,

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Eleven Long-Haired Friends of Jesus in a Chartreuse Micro-Bus

Dear John,
I heard "Convoy" on the radio today. It came out in 1975, and I don't believe I'd heard it since them. I had a great time listening to it.
I was pondering the song's popularity. It gave voice to the general frustration with the gas crisis and the new 55-mph speed limit. But what most people our age loved about it was the joyful juxtaposition it gave us. For us protest hippie types, the most conservative portion of the population with the reddest necks around were truck drivers. They had less patience with us than anybody else, and the stereotype was thoroughly God-&-country. Whichever side of the barricades we were on, there were bound to be truckers on the other side.
This song shattered the barrier. It gave us truck drivers pulling off an organized protest, and doing it quite well. This time, it was the truckers up against the police and National Guard. And, just for an extra burst of delight, their convoy included eleven long-haired friends of Jesus in a chartreuse micro-bus. That's pure magic.
Did the song do anything to really unite the two sides? Probably not. I still listen to Dylan and the Colbert Report, and my trucker friends still listen to country and Rush Limbaugh. But at least I HAVE trucker friends, so something must have shifted. Maybe we all just grew up. Either way, this song did give us a glimpse of union against a common foe. And it helped us all laugh at ourselves a little bit. And that is never wasted.
Tonight I'll go to bed thinking about Rubber Duck, the Illinois National Guard, and all those hogs. And, of course, that chartreuse micro-bus. Sleep good, and have a giggle with me.
Adore you,

Monday, February 10, 2014

Grumpy Cat is an Optimist

Dear John,
Grump. That's all I have to say tonight. Grump.
Tard Doing Taxes
I was having a good, busy day off. Then I sat down to wrestle with And now I understand why you never used any of the on-line aids. You'd file on-line, but you'd work our taxes out on paper. I need paper. I'll be much happier with paper.
The problem is that I'm still too far outside the box. Instead of one W2, I have 3 1099s. That alone has rendered TaxAct speechless. To me, this year's taxes are simple. To TaxAct, they're unfathomable. I need paper.
So I'll sit down in a few days, after I've had time to be less grumpy, and print off the forms and instructions from Then I'll spread out all over the dining room table, just like you used to, and get it done in less time and with less frustration. And maybe I'll make it to April 15th without committing any acts of physical violence.
If you'd like to drop by and join me, please do. I know you loved doing taxes more than anything else in the world. And you used paper, so I have a good precedent to follow. For Grumpy Cat and me, it's paper.
Love you so much,

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Fiona, Figure Skating, and the Fab Four

Dear John,
I know where you were 50 years ago tonight! That's because you were the same place as the rest of us. You were sitting on the floor in front of the family TV set waiting for the Ed Sullivan Show, because we were going to get to see The Beatles.
February 9, 1964
Can you believe that it was fifty years ago? I remember it entirely too well for it to have been that long. It's hard to explain what it was like. What I remember most about their early music was how happy and energetic is was. I suppose the best way to explain it to young folks would be to have them listen to a Pat Boone album and then play "I Saw Her Standing There." That should do it.
I'm not watching Ed Sullivan tonight. I'm keeping tabs on the Olympics, but not watching that either. There's a Burn Notice marathon on, and a person does have to prioritize. Between figure skating and Fiona, there's really no competition. She really is your ideal woman, isn't she? You liked your women independent, strong-minded, and smart-mouthed. And you were a sucker for upper arm definition. I never minded you drooling over her, not a bit. It was reassuring. If you'd ever drooled over somebody helpless and feminine, that would have given me cause for concern!
Love you so, so much,

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Mammal Mound

Dear John,
We spent about half the day in the mammal mound watching the Olympics. I did some housework this morning, including vacuuming, which accounts for the unusual cuddliness of the critters. The dog tries to attack the vacuum cleaner and the cats are terrified of it. After I finish moving the furniture around and making noise, and put the vacuum cleaner away, everybody comes and piles up on me.
Everybody Watches the Olympics
Remember the last time we talked about making a mammal mound? When you were in Methodist Hospital in Indy for those four weeks, and we thought you'd be okay and go home, all we wanted to do was pile up in the mammal mound on the couch and do nothing together. "All of us" was you and me and Jethro then - those were the pre-cat days. But I know you - these little guys would come and curl up in your lap and start purring, and you'd melt. And the biology major in you would be fascinated by them, just like I am - how different their fur is from dog fur, how flexible they are, how loose their skin is, how bright and curious they are, so many things.
So come and join us. We'll gladly make room for you any time. I'll make meatloaf and mashed potatoes for you, Jethro will lick you, and the cats will curl up and purr in your lap. And we'll never let you leave again, not unless you take us with you.
Love you, adore you, more than life,

Friday, February 7, 2014

Snow Drifts, Sochi, & Side Issues

Dear John,
As you may know, it's winter here. I took this photo out the bedroom window this morning. Our snow drift has topped the fence. Jethro seems to know that the snow won't support his weight - he hasn't tried to go up the drift and over the fence. The latest official total I've heard is 86 inches. We'll break the record set in the winter of 1977-78. We're expecting another couple of inches tomorrow.
The cold is more of an issue now than the snow. Several school systems were closed today because of the wind chill warning. It was cold, 20 below zero, but it was a lovely day. The sky was clear, and it was lovely to see sunshine. It was one of those days to ponder the thermal issues of windows. Usually I raise the window quilts on sunny days to let the thermal energy of the sun in. But when it's below zero outside, should I leave them down to prevent heat loss through the glass? I should probably refer the question to Mythbusters. For today, I raised the quilts a few inches so the animals could look out.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the opening ceremonies of the Olympics will be starting soon. Russia is hosting, and there are all kinds of entertaining side-issues - Russian politics, gay rights, terrorist threats, the luggage of the Jamaican bobsled team got lost, somebody tried to hijack a plane to Sochi today - and who knew Jamaica had a bobsled team? It should be a good way to pass some winter evenings. Ask Mama to tell you about the summer Olympics that year when I was in high school. Robert came up from Atlanta for a visit, we opened up the sleeper sofa in front of the television, and watched every minute of everything while eating feta cheese on saltines and drinking grape Kool-aide. It was fun.
This year I have co-jack cheese for the saltines, and hot tea instead of grape Kool-aide. I'm sorry that you're missing all of this. Think about your little family making the mammal mound in front of the Olympics! All that's missing is you.
Adore you,

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Keep Your Band-Aid and Put it Over Your Mouth.

Dear John,
I've had it with Band-Aids. Not the little sticky things, but the platitudes people say when you're unhappy and they think you need them to fix it for you. I've seen and heard a lot of them lately. The theme seems to be that you shouldn't feel bad because loss is just an opportunity to get something that will be so much better than what you've lost. My most polite response is, "How dare you!" It seems that, like ogres, this has many layers.
First, how dare anyone tell me that there is anything in this world better than the man I've lost? I gave all of myself to you; I still love you with all my heart. Where I choose to give my heart is not open to public evaluation and commentary, nor does it require anyone's approval. My heart is my own to dispose of as I please, as Louisa May Alcott said. How dare anyone tell me that they know its depths or its future?
Second, there's an issue of logic here. How can anyone assume that every day in my life should be happier than the day before, until I suppose that someday I drop dead of unbearable joy? Is life supposed  to consist of ever-increasing levels of enjoyment? It's dangerous and unhealthy to assume that pain and sorrow are aberrations and always to be avoided. That's an extreme denial of reality that will come back and bite you someday.
Third, there is a counseling term for this, and that term is disqualification - the diminishing, denial, or dismissal of uncomfortable events or emotions that others experience, in order to maintain your own comfort. How dare people try to talk me out of my grief just to make themselves more comfortable? It's a common behavior - everybody with an invisible illness meets up with it all the time. But it has never infuriated me as much as it does now. Disqualify my physical pain, my exhaustion, anything else that you just don't want to deal with in your tidy little world, but keep your attitudes off of my bereavement. Disqualifying grief is the same as disqualifying the love, the relationship, the shared years, even the person whose loss you're grieving.
And that's the heart of it, isn't it? When people tell me platitudes about the best days of my life being ahead of me, or finding another husband that I'll love even more, or whatever makes them feel better, they're telling me that you aren't worth my pain. And I have nothing printable to say to that.
I'm glad I got that off of my chest. I can't remember the last time I was this angry. I can see you  sitting there listening to me, leaning back with your arms crossed across your chest, with your pastoral counseling expression fighting with your impulse to laugh. Laugh away - I feel better for having vented my spleen and I thank you for listening. And I know you understand completely. I don't know why it is so hard for some people to acknowledge that someone else is going through something that is hard, and just respect it and let it be.
I will end here so I can calm down enough to go to sleep. I'll listen to Pandora, cuddle with the cats and hug the dog, take a deep breath, wash my face, snuggle into flannel sheets, and not kill anybody tonight. No promises about tomorrow, though!
Love you with all of my heart (which is mine to dispose of as I please),

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Photo Bookends: A Pox Upon Mark Zuckerman

Our most popular photo
Dear John,
Facebook celebrated its tenth anniversary yesterday. In honor of that, they put out a new thing last night called LookBack. I made the mistake of watching mine. It's a film montage of your most popular posts for the last few years, and mine all had to do with your death. I promptly wished a pox upon Mark Zuckerman. But it's not really his fault. It's yours. If you weren't so loveable then people wouldn't love you so much, the posts with photos of you wouldn't have gotten so many likes, and I wouldn't have been subjected to emotional evisceration last night. You did this to me.
It was interesting, if excruciating. There was that photo I took of you in 2010 for an article you wrote. Then there was you the day you had your head shaved, then you up in the chair in the Goshen ICU, our headstone in the snow, our wedding photo, you and Jethro the day we brought him home, and your luminary bag from the Cancer Center run. It's our very own highlight show.
Our Second Most Popular Photo
Ant it's all about you. That's not surprising, since my life and the rest of the universe are all about you. It's nice that my life has such an appealing center - I suppose that makes me like a tootsie roll pop.
So here are my two most popular photos - the beginning and the end, photo bookends of my life. There's nothing before or after these; my life lies between the two. That's the center of the tootsie roll pop.
Adore you,

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Always Yours

Dear John,
They caught the man yesterday, somewhere in LaPorte County. He'd doubled back. We've unlocked our doors and gone back to normal. Now we're under our ordinary kind of siege - the next snowstorm is starting. We're supposed to get another 6-8 inches over the next 24 hours.
I had a thought this morning, listening to the radio on the way to work. Do you realize that we never broke up, never even thought about it? We met, became friends, started hanging out together, realized we were dating, got engaged and then married, all without interruptions or hiccups.
It didn't seem remarkable at the time. But it does now. Our relationship was constant for 34 years of marriage and 4 years of dating. Neither of us ever considered ending it. It was that good. It's still that good. Neither of us wanted romance or drama. What we had was faithfulness, dependability, stability - real grown-up love.
Stability must be so easy for you now, being outside of time and where there is no sin and all. I'm not enjoying this. But constancy still comes easily for me. No matter how many people tell me to forget, move on, find another husband, constancy is still natural to me. As Edward said, my heart is, and always will be, yours.

Monday, February 3, 2014

How a Murderer Interrupted My Plans

Dear John,
It's been a strange day. I woke up with an eye infection, so I called Rick and headed to LaGrange to get it looked at.  It turns out that it's viral, so it's not a problem.
It was a sunny day and I had errands to run, so I went to Shipshewana. I was eating meatloaf at Wanna Cup when Jen forwarded me a text from the County Sheriff's office. We knew that a convicted quadruple-murderer escaped in Michigan a couple of days ago, kidnapped a women, and had last been seen in Elkhart. Well, while I was in Shipshe this morning, they found his car there. The schools were locked down and everybody was told to go home, stay there, and only open the doors to law enforcement.
Shipshe probably didn't need any more out-of-town shoppers today, so I was good. I gave a quiet heads-up to the Wanna Cup people and sent them off to lock their back door. (You taught me well - I HATE it when restaurants have their back doors unlocked. It's such a high risk for a little bit of convenience!) I put my head back into big-city mode and even locked the car doors on the way home. As I left town, there was a line of police cars going lights-but-not-sirens downtown and out west behind Subway. I did stop here in Topeka for milk, but I didn't get gas in Shipshe like I'd planned. I wanted to leave the garage door open to air it out, and to take the dog for a walk, but I was good. I came inside, put the garage door down, and locked the doors. He's probably long gone from Shipshe, but we're the next town from there. So I'm being cautious. You should be proud of me.
Now I'm going to go heat a baked potato, but it in a sock, and keep it on my eye all evening. That's how Rick learned to do warm compresses in the Navy - isn't it a great idea? You've got to love military ingenuity. After all, that's what gave us Pleurevacs, tampons, and IV fluids in plastic bags instead of glass bottles.
Enough social commentary for one afternoon! I'll keep you posted on our local excitement. And I'll keep an eye on the weather tomorrow as the next winter storm comes through. I'll be glad to see March arrive!
Love you great bunches,

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The February Trifecta is 1 for 3

Dear John,
Today we had the February Trifecta: The Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, Groundhog Day, and the Superbowl all pulled up together in a shared taxi.
First, Groundhog Day was a failure. Phil saw his shadow, pronounced doom upon us all, and went back underground. We pretty much knew that spring is a long way away, even before the rodent spoke his piece.
The Superbowl was supposed to be a classic: #1 Offense versus #1 Defense. Good defense stopped good offense, and there was no vise versa. The Seahawks creamed the Broncos. The game was so one-sided that the only entertainment was the commercials. Dreadful game.
The third part of the trifecta was a success - the Feast was wonderful, and our latest baby was baptized. The prayer of St. Symeon resonated in me today:
Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of thy people, Israel.
Both Symeon and Anna knew what it was like to wait to be called home. I'd love to have an icon of St. Anna hanging in my room.
Jen and Bob came and cleared out the driveway for me. bless them. I got through it with no trouble to get to church this morning - yesterday's rain had compacted it quite a bit. But we have another snow storm due on Tuesday, so it's good to have the driveway cleared down to pavement. Meteorology may trump everything else this coming week, too. And just think how self-righteous we'll feel, wearing shorts and shirt sleeves when the temperature hits 40.
That's all that's happening today. I suppose it's enough - three of the four things February is known for, all happening on the same day. Now we just have to survive Valentine's Day and we'll be set for warmer weather. Preserve me from the Valentines Day television commercials! I suppose that is why God made Netflix.
Surviving February without you,

If You're Bereaved and You're a Boomer, Clap Your Hands!

Dear John,
I'm in bed with the dog and the laptop - the cats have had their treats and gone off somewhere together - and I had a thought. You know that I've been preferring music to television since going off the Cymbalta - I think alterations in attention span may be part of that - but the music is so painful now. I'm hearing either love songs that make me sad because they once made us happy, or love-lost songs that speak to me now of a much worse loss than the song intended.
Tonight it occurred to me that I can't be the only Boomer having that experience. I'm near the tip of the iceberg of Boomer widows and widowers. And, as much as we've always loved our music, I'm certain that I'm not alone in how I hear our songs. I can see us one day, filling up the nursing homes and stretching the extended-care system to its breaking point, reacting to music in ways that baffle our overworked caretakers. We've already envisioned day room fist fights over the merits of the Beatles versus the Stones. I can imagine dining hour being disrupted by mass weeping and wailing when Peter, Paul, & Mary's Wedding Song comes on over the PA system or, heaven help us, somebody plays a Dead Teenager Song.
Songs we sang so easily then, come much harder now. In the dorm I'd get out my guitar and we'd all sing Kisses Sweeter than Wine; now I skip that track on my Weavers CD. As we get older and experience more - and more terrible - losses, the old songs will sound different to more and more of us. Will we gather 'round the rec room piano and sing Let it Be with tears in our eyes? Will we laugh and flirt through When I'm Sixty-Four? Will anybody be left able to sing, when the song is Song for a Winter's Night? I bet we'll all get up to dance to Brick House - I still remember almost every move of the dance. I heard it yesterday and threw safety to the winds, making the arm motions while driving County Road 40 and passing Amish buggies in the snow.
Our nursing homes will be staffed by our grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and I wonder what they will think of us all. Like we told the student who waited on us that day we went back to UK, walked the campus, and ate lunch at K Lair Grill, we were once what she is and she will one day be what we are. And that is good. That's the way of life.
So, for now, I'm being immensely cheered by the thought that my fate will be a common Boomer experience and, being us, we will be sure to make a loud and unique statement of it. If I was Edward Gorey, I'd start drawing nursing home scenarios when certain songs were played. Since I'm not, I'll just giggle about it. Misery does value company. And, when it comes to sheer numbers, we Boomers are the gorilla in the room. I belong to an ever-growing company of bereaved Boomers. I feel better knowing that.
I'd better turn off the light now. The dog is making grumbling noises and it's tomorrow already. Love you so, so much,

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Every Little Thing

Dear John,
Once again, meteorology is the focus of the day. We got our five inches of snow this morning. Then I heard something strange, went in search of the sound, and discovered that it was raining. Then it sleeted, then snowed, then the fog came, more snow, and more rain. The sky has dropped everything except igloop. I'm still waiting for the igloop.
It's February now. There's been great debate about whether the weather this month will be better or worse than January. The only thing that is guaranteed about February is that it will be short. And that is good - the word "March" sounds incomparably better than "February." Spring will be very welcome this year.
I felt sad this afternoon - I looked out the front door and saw two doves sitting on the birdfeeder. I can't afford to buy seed now, haven't been able to feed them all winter, and that's been hard. I've fed these birds for nineteen years, and now I can't. I miss seeing them at the feeders and knowing that I'm helping them get through the winter. They come sometimes and eat the crabapples off of the trees. But there are no sunflower seeds for them now. At the least I'll be able to put out yarn bits in spring for nesting time.
In the meantime, I'll put this little sign here for the birds and me. A Pinterest friend pinned this today, and it was just what I needed to hear. I will be okay, the birds will be okay - every little thing will be okay. And spring will come. And someday, after the ground thaws maybe Jen will let me dig.
Love you so much,