Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Sentimental Journey Through the Freezer

Dear John,
I hit a milestone at work today: a week without a mistake, balancing to the penny every day. As I pulled out of the parking lot, I realized that you would have taken me out to celebrate. Instead, I picked up Gatorade on the way home, took a nap so the temperature had time to drop below 90, and mowed. But you and I had that moment of celebration on our way out of the parking lot. Thank you for that.
I took a sentimental journey through the freezer yesterday. I went looking for frozen blueberries and found them, but I also found a bag of cranberry walnut bagels you brought home from Panera for me. They must have been here since Christmas of 2011. I'd double-bagged them, so they're still perfectly good.
Every Christmas season you brought some home for me, and I made them last the whole year since they were one of Panera's seasonal items. You paid attention to the little things that I liked, and it made you happy to do things like that for me. It meant the world to me that you cared enough to do those things. It was so much a part of who you were.
And tonight, one of those bagels made me happy. Thank you for bring them home over two years ago. They've stood the test of time, much like we're still doing.
Love you for all time,

Friday, May 30, 2014

Talking About Talking About Nothing

Dear John,
There really isn't anything to say tonight, but that's never stopped us from having a good time talking to each other. So here I am, and it feels good to just know that I'm talking to you. For a little while, I feel closer to you.
I had a good day at work. It was maybe a bit slower than most Fridays because of the holidays this week. I cancelled the dog reservations and I'm back on the schedule for next week, but Danielle knows that I may have to leave for Springfield soon. Your mother is getting weaker. She's having trouble swallowing, and is getting thick liquids only. Irene still can't understand much of what she says. My heart breaks for her, knowing what she's going through. And I hurt so for Jim and Irene, too. Please keep praying for all of them.
Meantime, it's sunny and 80 here, and the petunias in the window boxes make the whole house smell good. I decided last February that I would be happy with any weather that did not include snow. It's good to look outside and see some color other than white! It took a while for winter to go away, but we've had a beautiful late spring-early summer.
I'm working tomorrow, so I'll be off to bed soon. I love you great bunches and miss you more than I can say.
Adore you,

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Widow Friends & Edith Ann

Dear John,
I'm feeling much better tonight. And that's the truth. (You'll have to imagine Edith Ann's sound effects here. I don't know how to type that noise.)
WFFs Trudging Along Together
It helped to talk to you last night. And I had a long talk with the Widow Friends;  they were wonderful, as they always are. There is great benefit from facing up to how you feel - when you look it in the face, sometimes it runs away. And I had a good day at work. It was the Feast of the Ascension, as you know. Since the local Amish community keeps the Feast, bless them, about half of town was closed. Some of the plants closed for the whole week, since Monday was Memorial Day and today was Ascension. It helped to have a slower day and catch my breath a bit.
Thank you for listening to me. And my thanks to you, and all of the guys, for bringing all of us widows together. We would infinitely prefer to have you back. But, if you absolutely had to leave us, thank you for being sure that we found each other. They say the things to me that you would say if you were here. I can't imagine living without them.
So tonight, hug all the guys for me. While you're all in one place, you might take some time and pray for all of us. We'd love to have you visit us in our dreams. But first, please review the Dream Visit Rules we've talked about, and plan something pleasant to do while you're here. No nightmares allowed!
Longing for you,

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

I'm Sorry

Dear John,
I owe you an apology. I wasn't honest when I wrote to you Monday night. I wanted to be cheerful for you, so I forced it and tried to not let you know how I was feeling. And how I'm feeling is really really lousy.
I could never fool you, and I probably didn't fool you on Monday, either. There are things I'd so love to talk to you about if you were here. Since you aren't, all I can say is that I'm farther down than I've ever been before. I'm stressed, exhausted, discouraged, and broke. The worst thing is that I have no reason to expect that any of that to change. I look at the future and there is not one moment that looks bearable. The only thing I look forward to is death.
I did some yard work today - pruned the roses, planted petunias in the window boxes, and sprayed the weeds with vinegar. I took a nap after that, and then found a Dead Like Me marathon. You'd think it wouldn't be the best thing for me today, but it's been pretty good. There's a dark, sardonic humor to it that suits me now.
I'm so sorry I tried to hide something from you. I feel terrible about it. I've always been honest here, but Monday night I felt like I'd been down for so long that you'd be sick of hearing me whine. But I know that you love me and want to know how I feel, no matter what that involves. I'll try to do better.
And I know that you know me well enough to be able to handle my honesty without thinking that you need to fix things for me or launch an intervention of some sort. You know that I'll keep trudging on. You know that I know that whatever God sends is what is best. I trust Him. And from here on out, I'll trust you with the truth. It's all I have to give you now, and you deserve it. Please forgive me. And please pray for me. If you could come talk to me in a dream tonight, it would really help.
Love you with all my heart,

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

I Have Bad News & Bad News

Dear John,
I'm exhausted. We had storms last night and the dog kept me awake until after 1:00. I really do have to get him a thunder shirt. He kept squirming in my lap and climbing on me - I have an alarming array of bruises.
I have some distressing news for you. I heard from Irene last night that your mother had a stroke yesterday. She has some drooping on the left side of her mouth and that makes it hard for her to talk. It's early so there's no good idea yet of know what the residual damage will be. They aren't trying to dissolve the clot because she's 90 - that would almost certainly do more harm than good.
I feel so for her, and for Jim and Irene. I wish I could be there to help, but probably couldn't do much for anybody anyway. Irene and I won't be going to the Keys for Danica's graduation next week. I'm not offering yet to work next week in case there is something useful I can do in Springfield.
I started to tell you to pray for your mother and sister, but I know that you already do. And you probably know more about what's going on than I do. Remember to pray for me, too, and for Jethro since we're expecting more storms tonight and tomorrow.
Love you so much,

Monday, May 26, 2014

On Mowing and Man Caves

Dear John,
I spent Memorial Day working in the yard. I mowed and trimmed, and had lots more to do but was worn out after that. Since I'm working tomorrow, I came inside and have rested the rest of the day. I don't know why it wore me out so much today - maybe because it's warmer. This is my first mowing day this year that it's been in the 80s.
I sat down to eat and found a Criminal Minds marathon, and I've been thinking again about how glad I've always been that we liked the same things on television. I used to tell you how glad I was that you didn't like chick flicks. And, as I also told you about a million times, I'm so glad I married a man that likes sports! It's hard to imagine that, out of all the guys I dated, there wasn't another one that liked sports. But you were the only one. So, of course, I had to marry you.
Having grown up where SEC meets ACC, I came loving football and basketball. Then I discovered baseball, and you taught me to like golf. I'm back to enjoying watching football and basketball now. Baseball, as I've said, is still uncomfortable. And I can't imagine watching golf again without you. It will be a long time, if it ever happens at all.
Our list of favorite television would look alarming to lots of people. We liked crime shows and mysteries, mostly. We liked some comedy, but it usually wasn't what everybody else was watching. We used to joke that all our favorite authors were dead and out of print, and our favorite television was rather like that, too.
I adore you, you know. We were always good intellectual companions. You used to sneer at man caves, and we said that, if you ever had one, you'd have to share it with me. I've never put Oxygen or We on the television list, but Spike and several versions of ESPN are there. Yep, I'd move into that man cave with you.
Thank you for never trying to turn me into a girly-girl. Of course, you had plenty of chances if that was what you wanted. Any guy that wanted a girly-girl would run from me. You ran toward me - you always wanted me to be just what I was. Thank you for wanting an independent, strong-minded, smart-mouthed woman.
Adore you,

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Through the Looking Glass with Rod Serling

Dear John,
I had a good lunch with you today. It was a perfect day for a picnic. The cemetery was crowded because of Memorial Day weekend. I haven't see so many people there since your funeral. There was a lot of cleaning up going on, lots of wreaths and flags going up.
I went to confession this morning. I talked (and cried) about feeling so much fear and anxiety, and not being able to get in touch with faith, peace, or gratitude at all. Father listened and said that none of this was sin, just the emotional consequences of starting a new chapter of my life. I thought about it, and told him after the liturgy that, since I'm such a head person, I have no idea what to do when my emotions take center stage. He understood, and said that I'm definitely more Vulcan than human. I laughed and told him that he's right - when I was a kid, Mr. Spock was the only reasonable adult in my universe.
And that's really what's going on here. The anxiety isn't about the job - it's about stepping into  a new life alone. And it isn't primarily about anxiety - it's really about grief. I've just recently become able to look at my future, and now I find myself in it. I'm through the looking glass, trying to find my way among hookah-smoking caterpillars, talking rabbits, hatters, and goodness knows what else. And I don't want to be here at all. It's no wonder I'm struggling.
I was looking around while I was eating my burger with you. On the other side of the creek there's a city park with swings, monkey bars, and slides. I can always hear the young families with children over there, and sometimes I can catch glimpses of them through the trees and brush that grow next to the creek. They never look my way; they aren't aware than there is a cemetery just across the creek. That's very much what this life is like. The young, happy, normal people are on one side of the creek and the grievers are on the other. They don't know that we are here. But we can hear them and sometimes see them. The creek and underbrush separate us from each other.
While I was pondering the significance of this, I saw a large family with a bunch of children leave the park and cross the bridge into the cemetery. Because this is Memorial Day, the family reunion included a trip to the cemetery to clean up the family graves, lay wreaths, and plant flags. It's the first time I've ever seen that bridge crossed. The happy, exuberant family was very quiet as soon as they passed the bridge. It's solemn and quiet on this side of the creek.
It was interesting to think about all of this, since I'm feeling so separated from normal people and ordinary life. I've said before that I like the year-long restrictions of Victorian widowhood - it is a practical way to protect the grieving during the hardest days. Now I realize that it's just an expression of reality. We widows really are separate from everybody else. The other people don't know it. But we're here, behind glass walls, or closed doors, or across the creek behind the underbrush. We're set apart from the rest of life, no longer part of a couple, not part of the dating scene, unfamilied, unfriended by our married friends - separate. We live in another reality, a sort of parallel existence. There's a feeling of Rod Serling about it.
I don't want this to sound self-pitying. It's just the way it is. Loss of a husband includes loss of self-image, self-confidence, social place, friends, financial security - it's hard to think of what you don't lose. Maybe all you get to keep is God. You have to learn to let that be enough.
Loving you amid the wreckage,

Saturday, May 24, 2014

More Metaphysics, with a Dutch Rennert Postscript

Dear John,
I don't know what to say tonight. I had a good day and I'm completely miserable.
After work I went to South Bend, and used part of the gift card Jen got me to buy some work clothes for summer. It was a beautiful, perfect day. And I'm completely miserable.
On the way home I came through the intersection where I had the accident almost three years ago. I'm sure you remember that the first thing I thought when we were told about your biopsy results in 2011 was, "I wish I'd died in the accident." And my second thought was that you didn't need to deal with cancer after being recently widowed, so it was good that I'd survived. And, since my survival is a certain medical impossibility, I know it was what God wanted.
Well, today I went through the intersection again and thought, "I wish I'd died in the accident." I went crawling around in the back of my head and I realized that, no matter what could be changed about my life, I'd still feel that way without you. If I had plenty of money and was thin and didn't have to work and could travel wherever I wanted and do anything I wanted to do, I'd still wish I'd died in the accident.
It seems that all the world together can't take your place. All the world together doesn't appeal to me at all. And I'm not alone in that. Some of the older widows in town have come into the bank this week, and when they see me they ask how I am and we talk. They all say that they keep on keeping on, but have no interest or pleasure in life. It's a matter of dogged determination, forced cheerfulness, existence without meaning.
And that is what stretches out in front of me - the possibility of decades of this. I can do what I have to, but you can see that is seems a bit daunting. And I'm sad to realize how many of the people around me have lived this way for years. At least some of us have found each other. And that helps.
So I suppose the upshot of all this is: Could you come and get me soon? Very soon? Right now? Tonight or tomorrow? Or maybe after I get back from Danica's graduation - I really shouldn't miss that. Soon, at any rate? There is nothing to keep me here.
Wanting to be with you,

PS - I have to share a giggle with you. There's a softball game going on down beside the sale barn, and the umpire on the plate sounds just like Dutch Rennert calling balls and strikes. You'd love it. Good night now - sleep good!

Friday, May 23, 2014

When You Took Me Out to the Ball Game

Dear John,
I had a good, busy day at work - not only is it Friday, but it's Friday before a holiday weekend. After twenty years in critical care, I don't mind busy. It was good.
Today I've been feeling grateful for this job. It was payday, which always helps, but it's more than the fact that I'm expecting solvency to arrive soon. This afternoon I realized how much I have learned in the last month. It's a whole new area of study for me, and it's good for me to stretch my brain in a new direction. After all, Mythbusters determined that you can teach an old dog new tricks.
I saw Harry yesterday. He was telling me about going to a game at Wrigley last week, and I've been remembering all the games we went to. And there were a lot of them - when we lived in South Bend, we went to at least twenty games a year and had our regular seats with our little group in the left field bleachers. I remember having fun with the other team's outfielders during batting practice - remember the throwing contest Orel Herschizer had with the fans? And there was that Expos game when that guy had the most delightfully obscene parody of O Canada. You had a reputation for being the only real, actual bleacher preacher, and I was known for being the only person in the bleachers that not only kept score, but kept pitch counts. We loved our little group of friends. And after the games we'd go to Leona's for dinner before driving home. And we'd both reek of garlic for days.
There are so many good memories. Wrigley is one place I can't imagine going without you. Even baseball on television is hard to watch without you. Watching it with you, going to games together, learning from you, watching you umpire, keeping score for the Goshen Men's League tournaments - all those memories are so rich and wonderful. But they make baseball quite uncomfortable still. No, I can't imagine going to Wrigley again.
But I have so many wonderful memories, and I'm grateful. If you were here, we'd certainly get there to celebrate the 100th Anniversary. Maybe you will get to go - if so, think about me. And them come and tell me all about it.
Thank you for taking me out to the ball game,

Thursday, May 22, 2014

That "Meaning & Purpose" Thing Again.

Dear John,
I had a good day at work. I was in the lobby instead of the drive-up. It's fun in the lobby. There are people there. I feel much more cheerful  and less stressed tonight.
If you get the chance, hunt Willie up and tell him how much I enjoyed talking to Alanna today. We talked about the two of you, of course, and how we're doing on our own, and how much we miss you both. It helps to talk to people who share this awful experience. I wish nobody else had to go through this, but if they do, it's good to do it together.
I was thinking about my job tonight. It's good to be back in a service job - I had missed that. It gives meaning to what I do. Working in critical care was meaningful, but what gave my life meaning was you. Now, once again, I have work that has meaning. But I still struggle to find meaning to my life. I'd like to have meaning and purpose, but I don't, and I don't know if I ever will again. It's hard to live this way, and it's frightening to think about living the rest of my life like this.
Well, meaning and purpose aren't things that I can force or artificially create. I suppose they are gifts from God. If He wants to give them, I will gladly receive. If not, I will survive. Please pray for me, but I have no idea what for or how. I'll leave that up to you. If all else fails, just pray, "Lord, have mercy."
Struggling without you,

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Thunder, Shirts, & Jane Austen

Dear John,
My day off was divided between housework and recovering from last night. It was a rough night.
I didn't even try to sleep until 1:30 because of the storms. I got a few hours of sleep until the storms started again around 6:00. Abby slept on the bed and Hunter, being the smartest member of the family, managed to be somewhere else.
Jethro kept me completely occupied. He wanted to sleep on my head, which is nothing unusual, but for the first time he insisted on draping himself over my face. Breathing is a hard habit to break, so we worked out a compromise. I moved the pillow about a foot away from the headboard so he could lie between them. I couldn't stretch my legs out, but at least I could breathe.
That worked for a while. When the storms were more intense I just turned on the light and sat up. Having the laptop out incurred an unacceptable risk of it being trampled by the dog, so I put a book on his back and read while he lay in my lap. It was an interesting night, spent with Jane Austen, lightning, and a frantic German shepherd.
So today I'm pondering the possibility of getting a Thunder Shirt for him. Everything I hear says that they really work. All I know is that Jethro was so worked up last night that Benadryl had no effect on him. I found a pattern on Pinterest (where else?) for a homemade one. I may give it a try.
I'm working tomorrow, so we'll all be heading off to bed soon. I do hope for an uneventful night's sleep. Please pray that your little family sleeps well tonight!
Adore you,

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Happy Anniversary, My Love

Dear John,
Happy anniversary, my love! We've been married thirty-six years today. We only got to spend thirty-four of those years together. But we've been married for thirty-six years. I'm still just as married to you as I was when you were here on earth. You can't unscramble an egg.
I wanted to talk to you about memories of our wedding, but today I just can't do it. Spending this anniversary alone hurts, and I can't see the good memories right now, just the pain. I'll get there. But it won't be today.
I looked through my On Widowhood board on Pinterest tonight. I didn't help decrease the pain I feel. I am alive and doing well - the job is going well, and it's putting me on a much firmer financial foundation. Spring is here, my animals love me. And all I want is to be with you.
I know that you knew, and know, how happy I was with you. You also knew, and know, how little I wanted to out-live you. Know that I love you more than I can ever say, more than life, more than all of this world put together. Please pray for me, that it won't be long until I'm with you again.
Worship the ground you walk on,

Monday, May 19, 2014

My New Recurring Dream

Dear John,
I dreamed about you last night. It was my new usual dream - I dreamed that you were back. You had really died, but you'd gone to Heaven and been healed, and then came back.
We always have such a good time. It's the first time I've ever known you with no health problems. By the time we met in college, you'd already had rheumatic fever and knew there was a valve replacement in your future. And three months later you had your first round of cancer. In these dreams, it's so nice to have you perfectly healthy.
It's nice, it's always a hard thing to get used to. It's a bit of a shock in every dream. And somewhere in the dream I find myself wondering what effect it might have on your personality and behavior. I remember one time a few years ago when we were talking about all of your health issues. We decided that we couldn't say we wished none of it had happened, because we had no idea who we would be if you'd always been healthy. And that's my concern in every one of these new dreams. I tell myself that you're in your late fifties so you're unlikely to change in any substantive way, but I'm always anxious about it.
So tonight I'm thinking about the futility of asking "what if." Your cancer, radiation, and the aftermath were such major parts of our lives that I really don't know who we would have been without them. And that leads me back to the theological realities. If God is all-loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful, then what he does and allows are for our eternal good. All of your health problems were a necessary part of our journey toward Heaven. Remembering this helps me to be grateful even in the midst of pain. It would help more if you had just remembered to take me with you when you left - but I don't want to nag you about that, so we'll leave that there.
Adore you just as you are,

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Best Present Ever

Dear John,
I was looking at family photos today and I found the ones I took of Bert right after you got him for me. I want to thank you again for giving me the best present ever. Don't tell my parents that it edges out my first bike.
You got it for my fifty-fifth birthday. We'd planned to go to Springfield and have Thanksgiving with your family that year, but I was in the middle of that awful case of mono and couldn't go. So I talked you into going anyway. You felt bad about me being alone for Thanksgiving and my birthday, so you gave me my birthday present early. And it was Bert. I slept with him while you were gone.
I remember that you'd ordered him and had him shipped to you at work instead of at home - you didn't want me to get a package from CBS because I'd know what it was. The day it arrived you opened it there at work. Everybody was gathered around to see what you were giving me for my birthday. A few of them were shocked and horrified, predicting that I would soon file for divorce after receiving a stuffed, farting hippo from my husband. It is certain that those were the people who had never watched NCIS. Everybody else understood that it was the best present ever.
And it was, and it still is. Bert lives in the place of honor on the bed. I don't sleep with him anymore, now that there's a German shepherd and two cats that have to fit somewhere. But he gets a hug and a kiss from me every morning and night. When I look at him I smile and remember that you knew me well enough to know just what I wanted, and cared enough to get it no matter how socially unacceptable it might be. Bert still makes me happy.
So thank you again for Bert. Thank you for knowing me so well, and for loving me anyway.
Love you, adore you, and worship the ground you walk on,

Saturday, May 17, 2014

How I Won the Wet Tee Shirt Contest

Dear John,
The short version is that the yard is mowed. The long version is much more entertaining.
Hail to the Hail
There was a chance of showers after 4:00 today, so I got home from work, ate a cheese stick, and was mowing by 12:45. I got halfway through and the sky started getting darker. Then the hail came. I've never mowed in quarter-inch hail before. It changed into rain about twenty minutes before I finished.
So I won the neighborhood wet tee shirt contest today. I was soaked to the skin by the time I got inside. I won by default - I was the only one crazy enough to be out working in the yard in a hail storm. But it had to get done today - I'm working until Wednesday, and we're supposed to have thunderstorms all that day. I didn't get the trimming done. Even I'm not stupid enough to be out with an electric trimmer in the rain. And I need to cut back those three little rose bushes in front of the porch. Maybe I can get that done tomorrow.
But the big job is finished for the week. Tomorrow I can relax and enjoy my day off. Aren't you sorry you missed all this?
Adore you,

Friday, May 16, 2014

Long Days & Lonely Nights

Dear John,
I had a good day, but a very long and busy one. I worked the drive-up from 7:30 to 6:00. It's non-stop on Fridays, and the hard thing about the drive-up is that you can't sit down. So I wore my most comfortable shoes, which are still those old black Rockports that I've had for years. I'll be heading off to bed by 8:00 tonight. Tomorrow I'll work until noon. I need to mow tomorrow afternoon, but now we have a fifty per cent chance of rain. The grass is really long, so I hope it's dry enough.
I really miss you at night now. I always have, but now, with a new job, there's so much I want to tell you every night. The good thing is that I'm tired enough at night that I don't lie awake. I still dread going to bed, though. One of the good things about this job is that I have to get up at 5:30 so I have to go to bed early. I can't put it off like I used to. I still hate going to bed without you, but I also hate getting up at 5:30 when I haven't gotten much sleep. So I'm going to bed early every night now, and it's good for me.
And now I'm off down the hall. We'll all miss you tonight. Please pray for your little family! And stop by and visit sometime.
Love you, adore you, worship the ground you walk on,

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Memories of Spring and Crabapples

Dear John,
We had a nice week of spring this year. Today's high was 51 and we have a frost advisory for tonight. It's The Winter That Wouldn't Die. The best thing I can say is that it isn't snowing. I was afraid of this, after the long hard winter we had, so I haven't planted my window boxes yet. It seems that's a good thing.
On the good side, our crabapple trees are finally blooming. I remember the day we planted them. They've gotten so big since then. And the one to the east, the one you put into the ground crooked, is still crooked. I've gotten rather fond of it's crookedness. We used anniversary money from your mother and went to the nursery in Mishawaka. I told them I wanted two crabapple trees with a spreading habit and medium-pink flowers. They showed me Prairie Fire, with the leaves green on the top and burgundy on the bottom, and I fell in love with them. They're beautiful all year round, and the birds love to eat the crabapples. It's nice to look at them and remember the day we went out together and got them.
I had a good day at work. I was on the drive-up window by myself today. Everything went well - no excitement, balanced with no problems. Tomorrow will be a long day - 7:30 - 6:00. The next day will be my first Saturday to work. The bank closes at noon, then I'll come home and mow. It should be cool and dry - a good day to work in the yard.
For now, I'm looking out the window - it looks like spring and feels like winter. I even closed the house yesterday and turned on the heat. But it's not actually snowing, so we're still ahead!
Adore you no matter what season it is,

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Solace Comes in Different Sizes

Dear John,
I've had a good day off. To the great delight of the animals, I spent the day at home. The yard needs mowing but it has rained all day. I did laundry, vacuumed, dusted, and gave the kitchen a thorough cleaning. As soon as I sat down, everybody came and lay down together on the couch and fell asleep. Maybe it was the cool, rainy day. Maybe it was the fact that Mom stayed home all day for the first time in three weeks. Either way, a good time was had by all.
And I'm feeling better. Last night was the lowest I've been since your death. I've never desired my own death quite that much. I didn't expect that point to come after two years. It seems that changing jobs shook some things loose. Working for Kathy was something that I had done while you were alive. Now I'm doing something that you weren't a part of, and that has had emotional consequences that I didn't expect.
The animals seemed to know how I felt - all of them have been right by me all day. And your sister seemed to know, too. She called, and the conversation did wonders for me. She said things that you would have said. Most of them were things that I already knew, but there are some things that you have to hear from another person.
So tonight I feel much better. Solace came from unexpected sources. Your sister and the animals love me, and I'm grateful.
Still watching for that stagecoach,

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Watching the Sky for Stagecoaches

Dear John,
I'm off tomorrow, so it's after 9:00 and I'm still up - what craziness! I just watched NCIS and sniveled my way through Jackson Gibbs' funeral. I will miss him.
And I miss you, so much. It's been 25 months today, and all I can think is to wonder - again - how on earth you forgot to take me with you. How long do I have to wait here? Do you know? I'm all packed and ready to leave. It's like I have a bus ticket but I don't know when the bus is leaving. Will it be like the scene in Purgatory, when the big stagecoach comes down from the sky?
I'm just weary tonight. My body is getting used to working full time for the first time since 1989, twenty-five years ago. And my brain is learning a new career, which is always a challenge at my age. But today went well, and I'm grateful for the job and looking forward to the financial security.
Meanwhile, I miss you and wish I could be with you. I will keep scanning the sky for stagecoaches.
Come get me soon?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Home Isn't Quite Home Without You

Dear John,
I did something interesting emotionally today, so I have to come and talk to you about it.
Today at work was good but a bit overwhelming. I'm at the drive-up this week, and it turns out that the drive-up person is responsible for lots of other things, too. Trying to learn all the things and how to do them definitely strained my brain. I came home feeling good about the day but, as I said, a bit overwhelmed. And it was my long day - nine hours on my feet.
When I came in the door this afternoon, I had that sense of returning to a haven that I haven't had for a long time, probably not since I stopped doing hospital work. But I immediately felt bad because you weren't here and you're not going to be here. Home is a haven, but a rather empty one. Home hasn't felt this lonely for a long time. The next emotion wasn't so surprising. It was an overwhelming longing for the days that I was a stay-at-home wife, doing volunteer work and looking after you.
Those days aren't coming back, are they? Like in my dream last week, even if you do come back, since you're dead you won't be able to work more than part-time and I'll still have to work. (Don't blame me for my dreams.) My life now is as good as it can be without you. I have no complaints. But I'd give the whole world to have you back.
I'm wondering what all this amounts to. It's probably not much and it's certainly nothing new. I love you, I miss you, it's hard here without you, and I don't like it at all. Tonight I'm feeling sad and lonely. I'm home, and I love home, but home isn't quite home without you. That's what it is - home isn't quite home without you. Home is where you are. I think I just want to go home.
Lonely from traveling,

Sunday, May 11, 2014

I'm Turning Into My Mother

Dear John,
I had a nice picnic with you after church today, and I believe I got a touch of sunburn. It's sunny and mid-80s, and I love it. After I left you I did grocery shopping, then came home and walked the dog, exchanged Mother's Day gifts with Jen, and called your mother.
I've been thinking about Mama this weekend, and how I've turned into her in so many ways. One trait she passed on to me is the tendency to talk to anybody and everybody, anywhere and everywhere. While I was mowing yesterday, I got to thinking about one incident in particular.
I know you will remember this. We lived in Lexington, and I was working second shift in CCU. There was a black guy that worked for housekeeping and came in every evening to empty our trash. The first time he came in I said hello, and we gradually started talking. I initiated the conversation at first. I knew the old racial protocols - there was no way a black man could initiate a conversation with a white woman - Emmett Till taught that even to people up north. And in those days all housekeeping people were black and all nurses were white. In spite of that, we got to be friends.
One night, one of the other nurses asked me if I wasn't afraid to talk to him. I said of course not - what was I supposed to be afraid of? She said he might follow me home some night. That was ridiculous, but I managed not to say so - she was from a part of Kentucky that had no black people, and had only known the television and film stereotypes. I did say that I couldn't imagine a lonelier job that going around emptying trash all night, with nobody to ever say a word to. He deserved for people to appreciate what he did and be nice to him.
The rest of the story came exactly a week later. She and I were going out for dinner after work and were going to take her car. When we went outside around midnight, we found that she had a flat tire. While we were looking at it, here came my friend across the parking lot - he'd seen that we were in trouble, and he changed the tire for us.
We never discussed it, but she stopped telling me to be scared of him. Maybe it helped her to be less afraid of people that were different from her. Maybe it helped her to understand that the great majority of people are capable of great goodness. I know it gave him a chance to do something special for me, and that made him happy. And I was glad to be indebted to him.
It was a thing of beauty, and one that I like to remember. And it was just the kind of thing that always happened to Mama. Please share this letter with her and tell her thank you for me. She certainly taught me a healthy caution. But from her I learned to be open to people and expect them to be good. And almost all of them are. Because of her, I've had some amazing encounters with strangers and have made some unexpected friends. Tell her that I'm glad I've turned into her. That will make her smile. Hug her for me and tell her how much I love and miss her, and how much I long to be there with all of you. She adored you - keep her company until I get there.
Love you, adore you, worship the ground you walk on,

Saturday, May 10, 2014

More Mowing Musings: A Life Divided

Dear John,
I mowed today. The good thing about mowing is that it gives you lots of time to think. The bad thing about mowing is that it gives you lots of time to think.
I've been seeing memes on Facebook and Pinterest lately that say that, during rough times, God is in charge and has even better things ahead for you. I agree with the first part - God is in charge. The second part makes me cringe.
I suppose it all depends on your understanding of the word "better." I know absolutely that what my future holds is what is necessary for my eternal good. But most people probably understand it to mean that their future will be happy and easy. I'm finally able to look the future in the face and I'm dealing with in as constructively and responsibly as I can. But I do not expect either ease or happiness - the best I hope for is contentment. I expect to mourn for the rest of my life. I'm learning to be content while knowing that the best of all the years have gone by. I will make the best of the future that I have. But I have no high expectations and I do not look forward to it.
I'm not depressed or sad - please don't misunderstand me. From what I hear from long-time widows, I'm being normal. While you were here I loved life and looked forward to the future, certain that it would be as wonderful as my past had been. That joy of living has been replaced by stubborn endurance. There will be, and are, things that I enjoy. But I cannot think that I will ever feel that kind of joy in living again.
I shouldn't blame the memes. They're written for people at a very different stage of life than this undesirable place were I am, and I'm sure they meet a need. Widowhood is a lonely place - you are so out-of-step with everybody else. There's this gaping chasm between your experience and that of everybody else. You look at life from the other side of the glass. and the other people don't even know that you're on the outside looking in. It's a parallel existence.
What makes it livable is knowing you share the experience with almost all of the women who have ever lived. There is a great cloud of witnesses. And our little group is doing it together, and that helps even more. Just don't tell me that, after a while of grieving, life will go on like it did before. Your death split my life into two parts and things will never be like they were before. People who aren't widowed can't understand that; I didn't either until it happened to me. Now I'm on the outside looking in. But I have friends with me, and both of my grandmothers, and all of my great aunts, and your mother and grandmother.
So I need to get a grip, stop griping about the memes, and remember that I live in a different world. The next world will be with you. Hurry the day!
Adore you,

Friday, May 9, 2014

MST3K & Cat Projectiles

Dear John,
The day started out with a bang. You know Hunter often comes up on the bed and sleeps on me. Around 2:00 AM he came up, but this time he jumped onto me and not the bed. It's amazing how much force hits you when a 12 1/2 pound cat comes flying through the air. I was sound asleep, and I let out a blood-curdling scream. Jethro and Abby were sleeping on the bed - until I screamed - and all three animals fled in terror. Jethro and I were soon back asleep but I didn't see either of the cats until morning. Hunter didn't speak to me until after work today. It was disruptive, but I got a good laugh out of it.
This was my last day of training, and was largely devoted to federal check regulations and the benefits program. It will be wonderful to have real benefits again - health insurance, dental, vision, HSA, and life insurance. I'm beginning to feel like a grown-up. I took Sue to lunch today. And we did go to Chicago Joe's. Great stuff.
I had the radio on coming home and heard "Born to Run." And, as always, when we got to "strap your hands across my engines," I hollered out, "Who taught her those words?" And only you would understand - it's from that episode of MST3K where Gypsy is singing the song, and is one of the funniest moments they ever created.
That show was made for us, wasn't it? I remember the first time we saw it. We were at your mother's house waiting for Jim and Irene to get there so we could all go eat. You had heard about the show and ran across it on television. We only saw a few minutes, but it was enough to make us fans for life. It was smart comments for geeks - they could have named it that. People seem to either love or hate it. We loved following life on the Satellite of Love.
I don't think we ever found out who taught Gypsy those words, but it doesn't matter. This afternoon I was driving down Hawpatch Road with the windows down shouting the question to the world. And I missed you, and laughed at the memory. I suppose that's the reason why somebody taught her those words.
Still adore you after all these years,

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Survival of a Family Tradition

Dear John,
I found the neatest place for lunch today. You'd love it - it's just the kind of place we liked to find. If you can come for a visit, remind me to take you there.
There's a place in LaGrange that I wanted to try while I'm there for training, and I got there today. It's called Chicago Joe's and, yes, it's about hot dogs. I haven't had a Chicago dog since the place in Elkhart turned into a Mexican fast food place, and you know how I love Chicago hot dogs.
It's a little place in an old building across from the court house. The owner cooks and one employee runs the register and gets drinks. The have hot dogs, some sandwiches, pizza by the slice, and fries and onion rings. The booths and old and wonderful. It's just your kind of place - good food, local, nothing fancy. It was so good that I may go back tomorrow.
We always had fun finding places to eat when we traveled, looking for the little local places. Neither of us ever had an epicurean molecule in our bodies. We found diners and barbecue shacks and hot dog stands, and loved every bit of it.
Now I'm doing it without you. It would be infinitely more fun with you. But I thought you'd like to know that I'm carrying on the family tradition. I'll keep checking out the little local places, and I'll be thinking about you and wishing you were with me.
Love you even more than Chicago dogs,

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

On Headscarves

Dear John,
I found this and thought about you. You loved to buy me beautiful scarves and shawls to wear to church. One of the things I love about being Orthodox is covering my head at church - it helps me focus better, pray better, be less distracted, and know where I am. And you got me so many scarves and shawls to wear.
I still get compliments on them. People are surprised when I say, "John got me that." They don't expect a man to buy things like that for a woman, I suppose. But you knew that I liked them and would use them, and wouldn't be likely to buy them for myself. So you kept an eye out for pretty ones.
I've bought a few since you died. There's a place in Fort Wayne that has the most beautiful ones I've ever seen, for less than twenty dollars. You'd love going there and seeing all of them. When I buy them for myself now I don't feel sad - I know that I'm doing something that you want me to do, and it makes me happy. And it's a very happy thing to wear the ones you gave me.
Thank you for paying attention to what I liked. Thank you for wanting to do things that would make me happy. Of course, you made me happy without doing anything at all. And remembering you still makes me happy.
Still loving the scarves you gave me,

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Love of a Dog

Dear John,
I had another good day at work. It turns out I'm going to be working in Topeka tomorrow - Danielle wants to orient me before she takes a few days off. I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.
Tonight I was telling Jethro that I love him and, as I usually do, I told him that his father loved him very much, too. That got me thinking about you and the dog.
Jethro's first day with us
I remember the day we brought him home from the shelter. I have pictures of him in your lap licking your face. We had balls for him, and you went outside the next day and played with him for hours. You were so sad when you couldn't play rough with him anymore. But he loved his Daddy just the same.
He was so good for you when you were feeling bad. I remember you sitting in the recliner on oxygen, with Jethro asleep in your lap. I was working and keeping up with the house and shopping; Jethro could spend all his time with you. I know how much he meant to you during that time. He loved you no matter what - it didn't matter to him that you couldn't do much. He just loved his Daddy.
When you were in the hospital in Indy for four weeks, two months before your death, he was boarded at the vet's and having a wonderful time. Bless his heart, he loves going to the vet. I remember saying to you that he'd been through so much since we brought him home, that I was glad to have him but sometimes I wondered if coming home with us was the best thing for him. And you actually cried at the thought of not having him. He meant so much to you. When you got discouraged, I put a big photo of him on the wall of your hospital room, right in front of the bed, so you'd look at him all day.
As I've said so many times, I'll be forever thankful that I got to bring him in to see you on Monday before you died on Friday. It was so good for you and for him. He knew you were out there somewhere, but he didn't understand and was confused. After he saw you in the hospital, he was sad but he understood. And the day you died, he knew exactly what had happened. I'm glad he doesn't have to wonder where his Daddy went.
So I tell him often: I love him so much, and so did his Daddy. You'll be there waiting for him when he goes to Heaven. I dread that day because, for me, he's such a connection with you. He smells your Nikes and remembers you. I get to live with someone that remembers you, loves you, and grieves with me. I'm glad we brought him home, too.
Love from your little family that loves you so much,

Monday, May 5, 2014

How Autocorrect Was Right About You

Dear John,
I had a good day at work, and came home and swept and vacuumed. Then I got on the laptop, wrestled Anthem's website to the ground, and forced it to accept my premium payment. I'll be so glad to get on group insurance in a month.
There's so much to learn for this new job, and learning it is a joy. Last night I realized something about myself that you've probably known all along: I delight in precision. It's obvious now that I think about it, but I've never put it in those terms before. I've said for years that I enjoy nothing more than taking a mass of unorganized something - things, facts, ideas, whatever - creating an organizing system, and bringing order to it. I know I'm anal. But deeper than that is a delight in precision. Maybe that's the root characteristic of the rest.
And so I think I may have found something that fits me even better than critical care nursing did, better even than Open Heart Recovery, which is the anal retentive capitol of the hospital. The things I'm learning to do are making me happy. There's a deep satisfaction to it.
None of this surprises you, I'm sure. You've always known me better than I know myself. The amazing thing is that you love me anyway. These texts could have been yours in college - that is, if there had been cell phones when we were in college, back in the last millennium. And from you, it wouldn't have been an autocorrect error. You would have said just that. You could never have dated a woman with unorganized shelves. Both of us lived in immaculate dorm rooms. And it's not just that I don't like mess, though that is part of it. I delight in precision. It seems that I've learned something important about myself.
Well, that's it for tonight. It's just some new insight on my part. I'd welcome your thoughts and comments, as always. Text or call me any time - I still sleep with the phone by the bed, like I started doing when you were in the hospital, still waiting to hear from you.
Love you, adore you, miss seeing your name on my phone,

Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Grim Anniversary: I'm Out of Step Again

Dear John,
Once again, I'm out of step with the rest of the culture. There were lots of Facebook posts today that showed Yoda saying, "May the fourth be with you." It's chuckle-worthy. But May 4th means something entirely different to me. So I posted the iconic photo from May 4th, 1970. Then I realized that I had to tell people what the photo was about, because most of my Facebook friends are too young to remember the Kent State massacre.
Kent State, May 4, 1970
It was 44 years ago today. The four students who died would be in their sixties now. They'd have children and grandchildren, and would be thinking about retirement. Instead, they died that May morning, shot while assembling lawfully and peacefully. The world reeled, campuses convulsed, and the face of the anti-war movement changed forever.
What started the whole thing of course, was Nixon's invasion of Cambodia. The real problem, in our eyes, was that it was an undeclared war - Nixon called it a "police action" to avoid needing Congress' authorization to declare war. It was an end run around the constitution. VietNam was a war in every conceivable way except that Congress never declared it. It was Nixon's baby.

James Rhodes was the governor of Ohio then. I still don't know how a peaceful, lawful assembly came onto his radar. I do know that he sent National Guard troops in and escalated everything off the charts. Most of them were eighteen to twenty years old since almost everybody had been drafted for Nam. They were armed, and not trained for the kind of encounter they were facing. They also didn't know the campus - in an attempt to disperse the crowd, they chased them into a dead end and trapped them. And the rest is history.

University of Kentucky, May 4, 1970
Predictably, riots broke out on college campuses all over the country as soon as the news broke. At UK, the ROTC building was burned, which was no loss to anyone; the thing was a decrepit rat-trap. Louis Nunn was Kentucky's governor and he had good sense. He had to send in the National Guard, but he sent them in with bayonets and no live ammunition. No crowd is going to charge a line of bayonets, and no Guardsman can accidentally fire an unloaded weapon. They made sure the dorms adjacent to the ROTC building weren't damage and let everything burn itself out, literally and metaphorically, and everybody got home safely. And I love what UK did with the  spot where the ROTC building had been - they put up basketball courts. They're still there. I found this photo from the Lexington Herald-Leader - isn't that Patterson Hall in the background, behind the tear gas?
UK's ROTC building in flames
Well, you know all of this. And you've heard your sister's stories of how terrible that day was at Ohio Northern. Good did come of it. Until then, the anti-war movement was a thing of our generation. That day galvanized our parents, involved another generation, and that turned the tide. But today I weep for the dead, the survivors, and the traumatized. And that includes the Guardsmen who did the shooting. They should never have been put in that position. The only person I have no sympathy for is James Rhodes. I don't believe I'm alone in that.
And here you are, once again being victimized by my need for commemoration. There are dates that jump out of the calendar at me every year, and this is one of them. Today I need to stop, take a minute, remember, and mourn. You always bore up well under this burden. Thank you for your patience! If you ever run into any of the four dead in Ohio, give them my love and respect.
And give yourself all my heart, forever and ever.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Mint Juleps v. Broad Hips

Dear John,
Today I pretended to be you again. I mowed for the second time this year and trimmed for the first time. The yard looks good.
Then I tackled the flowerbeds and got two out of three done. I cleared out last year's leaves, cut back the ornamental grasses, weeded, and cut back last year's peonies and sedum. All that's left is that small east bed, and pruning the three roses in the front. If the rain hold offs, I may do that tomorrow after church. That is, I may if I can bend over tomorrow. I'm stiff and sore - in a good way - and just took some Motrin. While all that was going on I did laundry, and ran the dishwasher after the laundry was out of the washer. It's almost 7:00 now, so the vacuuming will have to wait.
That's all - just a normal busy Saturday. The Derby is today - I forgot that until I checked Facebook this morning. It never was on our radar. I remember when we were in college - it was a big thing, but it was usually right before finals so we were way too busy to think about it. It was one of the penalties of a math/science major.

If it was a race between draft horses instead of thoroughbreds, everybody around here would be all over it. We got so accustomed to Belgians that thoroughbreds looked anorexic to us. Thoroughbreds are bred for speed. Horses here are bred to be healthy, hearty working horses. And, as I've said before, being behind a Belgian can make anybody feel narrow in the hips.
So today at Churchill Downs people are wearing big hats, drinking mint juleps, and watching the run for the roses. Here we're working in our yards, wearing bandanas, pruning roses, and drinking lots of water when it's over. The Derby is fine, but I like it here where horses pull farm equipment and buggies, and have great big muscles. And broad hips.
Adore you,

Friday, May 2, 2014

Baby Elephants and the Smell of Pizza

Dear John,
One week down. I'm half-way through my training in LaGrange. I decided that celebration was in order. So I splurged on a two-dollar can of cinnamon rolls.
Maybe this is why I dream about elephants . . .
The day started off well. When the alarm went off, I was dreaming that the bedroom was full of baby elephants and I was playing with them. Yesterday morning I woke up dreaming that you had come back. You were still dead, but you were back to stay. You wanted to go back to work. You thought that Matt would let you come back even though you were dead, but you might have to work part-time. (My dreams always get more interesting toward morning.) It was wonderful to have you back, but we were quite worried over what you could do, especially if the IRS would be involved, since the government knows that you're dead. Strange stuff.
After work today I went to Sturgis for gas. The state line is less than ten minutes from LaGrange, and right now gas is forty-six cents cheaper in Michigan than Indiana. So I got gas, then stopped at Walmart for dog and cat food. That's where I got the cinnamon rolls. If you were here, we'd have gone to Kendallville to Pizza Hut to celebrate. Oh, how I'd love a Pizza Hut pizza! But I don't know. You worked for Pizza Huts for so many years - I ate there so much with you, washed uniforms that smelled like Pizza Hut, smelled you smelling like Pizza Hut, for nearly twenty years. I don't know that I'm ready for that. The smell is still in my nose, if not in my closet, washer, and bed. There's too much emotion in that smell.
So I had cinnamon rolls instead, and celebrated without you or baby elephants, just Jethro and his cats, and Gordon Lightfoot on Pandora. I'm such a party animal. It's 9:00 Friday night, and I'm almost ready for bed. Tomorrow I'll mow if the rain holds off, otherwise I'll vacuum, do laundry, and clean bathrooms. If you want to celebrate, come for a visit and we'll go have that pizza.
Adore you,

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Something Good about Country Music: Who Knew?

Dear John,
I finally learned something we were never able to discover: a reason for the existence of country music.
I was doing transactions again today. The music at the LaGrange bank is wonderful. I've been enjoying it and savoring it. The only reservation I've ever had about working in Topeka is the piped-in music - all country, all the time. I have assumed I will learn to block it out and will survive. After today, I'm seeing it differently.
At work this afternoon they played The End of the Innocence, The Year of the Cat, and Mandolin Rain. All in a row. You might as well kill me now. I love all of them, but they make me think about you, and at this point in my life they make me cry. It was difficult to concentrate through the assault of widow-pain.
And so I thought, for the first time in my life, that it might be a good thing to work somewhere that plays country music. My only emotional response to it is mild-to-moderate irritation. That's much easier to handle than widow-pain. Even country music has a silver lining. Who knew?
For now, I will make a concerted effort to not think about The End of the Innocence, The Year of the Cat, or Mandolin Rain. It's probably fruitless. But I managed not to choke up in front of anybody or make any mistakes, and that is good. You're making me see something good in country music - aren't you ashamed of yourself?
Love you so much it hurts,