Monday, June 30, 2014

Keeping My Eyes on the Prize - and the Radar

Dear John,
I had a good day at work, got milk, eggs, and cheese on the way home, watered the flowers in the window boxes, paid bills, and am waiting for the severe storms we're supposed to get tonight. I haven't told Jethro yet. He'll find out soon enough, poor baby.
Television was bad so I turned on Pandora when I got home, had a good cry over Same Auld Lang Syne and Fire and Rain, and felt much better afterward. I think I'm grieving for you and your mother at the same time, and it's all mixed up together. Bless the dog, when I cry he comes and sits next to me and licks my face. And since I tend to cry with my mouth open, I get French kissed by the dog, so after a while I end up laughing. He's right beside me at the first sniffle. He loves me and looks after me.
I found this tonight. It's exactly what I want to do, but I can't follow you yet. How does one stalk somebody that's in Heaven? Believe me, if I could figure that out I'd be on your trail in a minute. I'm waiting to follow you and watching the sky for stagecoaches. You didn't even leave a trail of breadcrumbs for me to follow. We always wanted to take this trip together, but it wasn't our choice to make. I still miss you with every heartbeat. I don't like being on my own - I'm tired of being strong, tired of having to be strong. I wish I had you with me.
But I do have you to look forward to. I do better when I can keep that in mind. This life seems so long, but it really isn't, especially compared to eternity. As has been said, I need to keep my eyes on the prize and hold on.
Holding, waiting, and loving you,

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Stoned on a Short Rope

Dear John,
I'm not sure what to say about today except that I probably needed it. The anxiety was way too bad to let me go to church this morning. There was no way I could have handled being in a crowd. I was having a lot of fibromyalgia pain so I took a pain pill, which took care of the pain but also gave me a break from the anxiety. I've been stoned all day but much less anxious. I can't go out in public like this so it's not a solution. But it was good for me because it reminded me how good it feels to feel more normal, and that gives me hope. I also got some sleep and I needed it - for the last six weeks I haven't slept more than two hours at a time, and rarely that. I should be in better mental and physical shape tomorrow.
Things are very hard right now; I'm glad to know that you're praying for me. I feel like all I've done lately is whine at you and I feel bad about that. But you never felt that way - you always wanted to know the truth about how I felt and what I thought, and I know that hasn't changed. I almost didn't write tonight because I didn't want to just say the same things over again. But I didn't want to worry you, and I always feel better after talking to you. So here it is - the same things over again. Enjoy!
I'm working the next three days, then I see Joe. I'm trusting that he can help me. My rope is getting very short.
Love you,

Saturday, June 28, 2014

When We Started Way Back When

Dear John,
Jim and Irene brought your mother's Hoosier cupboard over today. Everybody beat me here - I got home from work right after they and Jen and Bob got it moved in, bless them all. It fits perfectly in the dining room, between the kitchen cabinets and the back door. The wood is almost a perfect match for the cabinets and the hardware is black like the rest of the kitchen. It looks like it was made for that spot. I moved the hutch to the dining room wall where the china closet was, and got everything put away in their new homes. It gives me a lot more storage space.
Then  Jim, bless him, dismembered the old corner computer cabinet in the workroom - you know, the black one from IKEA that I put together in the room. It wasn't really useful now that I have a laptop and it was eating up space. So it's dismantled in the garage now, and the black china closet is where it was. It will be great to have - I can store yarn in it, close the glass doors, and be able to see the yarn without the cats being able to get to it. I still need to move the furniture around in the office and get it the way I want it. But the dining room is together, and you'd like it very much.
Jim and Irene decided to drive back home this evening instead of staying the night, so they have all day tomorrow to rest up. We went out for Mexican before they left. Irene called a little bit ago and said they were home. We decided that getting together for dinner was lots of fun. Thank you again for having such a nice family. I love them, and love spending time with them.
I suppose I'm making progress - I've rearranged furniture without feeling guilty about it. I know that you'd like what I did. Maybe I've learned that things can change without changing our relationship. No matter how much furniture comes or goes here, I'm just as much your wife and love you just as much. I've learned to accept changes without being afraid or feeling like I'm being unfaithful to you.
And my memories won't change. Jim Croce's I Got a Name just came on. I remember studying in your dorm room and listening to that song on your stereo. (You know, the one with the eight-track tape player and quadraphonic speakers that was so state-of-the-art. Everybody loved your stereo.)
Every time I hear that song, I'm back in your dorm room. You're at your desk studying and I have my nursing books spread out all over your bed. You'd turn the desk chair sideways and stretch your legs out on the bed; I'd sit with my back against the wall and my legs across the bed, and we'd study for hours like that every weekend. That's what dating was like for us math-science majors. And we enjoyed every minute of it. And I'd give everything in this world for one more college Saturday with you. I'd even give up my new Hoosier cupboard.
Come visit me tonight?
Longing for you,

Friday, June 27, 2014

Sentiment & Toilet Paper

Dear John,
Today was frantically busy but not as bad as I'd expected. The tech people arrived early and got the other drive-up computer fixed, so there were two of us most of the day. After I got home I took everything out of the china closet and hutch, and moved the dining room furniture around to be ready for tomorrow and the arrival of the Hoosier cupboard.
At lunch today I changed the toilet paper in the ladies' room  and thought about you. I remember how you used to get the paper started for me whenever you changed the roll. You said you wanted it to be ready for me to use it. That has always meant so much to me - not because I didn't want to start the roll myself, but because you thought about me in such a little thing. You were thoughtful even when it came to toilet paper. I don't know if you knew how much that touched me. If you didn't know then, I'm glad you do now. Thank you for thinking about me in such little, everyday things. Thank you for loving me that way. Thank you for caring about how the toilet paper was when I went to the bathroom.
While we're at it, thank you for absolutely everything,

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Throw Me a Rope

Dear John,
It was a hard afternoon at work and tomorrow will be much worse. On Fridays we always have both lanes of the drive-up open, but tomorrow I'll be on my own. The computer for the second window is down and we're short two people, anyway.
I can only do what I can do. I know that. I'll need to stay focused and not hurry myself into making mistakes. It would be a hard day even without the anxiety I'm dealing with right now. I need your prayers, and those of anybody you can round up. And it will be my eleven-hour day, too.
I'm trying to stay in the present and not worry about tomorrow. Again, that would be difficult even without the anxiety. I had no idea how brutal anxiety is. It feels like my sympathetic nervous system is stuck on high. I'm shaking, I'm throwing up and having diarrhea, I can't sleep or even relax. The good news is that I can't eat either, and I'm losing weight. I have another week before I see Joe. After that, most drugs take a few weeks before they start to work. My goal is to keep functioning, stay out of the emergency room, and not get fired.
I've never felt quite this overwhelmed by anything, even grief. I really do believe that this is the hardest thing I've ever gone through. I can't separate it from my grief for you, of course, because being alone is a big part of this, and you're not here to help and make me feel better. I always miss you so much when I'm sick, and this is like that except that it's something that people blame you for having. And even though Cymbalta is a prescription drug, when you say "withdrawal" people judge you for it. I miss your acceptance and understanding.
Please, please pray for me, especially tonight and tomorrow. I feel like I'm drowning. So throw me a rope!
Love you, need you,

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Of Mice and Mowers

Dear John,
The new lawnmower is good. It was lovely to mow and not end up looking like a scarecrow and having grass clippings in my eyes. This one is a lot safer because it doesn't throw anything out anywhere, so I don't have to worry so much about the back yard - Jethro still tends to dig up rocks, play with them, and leave them all over the yard. It will take me a little longer to mow now because the top speed for this mower is slower than the old one, but that's probably a good thing since I tend to go too fast for my age. The yard looks great.
I'm finding that vigorous physical activity helps with the anxiety, which is no help on work days but came in handy today It was really bad when I woke up this morning, and mowing helped. After that I had lunch and took a nap, then the anxiety got bad again so I dusted and swept. I couldn't vacuum because it was storming outside. I can't get the vacuum cleaner out with the dog inside because he still jumps on it, bites it, and generally tries to play with it like he did when he was a puppy. (This is another safety issue, and probably a personality problem.) I'll vacuum the area rugs tomorrow.
You should have seen Abby this afternoon. I've discovered that timid cats can gain self-confidence by play that hones their hunting skills, so I bought her a new mouse-on-a-string that squeaks when you jiggle it. It took her a while to figure out what to do with it, but she ended up catching it and worrying at it like a normal cat. She had a wonderful time. Jethro and Hunter sat to one side and watched, and a good time was had by all. She ended up taking a nap cuddled up with the mouse.
That's all from today - just a good, busy day off. I'm sure I would have enjoyed it if it weren't for the anxiety. I'll see Joe a week from tomorrow so there is relief in sight. Please pray for me as I get through this next week!
Still hanging on,

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

On Existing Stubbornly

Dear John,
I had a good day at work. I'm off tomorrow so I'll get to play with my new lawnmower. And I got my yearly exam with Joe scheduled for next week. So life is good. And I feel so sad. I guess life just can't be very good without you.
What's missing in my life - besides you - is meaning. Everything feels so empty. I do all  the necessary stuff - go to work, pay bills, buy groceries, work in the yard, take care of the house, go to church, keep in touch with my friends - and none of it matters in the slightest.
I seem to be stuck here, don't I? I had hoped to be over this by now. The fact that I'm not makes me wonder if this is a permanent state. I've certainly known widows who spent decades waiting to die and wondering why they didn't. I'd prefer not to just exist until I die.
I know you wanted me to be happy; I know you still want that. I'm certainly open to the concept. But I seem to have no clue how to get there from here. Everything in my life is fine except that you're not here - it's just that you matter so much that, in comparison, everything else is completely inconsequential. Maybe meaning will come with time. Maybe you can get everybody organized to pray for me, and for all the widows that are having the same struggle. At least I have the consolation of knowing that I'm being normal again.
The one thing that cheers me is how much the animals love me. I don't know why - maybe because they don't have anybody else, either. I'm their human  so they love me and need me as much as I need them. They're here waiting for me when I get home from work, and they pile up in my lap with great excitement on the mornings when they realize that I'm not getting ready for work. I rescued them, and they rescued me right back. I'm so thankful for my three furbabies.
I'm sorry - I didn't mean to whine to you tonight. But I'm determined to be honest with you about how I feel. And this is how I feel tonight. I'm hoping this works out with time. If it doesn't, I will need to be stubborn. As you may have noticed, I'm very good at that.
Existing stubbornly,

Monday, June 23, 2014

On Being a Dad

Dear John,
I have no idea how we managed it since we didn't get Jen until her eighteenth birthday, but she is clearly ours. And I can't explain the brown eyes and curly hair, either. But ours she is.
She takes after you in so many ways, but especially when it comes to taxes. She reads tax law for the fun of it, just like you used to. She watches the mail for the forms every January so she can start working on them. Every spring she lives and breathes taxes. Your legacy lives on in your daughter.
I used to enjoy watching you have so much fun with our taxes. The dining room table would disappear for weeks at a time, with tax books and records spread out all over the place. When you had to file pastor's taxes, with that awful dual-status  situation, you ate it up. Most CPAs won't touch pastor's taxes, but you loved it - doing yours, and anybody else's that would let you.
You and Jen are the only people I've ever known that have taxes as a hobby. And I've benefitted so much from it. You did ours for thirty-four years and Jen has helped with mine since you died. She fills holes you left in my life, like taxes and chocolate-covered raisins.
And I know that you love her so much. I used to watch you restrain yourself from rushing to her defense and rescue, just like you always did with me. The only time I've ever seen you want to go beat up people was when we so nearly lost her on 9/11 - terrorists threatened your little girl and you wanted their blood. And when you died you hated leaving her, especially with her life at a point of transition. But I know that you pray for her, and I know how proud you are of who she is. And I sincerely hope that you know now how much she loves you! After all, you're her dad.
Love from all of your little family,

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Standing Alone with a Full Lap

Dear John,
I'm tired and sore, and the yard looks better. And there's a new lawnmower in the garage.
I slept in this morning. I really wanted to go to church, but knew I couldn't handle the crowd. I'm going to call Joe's office at lunch tomorrow and see if I can get in on Wednesday. It's a hard day of the week to get an appointment, but it's my permanent day off so I'm hoping for the best.
This was my lap this morning. They're so happy when I don't leave that they mob me in bed - they do not approve of me working full time. I finally got a good photo of them all piled up together. They really do love each other. One reason I don't dig at the cemetery - besides the fact that Jen has forbidden it - is that I want them to stay together and I don't know anybody that would be willing to take all three of them after my death. It would break their hearts to be separated.
After breakfast and prayer time, I went out to work in the yard. I trimmed and weeded, then I pruned over two feet off the nine bark bushes in the front of the house. They grow over a foot every month and it's very annoying. I keep thinking about pulling them out and putting in something that requires less maintenance. What do you think? It's hard to keep them from covering the windows, much less the window boxes and flowers, and they're not pretty enough to be worth this much trouble. Something evergreen would be nice there, or maybe even dwarf burning bushes - they look so good all four seasons.
Enough gardening for tonight - I'm working tomorrow so I need to head off to bed. We're past the solstice now, so sunset will start coming earlier. That will make it easier to go to sleep at night, but I hate losing the early morning light. I remember how sad Mertice always was when the days started getting shorter. I wish Indiana still stayed on standard time - then we'd get the early light without being kept up past our bedtimes. We loved that about the state when we first moved here. I remember how disappointed we were when we had to start going to daylight time.
I'll miss you tonight - it's hard to be without you anytime, but especially now that I'm struggling with all this anxiety. I never was much of a leaner, but it was wonderful to have you to lean on when I needed to. I wish I could right now - I feel the need to lean for a bit. Please pray for me, that I can keep standing alone. At least my lap is full.
Missing you,

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Escalation and a New Lawnmower

Dear John,
I finally broke down and did it. I bought a new lawnmower to replace the one that doesn't have a grass chute. And the new one doesn't either - it's a mulching mower that isn't supposed to have one. It has four wheel drive and a three-year warranty. You'd love it. Jen and Bob met me at Lowe's - they had a few things to pick up there, too - and helped me pick it out. Bob put it in his van and will bring it over tomorrow afternoon. I can't wait to mow with it. It was under $300 and I had a coupon for 10% off. The old one was throwing stones and sticks up in my face, so it had become a safety issue.
My tummy is better today but my anxiety level isn't. And so I had a thought. I Googled "Cymbalta withdrawal" again and found anxiety high on the list of symptoms. I think this is the latest layer of Cymbalta withdrawal. I've handled all the rest of the symptoms - the inching and vomiting and insomnia and brain jolts and depression. But this one I can't tough out. I'm only marginally functional right now. So I'm going to try to get in to see Joe on my next day off, and I'm going to ask for help with this.
I know it's what you want me to do, and you're right, as always. I still feel like I should apologize for not being able to do this on my own. But I know that I can't, especially when I'm starting a new job. I probably could if you were here and I could stay home. But you're not and I can't. I have to be able to take care of myself by myself. So this is what I have to do.
Please keep praying for me, especially between now and whenever I can get in to see Joe. I hope to be able to go to church tomorrow, but am making no promises. I'm being as gentle with myself as I can be, while earning a living. I hope to have better news for you by this time next week. Thank you for listening and caring, and most of all for praying for me.
Still needing you,

Friday, June 20, 2014


Dear John,
It's been an unusual day.
It started at 2 AM when I woke up coughing, wheezing, with an upset tummy. I took Mucinex, but it was about an hour before I was able to get back to sleep, so I curled up with the animals and used the time for prayer. As I prayed, I felt all the stress and fear falling away from me. For the first time in weeks, I felt what I've been knowing by faith - that God loves and cares for me. It was a gift, to feel it as well as know it. I needed it badly.
I woke up at 5:30 feeling worse physically, with a full-blown tummy bug. Between bathroom trips I managed to get dressed and ready for work, but then I threw up my breakfast and called in. Everybody was very nice about it and hoped I felt better soon. I got undressed and back in bed by 7:30, and slept until noon. The animals were delighted and all piled up with me in the bed. I've spent the day drinking Gator-Ade, watching television, and sleeping. (I confirmed my suspicion that the movie Laura is nowhere near as good as Vera Caspary's book and the newer Murder My Sweet is vastly superior.) I was finally able to eat scrambled eggs, and the nausea started getting better around 8:00 tonight. I hated missing work, especially on a Friday, but they said they'd be fine. And nobody really needs me coming to work sick and sharing it with everybody else. I have the next two days off to be sure I'm over it.
Last night put me in a much better place emotionally. I'm finding it easier to trust and not stress. Maybe the best way to say it is that I'm feeling more like myself than I have in a while. I spent two years not being afraid of anything at all - the worst thing that could happen to me had already happened, so what's left to fear? And I've spent the last two months being terrified of everything. Now I'm feeling a peace that I haven't known for quite a long time. I seems to have found some reality in the midst of all this upheaval.
So thank you for praying for me - don't stop on account of me feeling better tonight. I'd chatted with Father yesterday and know he was praying for me, too. I have a ways to go before life settles down. But I feel better able to face it today. Thank you.
Adore you,

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Needing You to Talk To

Dear John,
Sam just mowed for me, bless her. I'd kiss her feet if they weren't covered with grass.
Tomorrow is Friday, and a short Friday for me - only 9 1/2 hours. I'm off this weekend, and I'm so thankful. There are things I need to do - I'm behind on the chores after being out of town the last two weekends - but what I need to do the most is nothing. I need to just relax.
I hope I'll be able to relax. I'm still feeling stressed all the time. And I'd still appreciate any wisdom or suggestions you have about this. I've had jobs before that were very stressful, but the difference was that I had you to come home to after work. Now there doesn't seem to be any such thing as "after work." I feel like all I do is work, with brief breaks to come home and sleep a bit before I go back. I suppose that's part of adjusting to working full time. It's probably intensified by traveling the last two weekends. And this job has long hours - there is no eight-hour day here.
This is the latest phase of adjusting to life without you, I guess. I not only have a stressful full-time job, but I'm doing that without you to support me, encourage me, and give me a life outside of work. I'd give everything in this world to have you to talk to when I come home. Handling the outside world is so much harder when you're alone. Learning how to do that is turning out to be the hardest part so far of this widowhood road. Funny - I passed the two-year mark, and find that this is the hardest part yet.
Please keep praying for me. And if you can come visit in my dreams tonight, it would help. When are you scheduled to get Skype or phone service there, anyway? (Can you hear me now?) Actually, I don't doubt that you can hear me. It's me that needs to hear you.
Needing you,

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Crying a River

Dear John,
I worked my half-day today, got groceries, and was home by 12:30. I've spent the afternoon taking care of finances and protecting Jethro from the thunderstorm. Even the cats got a little jumpy about this one.
After five phone calls and nearly an hour, I have good news. Joe is in-network for my new health insurance. He was hard for them to find because Memorial Health System is in the middle of changing its name to Beacon Health and nobody can find any of it in the computer. I ended up getting his tax ID number and that's how they found him. I've been so concerned about that - after over twenty-five years with him, it would break my heart to have to find a new doctor.
I think I must have been overdue for a good cry. When I found out that he is in-network, I hung up the phone and burst into tears. So much has happened in the last couple of weeks and I haven't had a good cry. Or, I hadn't until this afternoon. I hope I'll be a bit less emotionally ragged now.
I'm still feeling terribly stressed all the time. People at work keep telling me to relax, but I don't know how. I seem to be stuck in sympathetic nervous system overdrive. Let me know if you have any helpful hints. Or just come and rub my back tonight - that always relaxed me. Just come. That would be enough.
Needing you right now,

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Air Conditioning by Popular Demand

Dear John,
It's 92 outside, and your little family is in air conditioning. I actually turned it on Sunday night. It was hot and humid, and I could tell that the animals were miserable. I know you thought I'd never close the windows again without you here to make me do it. But here I am, acting like a grown-up. Be proud of me.
I think they want me to stay home.
The drive-up area at work is much warmer than the lobby, and there's a big fan that I use on days like this. I have to keep moving it so that the breeze isn't pointing where I'm trying to work at the moment. When I get off I get in the car, which has been closed all day. So when I come home it feels wonderful to walk into air conditioning. We're all sleeping much better with it on. Bless the animals, they're walking around in fur coats, so I know that they need it right now.
Speaking of the animals, they're happy that we're all back home. Abby doesn't want Jethro out of her sight. When I let him outside, she sits at the back door watching for him. When he comes to the door to be let in, she yowls until I open the door. Hunter has been cuddly since I got back. He sits in my lap on the couch and rubs against my legs when I'm up. He's slept on me almost all of the last two nights, which gives me another reason to enjoy the air conditioning - he puts out a lot of heat. When he lies on my ribcage and purrs, it feels like I have a vibrating heating pad.
I'll be glad to have a weekend at home. The animals are tired of upheaval and I'm just tired. I wouldn't have missed the last two weekends in Springfield for anything in the world. But I'm so tired, and I'm looking forward to staying here. Saturday I can sleep in, go to the Farmers Market, and go to Lowe's about getting a new lawn mower, and Sunday I can go to church. I'm slowly getting back into my normal routine.
Or, what passes for normal now that you're not here. It's been said that widowhood is where normal is a dream and reality is a nightmare. Like Audora said years ago, Normal moved and left no forwarding address. There's just no normal without you.
Adore you,

Monday, June 16, 2014

Quiet Desperation

Dear John,
I had a good day at work in spite of being an emotional train wreck. Remember that I'd occasionally have times that I'd describe as "not being able to take any more of something or other"? That's the way I've felt today - like I'm at my breaking point and can't take any more. But this time I know what it is that I can't take any more of. It's life without you.
Your mother's death seems to have churned up all kinds of emotions in me. And maybe getting away from my life for a few days made it seem so much worse when I came back. Part of all this is that I'm just so, so tired. There are probably other contributing factors, but those are the ones that I'm aware of.
So today I've had Thoreau echoing in my head, talking about people living lives of quiet desperation. But I won't die with my song unsung because I sung it with you. It isn't unsung; it was cut short too soon. And now I'm quietly desperate and completely miserable.
I'll feel better in a few days. Today all I want to do is curl up in a fetal position and cry; I don't even feel up to comfort food. But I have a job and grown-up responsibilities, so I will do no such thing. I'll function and smile and keep on keeping on. And that, I suppose, is behaving like a grown-up, whether I want to or not.
Tired of being a grown-up,

Sunday, June 15, 2014

My Lifetime Ago

Dear John,
I'm back home. Jethro is glad to have his kitties back, they're glad to have both of us, and we all took a nap together this afternoon. It seems that there's no place like home.
This week has been hard. Your mother's death and service weren't as hard as starting to clear things out of her house. I associate that house so much with her, of course, but I also associate it with you. Closing the house is another layer of losing you. I didn't expect that, but I suppose that it makes sense. There are so many memories of you there.
1956 - my lifetime ago
And today is Father's Day. Please give Daddy a great big hug for me. Tell him thank you for everything - for spending every Saturday with me when I was little, for teaching me how to fish (and bait my own hook, and clean the fish, and handle the boat) and ride a bike, and drive, and  in general how to be a grown-up. He taught me what a good man looks like, so that when I met you, I knew what I was seeing. Tell him that I love him so much, and I miss him every day.
And with this great convergence of dates - the anniversary of your death, your mother's burial, your father's birthday, and Father's Day - I'm very aware of all the people that I've lost. It seems that we spend the first half of our lives gaining - parents and siblings and family, friends, a husband, our own children, careers, a house, financial security - then we spend the second half of our lives losing them all. We lose our grandparents and parents, aunts and uncles, then friends, then husbands, and sometimes even our children. As we age we lose our careers and financial security, our homes, our cars, our independence. My live is past its autumnal equinox and I'm well into the time of loss. Pray for me that I will handle it with grace. And maybe a sense of humor, though today that is failing me. Today I'm just aware of how all-absorbing is my desire to come join you. If you have any pull, please exercise it on my behalf!
Still watching the autumn sky for stagecoaches,
Your wife.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Hoosier Cabinets & Pronouns

Dear John,
I'm beyond tired. I left Jim and Irene in the great room watching a movie, and came downstairs to bed at 8:00. Jethro didn't mind at all.
It was a good day. The weather was perfect for the graveside service. All the grandkids made it here except Mike, and it was lovely to have the whole family together. After the service everybody came over here for lunch, then all the family went to your mother's house so people could take home the things they wanted to keep. I kept the little houses we brought her from Mackinac, the plaque she had made from our wedding invitation, and two sets of sheets that nobody else wanted.
I'm also going to get her Hoosier cabinet - Jim and Irene will bring it over the next time they come. I've wanted one since I first saw one, which was probably about thirty years ago. I measured the dining room, and it will fit perfectly at the end of the kitchen counter where the hutch is now. I'll put the hutch where the china cabinet is, and move the china cabinet into the workroom to store things that need to be behind glass and out of cat-reach. I made sure nobody else wanted it - none of the grandkids have the space for it. I think she would be glad for us to have it.
And yes, I still think of me as us. In my mind, you and I are still a family unit. I can't see myself as independent of you. We are still we, and we probably always will be. I try to keep my pronouns straight in conversation so that I don't confuse people. But in my own mind we are still us, the house is still our house, and the pronouns haven't changed. It appears that you are grammatically stuck with me. So deal with it.
Adore you, grammatically and otherwise,

Friday, June 13, 2014

Why Traffic Circle Signs Look Like Question Marks

Dear John,
Visitation for your mother was this afternoon. Jethro and I left home early this morning, and he traveled very well, bless him. He spent half the trip stretched out on the back seat and half curled up in the front. He's been fine and happy being here. He ran straight up the spiral stairs, but nothing would induce him to go down them so I had to take him around outside to get him back downstairs. Silly creature. Right now I'm in bed with him and the laptop, and he seems more than ready for me to turn out the light.
The drive over here was uneventful except for watching an SUV try to make a left turn at the traffic circle in Troy. See, I'm not the only person that didn't grow up with them. There's a reason that the signs for them look like question marks.
Jen came over for the visitation, and Chris and Heather and the girls made it up from New Orleans. There was lots of extended family that I haven't seen for years. Deb came down from Sydney, which was a treat. And Paul flew in from Colorado and is staying here - I haven't seen him since 1979, so it's good to re-connect. It was a nice evening.
I'm going to make the dog happy now and turn out the light. Your little family is tired, and tomorrow will be an early morning. Lots of people talked about you tonight - you were on all of our minds. And, as always, you're in my heart.
Love you, miss you, always,

Thursday, June 12, 2014

This House of Memories

Dear John,
I'm getting ready to leave for Springfield in the morning. Your mother's visitation is tomorrow afternoon, graveside service Saturday morning. Jen is coming, and Chris and Heather are on their way from New Orleans. I don't know about the rest of the family.
And tonight I realized what a convergence of days we're having. Tomorrow will be Friday the 13th, like the day you died, twenty-six months ago. And your mother will be buried on your father's birthday. I think she would like that.
All of these dates are getting me down. Things are a bit sad right now - my whole life feels like a house of memories. So many people are gone now. It's the way of life, but there's a sense of autumn to my life today. But in my mind, I will sleep with you tonight.
Love you with all my heart,

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Puzzle, A Nuisance, & A Baby Duck

Dear John,
I had a good day at work. We had a call-in, so I worked the drive-up until noon, then did testing until 4:30, then worked the lobby until 5 - a nice, varied day. After work I went to Goshen and did the grocery shopping. I got home, changed, and settled down with dinner a little before 7:00. The animals were relieved to see me.
I've been feeling sad and wistful tonight. I came home County Road 38 instead of 40 today, so I came through the intersection where I had the accident in 2011. And every time I drive through it, I think again how nice it would be to have died that day. I certainly should have - I know my survival is medically impossible. It is no accident that I am alive. And I am truly glad that I was alive for those last months of your life. I'd hate for you to have had to go through all that right after having been widowed. It's just that my continued survival is both a puzzle and a nuisance. I am so ready to join you.
But none of that is my call, is it? And I had a good day at work, and my animals love me, and Irene and Heather are looking forward to seeing me this weekend, and Jen would probably miss me, too, though my life insurance might me more useful to her than I am. I remember when I was in seminary, hearing Marlene say that some things are God's business and we shouldn't stick our noses in them. My survival seems to be one of those things. I don't have to understand it - there won't be a quiz.
And since I'm feeling sad and wistful, here's something to cheer me up. I found it on Pinterest and put it on my "Odd Couples" board. I thought you'd like it. It really does make me feel much better. It reminds me that love and goodness are everywhere; you just have to pay attention. Since you're not here for me to look at every day, I have to search a little farther for love and goodness. I'm just like Mama - animals always do it for me. A kitten and a baby duck make me much happier.
Missing you,

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Travels with Jethro

Dear John,
I had a good day at work and mowed when I got home. Sam will be doing most of the mowing this summer, but it didn't work out this week. With me being in Springfield last weekend, the grass was so high that I had trouble getting the mower through some of it. But it's done now, and the yard looks much better.
I came home, went out to mow, then came in a took a shower. I got out of the shower and realized that I hadn't seen Abby yet. I asked Jethro where she was, and he led me right to the bed and stuck his head under it. I knelt down on the floor, looked under the bed, and, sure enough, there she was looking back at me. Jethro amazes me - he not only knows where both of this kitties are, he knows their names. He's such a good big brother.
I'll be taking him with me when I go to Springfield on Friday. June is taking a week of vacation and I don't want to leave him in a strange place. It will be interesting - the only places he's ever been are the shelter, our house, and the vet. But he knows and loves his Uncle Jim and Aunt Irene. I'll take his blanket and towel and some toys, and he'll sleep with me like he does here at home. I can't imagine he'll be crazy about the metal spiral staircase - I may have to bring him around outside to get to my bedroom at night. But that's a little thing. I'll leave him in my room when we leave the house, and he should be fine there with all of my stuff. I know he'll enjoy the rides there and back. He loves going for rides.
Remember when we used to take Caleb with us when we we'd go to stay with your mother? She was younger then and still steady on her feet so we didn't have to worry about having him around her, and she loved having him there. The first time we took him he needed a while to get accustomed to it - the only places he'd ever been were in the cage where we found him and in our house. But he was fine as soon as he figured out where "bed" and "out" were. Jethro will be fine, too.
We all need to be off to bed now. I'm working tomorrow, since I was off yesterday, so I'll be getting up at 5:30. I'll spend all day tomorrow doing annual testing on the computer - a bit of a change of pace for me. After work I need to run to Goshen and do some grocery shopping that I can't do here in town. I need cat food and kitty litter before I leave on Friday morning.
We still miss you at night - the bed doesn't seem right without you. Sleeping with the three animals is much better than sleeping alone, but it doesn't compare with cuddling up with you at the end of the day. If you can come, you're always welcome. We'll leave the light on.
Adore you,

Monday, June 9, 2014

A Tale of Two Headstones

Dear John,
You probably know this already, but your mother went peacefully at 10:00 last night. Jim and Irene were there. I'm glad for that, for all of their sakes. I'm also thankful that I had last weekend off - my first since I started this job - so I could see her before she died.
Irene called me at 7 this morning. I went to work at 7:30, but they sent me home at 8. It was probably a good thing - my brain wasn't fit to deal with people's bank accounts. I started working, set up the drive-up, and realized that I'd forgotten to get my drawer out of the safe. Clearly, my brain had to be sent home. They switched my days off - I'll work Wednesday and be off today - so I'm not losing any pay. I bought a loaf of bread and picked up the dog from the vet. Since I've been home I've kept busy doing chores, keeping occupied with things that don't require coherent thought.
Last Saturday Irene took me to your family cemetery. I think the only time I was there was for your grandfather's funeral. I was shocked to see your parents' headstone - it's almost identical to ours. The only difference is the cross on ours, and that ours is North Georgia gray granite. And ours has complete dates, not just years. The size, shape, the double lines, even the font is the same. I was so amazed that I had to take a photo so you can see them side-by-side.
All that's needed on both of them is the second set of dates. Your mother's will be added soon. You know I've wanted my date of death on ours since it was first carved. But I should probably wait for a while now. Nobody needs my death so close to your mother's. I will be patient for a while and, as I promised Jen, I will not dig. Such are the sacrifices we make for family, aren't they?
So you'll see your mother soon. Just give her some time with your father first. And give her my love when she gets there. Keep each other company until Jen lets me dig!
Missing all of you,

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Back Home Again in Indiana

Dear John,
I'm back home. I saw your mother for a little while this morning. There's no change, and I can't imagine she will linger much longer. Then I headed home. It rained until I was this side of Beaverdam. I came up 235 to 36, then to I-75. It took a bit longer because of the rain, but I avoided the Strawberry Festival in Troy.
I was going to mow this afternoon - I'll be going back to Springfield any day now, and the grass is way too long to wait until I get back. But Sam is going to get if for me tomorrow or the next day, bless her. I'm physically and emotionally beat, and I have to work tomorrow. So instead of mowing, I put laundry in the washer and took a nap.
It was hard to leave your mother's room this morning, knowing I'll almost certainly not see her alive again. But she isn't alert or aware at all, which is a blessing. Your sister and I had some tears over the weekend, but we can grieve without regrets, and that is a blessing. Life can be good and wonderful; it can also be hard and painful. Most of us get a mixture of the two.
I'm going to bed early tonight. I feel absolutely awful and am having trouble keeping food down. I'm probably just tired. So I'll try to sleep it off. Please pray for all of us.
Wishing I was the one coming to you,

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Of Family & Festivals

Dear John,
I'm sorry I missed talking to you last night. I got to Springfield, ate dinner, talked to your family, and was too tired to be coherent. You never minded that, but I do have standards. So I went to bed.
I'm staying with Jim and Irene, in that bedroom and bath that they added in the basement. It's good to be here. It took longer to get here than I expected - there was construction on I-75, as usual, and downtown Troy was closed for the Strawberry Festival. The detour was extensive.

Coming under the circumstances of your mother's stroke has made it more emotional for me. I was coming in on 41 yesterday, driving past the places you grew up, and I heard "Mother and Child Reunion" on the radio. Two years of widowhood have made me quite good at driving while crying, and that was a good thing. It looks like your mother will get to see you before I do. But remember, you won't see her for a while after she gets there - I'm sure she will want to spend some time with your father first.
Irene took me on a tour this morning on the way to visit her. I got to see the new hospital, which turns out to look a lot like the new St. Joe in Mishawaka, only smaller. And I got to see the hole where Community Hospital used to be - it's been torn down already. And we went by our old house. It is being taken care of, and it seems that a young family lives there. The Pizza Hut you managed on Derr Road has a new roof. The Taco Bell next door is something else now. Springfield has changed very little. Do you realize that we moved away thirty years ago? It's amazing how fast time flies.
Your mother isn't doing well but isn't suffering. She wasn't very responsive this morning, isn't eating or drinking, and isn't oxygenating well. She has a good list of orders to not do things - appropriate when you're ninety. But she doesn't seem to be uncomfortable, and that is what matters. This is so hard on Jim and Irene, but it doesn't seem to be hard on her now.

We'll go back out to visit her after dinner, and again tomorrow before I leave. I hate to live so far away now. I'm glad for the time I had with her - for the trip we all took to Florida last November for her birthday, that I could come over and stay with her after her hip replacement, and for the letter I wrote her for Mother's Day. I had the feeling that it was the right time to say all the things I wanted to say to her, so I did. I put a long letter in her card. Irene said it meant a lot to her. I'm glad for all the times I've called her since you died. I love her so much - too much to want her to stay and suffer. She's been waiting to join your father for forty years. I'm glad her wait is nearly over.

May my wait be short!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Feeling Sentimental About Your Briefcase

Dear John,
I'm getting things together to leave town tomorrow. I'm working until 3, then I'll come home, get dog and suitcase, and head out. I'll drop him off at the vet on the way to Springfield. I wanted to get the lawn mowed before I left, but the rain didn't allow it. Trash is out, laundry is done, bills are paid, extra cat food is out, water dispenser is filled, floor is vacuumed. And I have everything packed as far as I can before morning.
It's so much easier to travel in warm weather, isn't it? I'm taking the smaller suitcase, the one you used, instead of mine. Summer clothes don't take up very much room. And I'll only be gone for two nights. I won't need very much.
It's the same as yours!
I feel a bit sentimental about taking your suitcase. You always took that small one, I took the one a little bit bigger, and books and things went in your briefcase. Now they go in my knitting bag; I can't bring myself to carry your briefcase. I can't bring myself to get rid of it, either, no matter how bad it looks.
I got it for you one Christmas years ago - I got it from Lands End, and had your initials monogrammed on it. It's held up wonderfully, under the circumstances. It's old and dirty, greasy from being carried to restaurant jobs for so many years, stretched all out of shape, and it smells like pizza. I spent a year after you died going through it a little bit at a time. I couldn't bear to turn everything out at once. Every month or so I'd wander into Panera with something else I'd found it in that needed to be returned to them. I finally reached the bottom, but then I put some of your things back into it - that's where they've always been, and it's where they still belong.
It lives in the workroom closet now - I moved it there from it's previous place in the laundry room, where you could get to it easily before you left for work every morning. We had to put it behind a closed door because it had so much spilled food on it that the dog kept licking it. He still tries to, so it's it the closet where he can't get to it. Sometimes I go in there to just look at it and touch it, and sometimes I can't bear to look at it. Widowhood is an inconsistent thing. What's constant is the pain, the wanting you back, the not wanting to be alive. How that plays out changes from one day to the next, sometimes from one minute to the next.
If I could crawl inside your briefcase, would you come get me?
Miss you with all my heart,

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Great Collector & Protector of Kittens

Dear John,
Today was my half-day at work - I spent it doing the first part of the annual testing on the computer. I was going to mow after work, since I'll be out of town this weekend, but it poured rain all day so I was forced to rest and that was probably a good thing. I made a few phone calls - the ISP can't do anything about all the virus junk emails, I can board the dog over the weekend, and our homeowner's insurance is as low as it can get. If I let them know after we replace the roof, they'll insure the new one - they cover them now.
It's cool and dark and rainy and I tried to take a nap this afternoon, and Abby came and lay on my legs and went to sleep. Then Jethro had to get in on it. He managed to lie on both of us simultaneously. Abby took refuge on the cat tower and I gave up on the nap.
Bless him, he really is The Great Collector and Protector of Kittens. He loves them and they love him. Abby and Hunter both seek him out to cuddle and play, and he happily grooms each of them every day.
I found this drawing today - this will be Jethro a few kittens from now. At the rate the feral cats in the neighborhood breed, and the talent he possesses for finding the abandoned runts of the litters, I don't believe this will be in the greatly distant future. We rescued him, he rescued them, then they all rescued me. Your little family continues to love and look after each other in your absence. And we all miss you very much.
Hugs, cuddles, and animal kisses,

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Your Sex-Slave Zombie

Dear John,
That was quite a dream last night. I like dreaming about you, but this really was a bit odd. You were giving me drugs to turn me into a submissive, obedient, sex-slave zombie. When I discovered what you were up to, I just wondered why you thought it necessary to drug me. I was a bit hurt to find that you didn't think I'd do whatever you wanted without all that. Zombies do seem to be the thing right now - maybe you were just being fashionable.
. . . married to you.
I remember that conversation I had with Mama a couple of years after we were married. We'd just moved to Springfield and she was really struggling with us moving farther away from them. She couldn't figure out why I loved you, and concluded that I was "enslaved by sex." You and I laughed about that for years, always saying that we really should try that when we had the time. Thankfully, she did come around - she ended up adoring you. So, in last night's dream, had you concluded that you finally had time to try enslaving me? I've giggled about that dream all day.
You don't need to drug me or turn me into a zombie. I love you, adore you, and worship the ground you walk on. No further effort on your part is required. I married you, took care of your house, washed your clothes, and made you meat loaf and mashed potatoes whenever you wanted. And I made the great, final sacrifice for you - I let you go on ahead of me and am living on without you. I know this is what's best for you. These are really the days when I'm giving my life for you, giving by waiting to be with you again.
No, you don't need to drug me or turn me into a zombie. I'm yours and always will be. Now just get your act together and come get me!
Adore you,

Monday, June 2, 2014

Meditations on a Honda

Dear John,
It's been windy, rainy, and stormy today. I was at the drive-up at work and had a bird's-eye view of it. Jen and Elyssa came by to say goodbye before leaving tomorrow morning for Florida and Danica's graduation. Elyssa won't be back until fall, so she had to see grandma before leaving. I'll miss her.
When they left I looked out the window at your green Honda in the parking lot. I have mixed feelings about that car, and it's always a bit of a shock to see it. I'm glad Jen has it; I know that's what you wanted; it makes me happy. But I can't see it without memories and emotions.
When we first got it, it was our good car, the one we took on trips and vacations. We drove that car to Mackinac, to South Carolina to visit family, to Ohio to see your family, to Holland for weekends. There are so many good memories in that car. Then we got the minivan and you started driving it to work. That meant that your briefcase lived in it and the floor was covered with food crumbs and wrappers. That came from you eating in the car on the way to and from work. Jen found food in that car for a solid year after you died. It's a wonder we didn't have roaches.
I know the sound of that car. When the windows were open, I could always tell you were here before you turned the corner off of Pleasant Street. I still can, and so can Jethro. We know that now the car means that Jen is coming, not you, but we're still happy to hear it. It's emotional for both of us. I'm glad Jen has it, but every time I see it, I can see you in it.
One day Jen will sell it, and that's as it should be - it's hers, free and clear, no strings attached. And I have mixed feelings about that, too. Part of me will be sad that it's gone, and part of me will be glad to not see it again and picture you in it. This widowhood landscape is full of mixed feelings. And that's just as well, since events happen and life goes on, no matter how we feel about it. Mixed feelings mean that any eventuality has pain connected with it. But it also means that any event has good feelings, too. It depends on how you look at it.

Thanks for the car, and for the good memories! Love you so much,

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Saying Impolite Things About the Future

Dear John,
I discovered something disquieting this morning. I was getting ready to go to church, and realized that I was just as stressed as I've been on mornings that I was getting ready for work. It seems that it isn't the job that I've been stressed about. That's reassuring in one way, but that partial diagnosis gets me no closer to a cure. I have a few thoughts, though, that I want to bounce off of you.
I've spent the last two years in a bit of a cocoon. I've had a job and enough money that allowed me to be sheltered and begin to heal. Now I'm out of the cocoon, fully in the real world, completely alone, with full adult responsibilities. And it's a jolt. I'm doing lots of things for the first time. I've never been an adult on my own before, by myself, with nobody to share responsibilities and decisions with. I haven't had a regular job for a regular company for eighteen years, and haven't worked full-time for twenty-five years. I've worked in one career since I was twenty, and now I'm starting a new one at fifty-eight. I've never had complete responsibility for taking care of a house by myself. But the big factor is that being out of the cocoon means there is nothing between me and the future.
It's likely that this terrible anxiety comes from looking at the future. You know I've been only taking little peeks at it for these two years, just enough to make necessary plans and be sure the bills got paid on time. Now I've started a new part of my life and suddenly the future is here, right in my face - I've fallen down the rabbit hole and landed in my future.
I've spent two years adjusting to life without you. Now I have to face the rest of my life, still without you. I'm doing a terrible job of explaining this - I'm trying to put an emotional reality into words, and it isn't working very well. I hope you have some clue what I mean. Looking at my life now, knowing that this may be my life for the rest of my life, feels a bit like waking up in a horror movie - you know, the ones where everything looks normal but underneath there's something terribly wrong, really sick and twisted, about it. This life looks fine - a good job, enough income to pay the bills, my house and the animals and the church, Jen and the girls - but the heart of it is missing. Without you, it's just a parody of my life, empty and meaningless and twisted.
I suppose looking into a future like that would get to anybody. So what's my solution? Turn off my head, keep doing without thinking or feeling? I don't know how to turn off my mind. Try to find meaning somewhere? I've been doing that for the last two years without success. The only workable alternative seems to be getting my head out of the future. Besides doing the necessary financial planning, I need to keep my mind in the present and let the future take care of itself. I can't do much about it, anyway.
I could use your help with this, and your prayers. You were always so good at letting go of things you couldn't do anything about and relaxing in the present. If you have suggestions, or just comfort and encouragement, please come visit tonight. Or you could just get this Skype thing worked out. I need your love and wisdom right now, any way you can get it to me!
Missing you,