Saturday, May 21, 2016

Locust Trees and Being Good

Dear John,
I had a busy day today. I got up early and meant to get out in the yard before the sun was hot, but you know the cat litter I use is flushable? Well, the three of them managed to stop up a power-flush toilet. I finally got it cleared, but had plunger-splatter all over the bathroom. So before breakfast I had the main bathroom to clean, and decided to clean the other one while I was at it.
So I got outside a little after 10:00. I mowed and trimmed, and edged the driveway, which required a trip downtown to the hardware store for more trimmer string. By then it was hot, so I set up the saw horses and an old closet shelf in the garage and planted the petunias in the window boxes - purple and dark red this year. I trimmed the ninebark and the boxwoods, and cut the roses back to the ground so I can dig them up tomorrow. They've gotten woody, and the Japanese beetles eat them down to twigs every year anyway, so they're going for compost. By that time I'd had enough sun and was getting a little crispy around the edges, so I came inside at 4:30 for dinner. At 5:30 I went back out and cleaned up the shrub trimmings. The front looks great.
I have plenty left to do tomorrow. I'll dig up the roses, plant three lavender plants in the front bed to replace others that died, and plant three perennial hollyhocks in front of the shed. And I'll get my zinnias and cosmos out for the first time since you died. It will be good to have flowers to cut and bring inside again.
So what all this is leading to is that I was thinking while I was mowing. When I mow around the big locust tree I always think of Glen Campbell - you know, see the tree, how big it's grown, and friend, it hasn't been to long it wasn't there. My mind always gets  stuck on him saying he's being good. Mama, as you know, said that meant he wasn't having sex. I always disagreed, and now, having been widowed, I know from personal experience that a newly-widowed person isn't thinking about sex - you're too busy wondering where the next breath is coming from. In the early months, "being good" means eating, going to bed even when you know you're not going to sleep, getting up in the morning and getting dressed, seeing people even when you know you're going to hear those awful platitudes again.
To finally get to what I was thinking, I was pondering how what constitutes "being good" changes over time. At first, it's breathing, eating, and not throwing yourself off a nearby bridge. Then it's facing and dealing with business and financial responsibilities. It's figuring out to do all the things your husband used to do around the house. Later, it may be a new job and new friends. It's Ronda selling her big four-bedroom house, Nancy taking on a new job, Sophie with a boyfriend.
So, finally, what does "being good" consist of now, for me? It's a new career and new friends. It's planning for retirement, setting a tentative date, and beginning to look forward to it. It's having a man friend that I can do things with. It's finally being able to say that I'm happy. No, this isn't the life we'd planned or that I would have chosen. But it seems that I've made a life within this new reality, and I'm actually happy here. I know that you had a lot to do with all of this. I think all of you menfolk got together up there and deliberately got your women together down here. I owe you for all my widowfriends, and I can never thank you enough for that. The job and the new friends, I firmly believe, are due in large part to your prayers. I know that you look after me - it feels good to know that.
I have no idea what "being good" will look like in the future. I have no clue what my future will look like. But I'm not afraid of the future anymore. You will still pray for me and my widowfriends will be there, and that is all I need to know. If I've survived four years without you, I can survive anything. I'm tougher - and more resilient - than I realized. I suppose I am being good.
That's all - just pondering while I mowed today, and I had to tell you about it. It's a progress check-up of sorts. Due to Glen Campbell. And my memory for song lyrics.
Adore you,

Friday, May 20, 2016

Thank You For Asking

Dear John,
It's almost 9:00. This time thirty-eight years ago, we were on a plane coming into Myrtle Beach for our honeymoon. We had such a short layover in Atlanta that we ran through the airport. Then we left Atlanta late, but the pilot made up the time and we were on time landing in Myrtle Beach. Still, we didn't get to the hotel until after 10. We were so tired! So our first married night, we slept together. Literally. All we did was sleep. And that was a long time ago, when people didn't even sleep - literally - together before marriage. It was good that night, to just sleep with you.
It was a wonderful day. We had what was a simple wedding even then, but it was just what we wanted. We were married at 10:30 in the morning, like my parents were. We got to the church early, set up things up for the reception, then got dressed and got married. I'm glad we were married in the days when the reception was punch and cake in the church fellowship hall. People got to move around and talk to each other - you didn't have to spend a whole evening sitting with folks you didn't know. And we got to do the same thing. We got the chance to talk to everybody there. Except that one old lady that nobody ever knew who she was - she didn't stay for the reception.
I remember we took the wedding-party photos after the last. The photographer wanted to take them before the reception, but we said no. The wedding party was staying anyway, and there was no point in keeping the guests waiting. So we all trooped back upstairs after the reception and took the photos. Then you and I changed clothes again and helped clean up the church.
About twenty of us went out to lunch together. We steered them toward a buffet place and it worked out well. There was your family and mine, and the Shepherds and Dan and Mayre Lou Campbell who had all come up from Atlanta. Then they all took us to the airport and we left for Myrtle Beach.
Can you believe that it's been thirty-eight years? I don't even feel thirty-eight years old. And now I'm here and you're there, and my relationship status on Facebook says "widowed." I'm sixty now, something I don't mind but can't seem to get my head around. We look so young in the wedding photos! Now my hair is graying, and yours was white when you died. My skin is starting to show my age, as is my figure. We're not twenty-two anymore, are we?
Tonight, that day so long ago seems more real than my present reality. Thank you for all the years and the love and the laughter and the companionship. Thank you for wanting an independent, strong-minded, smart-mouthed woman. Thank you for asking me to marry you. It was a simple moment, but the hinge point of my life. I love you.
Come see me tonight,

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Four-Year Report Card

Dear John,
It's been four years today - four years for you in Heaven, and four for me here on my own. Does it feel like four years to you? But that's a silly question, since you live outside of time and all. For me, sometimes it feels like last week and sometimes it seems a lifetime ago. I guess most life-changing events make you feel that way.
I'm so happy for you. I'm glad you're healed and whole now, with no pain or struggle anymore. You're where sin and suffering and death can no longer touch you. You're home. And I'm so glad. Just living had become so hard for you. I know you hadn't felt good in a long, long time. It makes me happy to know that you feel good now.
For me, I miss you so much, but I'm happy now. It's odd - I always knew that, since God did this, it was what was best for both of us. But, since "best" doesn't necessarily mean pleasant or comfortable, I didn't expect to ever experience pleasure or comfort again. But God is good, and we are resilient creatures. And my Mama taught me to always find the good in things. I'd much rather have you, but there are good things in my life that wouldn't be here if you were. I love my job, and I've grown a lot learning something so completely new at my age. I guess you can teach old dogs new tricks. I've made new friends. And I have - or rather, Jethro has - three cats, and I love them a completely ridiculous amount. I've grown, having to be on my own. I've learned to be independent in new ways, managing the money and yard and house by myself. I'm still me, but I'm a different me. I'm stronger and gentler and more compassionate. And those are good things.
So today I've been evaluating the person I've become in these four years, and I see some good things. That shouldn't be surprising, God being Who He is and all. There is joy in my life now, and gratitude. It has also occurred to me that this is probably the first anniversary that you've been happy with how I'm doing. It makes me feel good to make you happy.
Miss you,

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Hospitals, Horse Sales, & Busted Brackets: It's March!

Dear John,
It's March - welcome to excitement and exhaustion! Let me try to take this in chronological order.
Almost two weeks ago I got a phone call at 1:30 in the morning, which is never a good sign. Richard needed to go to the ER, so off I went, continuing the family tradition of spending the night in an emergency room. I missed work on Saturday morning, but everybody said it was slow and everything was fine. They admitted him until Saturday evening, so I got the chance to meet the new LaGrange hospital and was very pleased. It's association with Parkview has done wonders for it.
So I was up all night Friday night, and lost an hour of sleep Saturday night with the arrival of Daylight Stupid Time. The draft horse sale started the next Tuesday and the NCAA tournament that weekend. It's been total insanity and sleep deprivation, as usual. The town, and therefore the bank, were crazy during the sale. We all ran full speed all day every day. The good thing is that the days passed very quickly. The bad thing is that every inch of me hurt. Except the end of my nose. The end of my nose never hurts.
I filled out my basketball bracket for the bank contest again, and it has so much red ink on it now that it looks like it's bleeding. My bracket is bloodied but unbowed. It's been a great tournament, but not for my bracket! There have been some outrageous upsets. Honestly, who would have predicted Yale over Baylor, Little Rock over Purdue, and Middle Tennessee State over Michigan State? I had UK beating Duke for the championship, and UK went down to IU in the second round. Duke is the only one of my final four that made it into the Sweet Sixteen. Pathetic bracket. But the games have been great and I've had a lot of fun with it.
I went a bit crazy and spent thirty dollars on a Fathead bracket for the living room wall. It's three feet by four feet and I love it. Here it is in all its glory. Isn't it wonderful? I wish these had existed all my life. Can you imagine what a collection we'd have now, it we had kept one for each season's tournament? The history that would be on them! You did marry a woman who loves sports.
I think that's all that's happening around here. Just hospitals, horse sales, and lots of messed-up brackets. But it is March, after all, so it isn't surprising!
Adore you,

Thursday, March 3, 2016

A New Milestone

Dear John,
I have good news tonight. Sometime while I wasn't looking, I passed a new milestone. A few days ago I realized that I am no longer sorry to be alive. I know - you're saying, "Well, it's high darn time!" From your point of view, I'm sure that it is. From here, it's something I never dreamed would happen. I always thought I'd gut it out, forcing myself to go through each day, until I could finally come join you. The day we got your cancer diagnosis in Dr. Ansari's office, I thought I'd never have a happy moment again. I expected to exist on pure stubbornness and hoped to die as quickly as possible.
That's very much what the first three-something years were like. But I've turned out to be more adaptable that I realized. Don't get me wrong - I'd still give everything to have you back, and I take great joy in the thought of being with you again someday. But I've learn to be happy here. It's a different kind of happiness than I had with you, but happiness it is. First I learned to be content and to take satisfaction from learning to be on my own - those first milestones like learning how to change the line in the trimmer and put oil in the mower and do my own taxes. Then, somewhere and somehow, happiness snuck up on me and I found myself enjoying life again.
There are still times I cry, still some meltdowns when being without you overwhelms me. I expect that there will always be. But I have my job, which includes new challenges and new friends, and I have a social life now. That social life isn't the same, partly since I'm not part of a couple, and partly because I'm not so comfortable for my married friends to be with anymore because I know I remind them of the mortality of their own husbands. But I have single friends my own age, and a few new married friends that didn't know you and so they aren't spooked by your absence, and maybe also aren't grieving for you themselves.
One of my best new friends is a man - you know Richard from down the street. When I prayed for a single friend my age, I didn't really think I needed to specify that I wanted a woman friend. But it's good - he can carry bags of softener salt for me and unstick my windows. And he knows what it's like to reach our age and suddenly be on your own. So I'm doing my civic duty once again, giving Topeka something to talk about. We've always been happy to do that, haven't we? We always figured that, if they're talking about us, there's somebody else they're not talking about. And gossip in this town is never unkind. People talk because they care. There's no malice in it.
So that's what's going on here: I am okay with being alive. Work is good; I still enjoy the job and like the people I work with. It took me a whole two hours to do and file my taxes, and I got a refund. I even got a refund on state - not an easy thing in Indiana - because I got a tax credit for the new water heater. The animals are doing well. I had Hunter in for his yearly check-up today and he passed with flying colors. The new renal food and the cranberry supplement have his renal problem under good control. Now he smells like the vet's office, so Abby is hissing and spitting at him, but being my phlegmatic Hunter, he's taking all of that in stride.
One morning last month I woke up, sat up, and the bed broke. It turns out that the frame the box springs sit on was attached to the bed with short, tiny screws. So I took the thing apart, drilled new pilot holes, used larger-gauge 2 1/4 inch screws, put it all back together, turned the mattress while I was at it, and it's fine now. I had to shut Jethro out of the room because he wanted to play with the drill, silly dog. Has there been any more excitement? I don't think so.
Oh, college basketball season is winding down. Kentucky and Duke haven't had great seasons but I've had a great time watching them. If you haven't seen Kentucky, check out Tyler Ulis, their point guard. He's an amazing kid. UK and Duke will both go to the tournament. IU has also had a good season. It's March now, so sleep deprivation is on the horizon. You know it was a long time before I could watch sports without you. I'm fully back into football and basketball, and soon I'll find out how I'm doing with baseball. The Cubs are televised tomorrow at 4:00, but I'm working until 6:00 so I'll miss that one. It should be a good season and I'm hoping I can be there for it. I want to stretch myself, but not push myself too far too fast. I'll see how it goes.
It's bedtime now. I've gotten used to going to bed by myself, but I still miss having you on the other side of the bed. One dog and three cats just can't replace you! Come visit me in my dreams.
Adore you,

Monday, January 4, 2016

Please Stop Asking!

Dear John,
I survived Christmas and New Year's Eve. Emotionally, I feel like I've been run over by a lawnmower. A mulching mower. On the lowest setting.
I'm struggling to regain my emotional equilibrium. I've spent the last two weeks feeling depressed and desperate. There's no reason other than the holidays and a fibro flare. It will pass. Yesterday I took down the Christmas decorations; it's amazing how much that helps. I'm longing for normal life - regular work schedule, regular food, no more Christmas music at work.
Over the weekend I failed to think of anything I could look forward to. But today I realized that March Madness is coming. I am looking forward to the Pittsburgh-Cincinnati post-season football game, to the NCAA basketball tournament, and to spring training. I don't think I'll be able to afford to travel for vacation, so there's nothing there. But sports haven't failed me yet, so emotional health is on the horizon.
Winter is finally upon us: It snowed last night, and tonight's low is supposed to be 9. Yesterday I put the flannel sheets on the bed - I do believe it's the latest it's ever been. And that was another source of depression. I remember how much we both enjoyed that first night every year with the flannel sheets, how we'd lie awake for a long time talking about how good they felt. We always looked forward to that first night; now I dread it because I do it alone. For the life of me, I can't get that animals excited about flannel sheets. I can't imagine why.
This is all very disjointed, but so am I. To sum up: The holidays were awful; I'm beginning to feel better; I'll recover; none of this is surprising. I'm afraid I'm being normal again. It gets a bit less awful every year. I asked Connie when the holidays get good again, and she said never. I have modified my expectations - I now hope for somewhat less horrible holidays. All this could be remedied if you'd just come get me!
Adore you,