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,
Joan.


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,
Joan.