Wednesday, July 24, 2013

So, the call to write

More than a few friends tell me that I must write about the last four years. I get it. Mike's story is not only singular; we came to understand that God called on him to complete a task before he got to go home.

And, I can write. And I lived with him through this. And Mike's video testimony continues to reach people.

Do I have a duty? Not sure about that.

Do I have the objectivity of distance? No, I do not.

Does such writing need to be objective? Probably not.

I certainly have a wealth of written information, through our blog and also through specific notes that Mike and I received over the years. I also remain in mind of many people who have spoken to me since Mike passed.

(By the way, I'm so grateful that friend Morgan made the blogging suggestion way back in 2009. Not only does writing have a way of making order of confusion; some events have slipped from memory as I've been busy living. It's healthy for me to return and relive.)

I guess it would be an emotional non-fiction. Emotions can toss glue into the works.

But the questions: biography? chronological? factual? personal?

Where to start? Do I need an outline? Do I need to conduct research? Do I need to interview? Do I need to make lots of notes and then try to organize?

How do I begin? And how do I end?

AND:  by now all my English teacher readers and all my writing readers are saying the same thing:



Sunday, July 21, 2013

He's all around me.....

In the weeks since he transferred addresses, I am reminded of my hub whenever I turn around. Friends have lots to say about him, missing him, remembering him. And, not just for me, there are FIRSTS. Brother-in-law Jim mentioned that they had tried out a new Mexican restaurant and as they were enjoying authentic cuisine, his second thought was how Mike would have loved the food.

Neighbors at the lake tell me that they look up every once in a while, expecting to see the hub cruising down Administration, on our little antique moped, headed for Ace Hardware to "get one thing."

Say whatever you will, Mike refused to stop, to curl up and quit, until that disease knocked him down for the last time. I think, ultimately, that will be his legacy. Tenacious and looking toward the future. He was going to live until he died.

So, when we returned from the April trip to our little place in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, he was working on the return. Alas, that did not happen, although our little piece of heaven on earth can’t hold a candle to his eternal reality.

For years, I carted around bright orange luggage, really ugly and obnoxious; its chief benefit was that  it was simple to pick out when it came down the airport luggage chute. I purchased it long before the airlines started charging for checked bags and back when I packed less smart. By our last trip to the ocean, we placed everything in one duffel bag and had room for souvenirs.
Thanks, hub. Nice bag.

Mike decided, on one of his many trips about town, that I needed a new travel bag. He picked this one out and was very proud of its design and simplicity. 360 degree wheels!

Anyway, here I am, getting ready for my first trip where I will use this bag. 

During the attic sorting, I found many suitcases, travel bags, back packs, and etc. They have found homes elsewhere. No one, by the way, fought for the orangies.

This first trip? My mom Evelyn will be celebrating her 90th birthday. She’s amazing and continues to live an active life. Although she has traveled around the world, she has mentioned, on a few times, that what she’d really like to do is travel on the ‘largest ship in the world.’ Currently, I believe, that honor goes to Royal Caribbean Cruise line. SO, we will board the Allure of the Seas and cruise around the beautiful islands down south.

The ship is so large and contains so many attractions, we may not even get off the ship. It will be fun. Mom is a great travel companion. And, little sister Kris is joining us.

She’s much younger than I: there’s a zip line and a surf rider. They look like fun although we may have to show age ID. And Mom? We’ll be getting a photo on the full-sized carousel along the boardwalk.

So, here I am, packing my things in my new travel bag. It’s quite roomy inside. Mike and I could have packed everything in it for a week.

And so: he's is all around.

Monday, July 15, 2013

So, how ARE you???

It was a joke when we were freshmen at Wheaton College. Small campuses tend to be friendly places and most people greet whomever they pass on the paths. But a discussion arose about insipid greetings like “Hi. How are you?” realizing that the speaker doesn’t have time or interest to stop and get the full answer.

So sometimes, one of us would say, “How are you REALLY?” That indicated the receiver was free to list all of his aches and pains, academic concerns, social activities and etc. As I type, I remember this being a laugh riot….can’t imagine why. I guess you had to be there.

However, I sense this is the unspoken question these days when someone asks me how I’m doing. I generally answer that I’m doing well.

In fact, I’ve been doing so well that I visited a counselor to make sure I’m doing so well. (She says I'm doing well.)  I have been busy, systematic, social, and then exhausted; there hasn’t been much free time to mull. But all college graduates have had just enough psychology to worry: why have I not sunk into a puddle of tears? Where is this ‘hard work of grief’ I read about?

I don’t want to over analyze. Surely, I had some time to grieve while Mike was still with me. But, this man with whom I’ve shared 43 years of my life (met in 1970), is no longer sitting at the table, driving with me in the truck, buzzing up some sawdust in the workshop. But, no tears. Hmmm.

Maybe I needed some time. Maybe I really WAS so busy, and so surrounded by people who love me and keep checking on me. No matter. I felt it was time for a good cry.

So Saturday night, 4 weeks after my love drifted away from me, I sat down to reflect. I pulled up those blog entries from May and June. I had recorded it. I needed to relive it. And the tears came. Those were hard months for Mike and me. 

I also found some photos that Zack took, several days into hospice, when Mike’s friend, Dave Bottomley, dropped by. Who IS that tired-looking woman holding hands with that worn-out man? It is my love and me.

All those toys: Mike had wanted to get them sold before he died. By Saturday of that week, while he was still up a bit, they all were sold. (yet ANOTHER hug from God)

So, now the tears can come.

 I went to church Sunday. We celebrated Communion. In 40 years, I have always shared Communion with my husband. Not Sunday. Oh. And the tears came.

 Then, after church, I sat down to watch the video of Mike’s funeral. Although I attended, I guess I did not concentrate. Now I heard the tributes, the sorrow of friends, the glorious music that looks toward the Lord’s return.

And the tears came.

So, how I am REALLY? Good. REALLY good.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sorting, saving, remembering

In low moments, I fantasize that there are people, women surely, who keep an orderly house. Ask them where THAT THING is, they know. They go right to it. Sigh. I think I started out that way but abandoned ORDER a long time ago. I had too many hands 'helping me,' and face it, baby, I'm a bit scattered. So in my new job, traveling through my house ---  we moved in April 1986 -- to make sense of our accumulated stuff, the challenges keep coming.

The attic in our our home is quite large. It is carpeted. Former owners had used it as a bedroom. My kids found it perfect for a playroom. It is far enough away from our first floor bedroom to be virtually matter what the kiddies were doing -- coloring, painting, building forts, throwing did not disturb us until bruises/blood ensued.

boxes in the dining room
It's been a few years since they played up there. In that time, the attic took on a more traditional role: storage. SOME of us tried to keep it organized. SOME of us 'just crammed random stuff' up there. And now all must be catalogued, evaluated, perused, before anything can find its way into the trash.

and more boxes
So, I knew there were boxes. Most date to 2009 when Mike closed the office. Some are financial records. Quite a few are marked "closed files." All are old, as far as I am concerned and oh, how I'd like to shred. Alas, I have people, legal people, secretarial people, who are getting in my way. Try as I may to find SOMEONE who says, "Yeah, get rid of it," I cannot. There are some magic numbers: files must be kept for 2 years "for malpractice," and 7 years in case the IRS decided to audit my husband's business. REALLY?  YOU CAN'T BE SERIOUS??? Yeah, my people are serious. I cannot shred....until about 2016. One glimmer came in the form of advice...if I'd write a letter to each closed file name, I could tell them to come and get the file. But as Mike was a high volume worker, that would be about 250 letters. Uh, no.

My financial guy, bless him, is ever so nervous about my predilection to throw away. He asked, then suggested, then finally ordered me: throw nothing out for one year. Also: nothing is junk mail during this year.  Got it.

Over the years, I had handled much paper at school by reading and then throwing away. I could do this for two reasons. 1) most either had little to do with me or was so obvious, I hadn't needed the paper; and 2) my neighbor Carol, a former librarian, saved if later I found that, whoops, I guess I actually needed that....I could go next door and copy hers.
some caps

This is a habit and I must break it.

I am also continuing to sort. I want to be thinking about how someone, somewhere, might cherish some momento of Mike, some silly little thing that I might think I can get rid of. So, there's a pile a pocket knives, tie sticks, eyeglass cases, ball caps, that I will hold on to for a while.  Then, there are those funny reminders of how my home life was. I have 6 sets of little ramekins....they come in 4s...that you can use for 4 servings of pudding, 4 flans, 4 jellos, 4 custards.  Each set is missing one cup. Most people find they are short of spoons and forks (me, too) but ramekins? I think these were perfect for mixing up stuff in the garage, workshop, or wherever.

missing coasters
And then, here are some coasters, so I could protect my furniture against wet glasses while entertaining and matching. Except, as you can see, two sets of 4 are missing one. And the set of 8 is missing one.

I am not hopeful of finding the errant coasters.

CDs for the taking
Another big task lies ahead. I don't like what I'm about to do to all of these CDs. They filled the couch two-deep when I took them out of various cupboards and cabinets.

Glancing, some are classics: Eric Clapton, Kris Kristopherson, Stevie Ray Vaughn. And some are a bit more specialized, like Blind, One-legged Moses and his Back Porch Band.

Yes, I've thought about this. As much as Mike and I loved each other and shared so much, we did not share our tastes in music or literature. He loved blues guitar and anyone who can make it speak. So, he accumulated a lot of CDs. They may end up in the grey barrel that I place on the curb each Monday.

The stash is a bit smaller only because since I piled these out, two men have dropped by and when I told them to have at it, they did. One commented that "Mike had really good taste." Hm. No accounting.

So, word to your.....self. If you are in the area, drop by. You might go home with some tunes.

The boxes, by the way, have been relocated to a closet at the lake. A nice, dry, unused closet. Safe and sound and out of the way, The dining room table is NOW loaded with the memento stuff, Mike's, mine, and the kids. I will begin that plow-through next week.

As far as this grief thing...I must say that God continues to fill me with absolute joy. Yes. I'm serious and surprised. As I rummage, I find things that I think will make me sad. And then, they fill me with happiness. I laugh. Who knows. I may even find a few stay coasters and wonder how they got THERE???

Friday, July 5, 2013

3 Weeks

So what have YOU been up to?

Here, I am moving through my house, cleaning, sorting, saving, donating…and discovering things about my husband of 39 years.

You know, he was home while I was at school. He had time to shop. At times, he shopped on morphine. And so, here and there, I find some curiousity. I ask around. Few can answer: why did he purchase a replacement speaker for his amp and then place the old one in a box and wrap it as a present? No one seems to know.

Why did he purchase an expensive pair of suede Ralph Lauren “boat shoes,” that did not fit him, nor me, nor our son, nor anyone else?

How many bottles of ketchup, gas-perm contact fluid, shaving cream, and frozen cocktails does one need?

I believe that as our lives got complicated, we bought new and shoved in front of old. Maybe.
So as I move through the house, I make decisions and save or discard. We both would prefer to save and donate. That works most of the time.

Then, there are the surprises. Like when my daughter (and niece) was collecting photos for the funeral, she said, “You know, Mom. Dad had pocket knives all over the place.”

I looked at her, confused. “Really?”

And two buddies, standing behind her, nodded. So I am collecting pocket knives, here and there and over/under that.

Last week, several really nice, big muscled guys helped me by cleaning out the attic. There were lots of things up there that must be handled, like box after box of files marked “closed.” The magic number is 7, as in 7 years. This week’s task will include combing through those boxes, saving what must be saved and shredding what can be shredded.

From the attic, they called, “You want everything out?”

“Yes, please.”

“Even the machete and empty ammo belt?”

“Um. Yes.”

(These were hidden -- really really hidden, and I’m betting, forgotten.)

I’ve been back and forth to the lake. The first time, with Mom in the car, I got within 10 miles of the cottage when I felt sadness wash over me. It caught me off guard. I realized that this was my first trip to our place, without my guy. Although I’ve done lots of things solo, I know now that I will pass through lots of these firsts as I continue to heal.

On the first trip, we stayed about 30 minutes and then I needed to leave. The second trip, I spent several days. There’s a lot of sorting to do there, also.

And so my days begin with a list of things I’d like to get done. But I’m good to myself. When I get tired, I take a break. When I get really tired, I call it a day.

Ivy is trying to figure out the new routine. We walk every day. We go for car rides. I realized that I am not a ‘dog talker,’ but she’s used to being talked to. So we now talk.

Here, we are healing, reflecting, learning to wake, eat, work, and sleep in our new life. So many of you have asked me to keep blogging so I will. And I will continue to covet your prayers as this new chapter unfolds.