Saturday, April 22, 2017

wooing a girl

He knew how to woo a girl.  A composer and a musician, he wrote me songs and played them for me. In front of our family and friends, while I could barely speak because I was overcome with emotion, this man played his guitar and sang me a song during our wedding ceremony. He also was a cook, a handy dandy fix it man, he cleaned and changed diapers. He fiercely loved his parents, his siblings and his children. He loved the island that he grew up on and had first hand knowledge of all the crooks and crannies and together we would go on wild adventures on mountaintops or sometimes on water.  He would try anything and convince you he knew what he was doing.  He built our first home; he had never built a house before.  Without the ease of electricity, he built it by himself with hand tools.  We were into smaller homes without a mortgage before it was a fashionable thing to do.

Today, I treated myself to a pedicure.  As the attendant was applying lotion and massaging my feet, I choked back tears.  My husband gave me regular foot massages.  Some may characterize me as demanding, but my sweet husband never denied me a foot massage.  Never. Since his passing, it is the daily human touch that I miss most. I am accustomed to daily hugs and kisses.  Now, instead I get morning kisses from my dog Rex and nudges from my sweet cat Charlie, but it isn't the same.

For 37 years I was with a man who woke me with kisses and a variation of,
"Good morning Beautiful.  I love you."  How fortunate that we were partners in this life.  And I was so well loved.

I believe that he continues to love me for how else could I manage?

Friday, April 21, 2017

what's a girl to do?

No wonder I know nothing about it.  When my mother was trying to explain in the middle of Grant's Department store, I slunk away.  Embarrassed that I would see a girl in my class or worse, a boy.

Within the last year, my husband helped me loop string around myself. We carefully cut the string and measured it using a yard stick.  He explained it all to me, but I still don't get it.  Maybe I still didn't care.  I had him; he understood; that was all that mattered, at the time.

"What size am I again?" I asked him as we both looked through the bras at TJ Maxx.

Honestly, I could care less about bras; for years opting for the one size fits all variety that has little charm or appeal, but does the job.

"How do you know all this?" I asked as I searched for the appropriate size as determined by my husband.  

"I dated a lot of girls before I met you," he replied.

Still this gave me little understanding of how he knew this.  Did he talk about bras over jello for dessert (his dessert specialty while we were dating)?  Certainly, this never came up in our conversations.  The truth is I will never know, since I didn't press him further.

Now, I wear bras that my husband chose for me.  Every morning I chuckle to think of the irony of it all.  He had good taste and he knew a thing about comfortable fitting bras that look pretty darn nice. They make me feel beautiful.  I wonder, now what am I going to do without him. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Progress

This morning I spent hours and hours looking for something.  I didn't find it.  The problem is that I have absolutely no recollection of what I did with it. I can't find the list of people I wanted to send thank you notes to either.  Full admission here, I also lost things before, but a brain operating under the weight of loss gets little relief.  If I didn't read the literature about grief and talk to others who are widows and widowers, I would think that I am ready to convalesce with someone to assist me with functional living.  The upside is that I found an art journal text that I was looking for and I located a sweater (a favorite) that I forgot I had.

Despite my frustration, I am told I am doing well.  It is important that I put things into perspective. I can now carry on a conversation and speak in full sentences.  Most nights, I sleep through the night.  I can now take naps, whereas before I was too agitated and restless. I am now able to read whole books and sit and write for hours at a time. Financially, I am holding my head above water by myself.  I am able to hold a job and get up each morning.  I am a single mother and I am able to feed, shelter and clothe my youngest who is still at home.  Asking for help and delegating responsibility has never been a problem for me.  I am able to hold onto a few dreams that my husband and I had together.  I guess all this is progress.  I am grateful for all the loving thoughts coming my way.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

is there presence in absence?

Her absence is the sky, spread over everything. -CS Lewis




We didn't have long to get use to the brevity of Jerry's life.  A week maybe.  Even then, we all thought that the "ox of a man" that he was would somehow pull through.

Still through the news, I tried hard to stay positive and in the present.  Now and again, while still in Boston, I would wonder through our house in my head, anticipating the emptiness, the pain.  I could not bear to dwell there for long.

It is true that I feel the absence of my husband in the home that he built and the house we raised our children.  Yet, I also feel peace.  I am drawn here.   It is familiar.  It represents my life.

Like Lewis felt his wife's absence in everything and everywhere, I feel Jerry's absence where ever I am. I carry it with me whether I am in the car, roaming the halls of the high school or running into the grocery store for fruit and milk.  His absence presents itself as a nagging, constant dull ache in the center of my heart.  I am reminded of him while I am cutting fruit, baking bread or making the morning coffee.  He is constantly on my mind whether I am brushing my teeth, putting on make-up or sweeping the floor.

I feel his absence all the time.  Does this pain I carry thwart my ability to feel his presence? Or do I feel his presence in his absence?





Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Time Stood Still




He opened the choke, pulled the cord
it took a few times
before we were headed down
the pond
slowly,
he trolled for fish
through the no-wake zone.

The stern
was loaded with gear,
fishing poles,
tackle boxes
with sinkers, bobbers
and the latest and greatest
lures,
the bow was weighted down
with a canvas bag loaded with
books, magazines
a journal,
water,
snacks
sunscreen and natural bug repellent-
ready for the long haul.

Once in the open water
the boat sped passed
islands
rounded mountains ahead
evergreens shadowed,
we motored along
the outboard robbing
our sense of hearing,
sights heightened
thick trees as far as we could see
on either side of the water.

We headed in the direction of the beach
mounded with bits of pink granite,
he killed the engine in a cove across the way,
water lilies dotted the area
a warm breeze lifted the sweet scent,
he dressed his line with a worm,
flicked the pole,
the line reaching,
the boat drifted
and he paddled us
into the perfect position
where he swore he was going to
catch a fish,
while I snapped photos of the lilies,
read, journaled
leaned my back against the bow,
watching my husband
so happy
the sun shining on us,
as time
stood still.




Monday, April 17, 2017

Home

Winter clothes crowd my suit case,
I fully expected to walk along the beach
scarf wrapped
warming,
my boots sinking
deep into the sand,
but
instead,
I walked barefooted,
closing my eyes
pretending it was summer.

Whenever I visit home
I walk the beaches
where as a kid
I dug deep holes
until they pooled with water,
collected shells and sand dollars,
the expanse of ocean stretching to the
thin horizon line,
I imagined
floating out
to sea.


I am drawn to the sea.
Here I am home.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Reformed

He was a drunk.

I know the facts,
I know.
He was always
striving for perfection
as an imperfect human,
an internal storm
spewed sadness and anger.

How do you tell someone
that he was so much more?
When I was little he liked
to hold me in his lap,
and later during my teen years
we went to Fenway together.
He made the best fish chowder,
he liked his coffee black
and he had an infinity for
fluff or whipped cream and fruit
on his pancakes.
He loved to travel now and again,
He loved family weddings
and he was drawn to the work of
Andrew Wyeth,
And in the last few decades of his life
he gave up drinking,
he softened.


The word
drunk
assaulted me,
saddened me,
how can
one word
define
a person?
I prefer
reformed.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Kitchen Charm

Until my sister mentioned it earlier today, I had forgotten that my husband liked brown and serve rolls.  Fortunately, I cannot remember the last time I popped them into the oven for 5 minutes and smeared on a generous pad of butter in a futile attempt to improve the taste.  Over the years, I'd like to think that I had a hand in refining my husband's palette.

In high school I began baking bread using a cold raising technique.  Early in our marriage, I discovered  a versatile potato dough that morphed into dinner rolls or yummy cinnamon rolls.  They would regularly appear as part of our weekend menus.  It has been years since I last made this recipe and it has been years since I last made anything remotely resembling bread because all control is for naught.

I was asked to make dinner rolls for Easter dinner and I found a new recipe to try.   Tonight as I cut the dough and gently pulled the rolls into shape, I thought of my husband; grateful for all those years I was able to charm him in the kitchen.


Friday, April 14, 2017

Off News


Life is overwhelming
enough,
I am off news,
but I caught glimpses
of PBS News
at a friend's house
the other night
and
learned about the bomb.

Fox News blares
while I get my car
serviced,
the more I try
to avoid listening
the more I hear-
strange thing.

This morning
I talked with a kindergartener
about chickadees and
hardwood trees
as we meandered
through the forest
with every student
and
adult
in my school
celebrating Earth Day
Arbor Day
beginning the day with
a hike.

I am off news
preferring the views of the
world
from a 6 year old perspective,
I like it that way.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Impossible

One by one
I pop them into
my mouth,
M & M's
too easy to lose track
of the number consumed,
the chocolate breaks through
the hard shell
and melts in my mouth
I barely notice the taste.

I roll a red one between my fingers
and I talk,
my brain sparks
shooting random thoughts
then becomes slow and sluggish.
I talk of love lost,
barely talked-about
grief,
often misunderstood.

I read original poems,
my broken heart
spills onto the page,
my friends are silent-
overcome.

We talk of life
of love
and we part
knowing that what
we all had was something
that is hard to describe
and impossible to replace.






The Peace of the Wild Things

                                                                                  Photo by Travelinma

When despair for the world grows in me
 and I wake in the night at the least sound
 in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
 I go and lie down where the wood drake
 rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
 I come into the peace of wild things
 who do not tax their lives with forethought
 of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
 And I feel above me the day-blind stars
 waiting with their light. For a time
 I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
                                                                -Wendell Berry




Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Importance of Being

"How do we know about those around us?...Sit close to someone you love and implore that person to tell and tell and tell their story. " -Thanhha Lai


Everyone holds stories that reveal bits of themselves. If we only take the time to connect and listen.

After losing the big love of my life, I find I crave connection. Now, I sit for hours and visit with friends and family. It reminiscent of college days when I would sit in the dorm and talk and talk until the wee hours of the morning. Life seemed to stretch out ahead of us, unending; we thought we had all the time in the world, and nothing was more important than those connections.

Settled into the comfort of married life, if invited out, we would often decline. Instead we would stretch out on either end of the couch reading or go for a long walks holding hands. (This was not only romantic, but an attempt to moderate my husband's long strides.) I didn't want for more. We had each other.

Now, my heart yearns to reach out to others. I collect stories. I collect them over dinner. I collect while grabbing handfuls of homemade popcorn seasoned with brewer's yeast and dill and lament the tini-ness of Tiny Houses, swoon in the rich sound of my Yamaha guitar and talk fermented foods. I listen to the dreams of my daughter, the nursing student or the training of a soldier, my son. I connect while sipping herbal tea, listen to travel plans, and spiritual matters. Jerry stories are a constant.

Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself.-Mohsin Hamid
As I connect with others, gather collective stories and share and listen to Jerry stories, I am discovering myself and beginning to build my future alone.

Each day is a gift. In the face of death, my husband chose to thank God for each day. Through this journey we both rediscovered of the importance of connecting with others and practicing love. I choose to connect with my heart. I want to know about those around me. In knowing others, I begin to understand myself and all that is possible.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Brave

Some call me brave,
I am not brave.
I am choice-less.

I measure my days 
by closing the curtains
to the street light,
sliding into a bed
that is much too big
and
waking again
by drawing the curtains
open
in the hopes of finding
some
light.

I am not brave.
I am choice-less.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sunday Hikes

                                            Jerry on a Sunday Hike-2016
                                     (Photo compliments of Alison Murdoch)

For the past year, Sundays have been devoted to long, long walks with friends.  In grief literature and talking with other survivors,  I was told that often the invitations just don't come anymore especially if you tended to do things as a couple with other couples.  I have been so fortunate.  That has not happened to me.  My friends still invite me to hike with them.  Today for instance, as we were hiking and sinking up to our knees in the last bit of snow, I quipped, "This is a Jerry thing.  These kinds of things happened all the time whenever I hiked with Jerry."  My friends know Jerry and how he operated, although for the most part he would behave himself on these Sundays.  For example historically, we'd often get lost. We'd be on a mountain top in the middle of an electrical storm.  He'd traverse us over boulders, roots and "raging" rivers. Seems after a time, I would have known better, but I always followed him and trusted.  You'd never know what would happen when Jerry left the house.  Does anyone have any Jerry stories?

Beautiful


                                                                             Blueberry Fields at Camp

The ice on the pond
thins,
logs are dropped into the belly
of the stove,
dogs doze
Pink Floyd plays,
I sip matcha,
a change of scene
does good to forget
and at the same time
remember,
you follow me where-ever
I go,
whatever I do
you remind me of what I had
and
what I have lost.
Then on the ride
home
the radio
plays
Lightfoot's 
Beautiful
and I cry
tears of gratitude
and
love.

Gordon Lightfoot was among Jerry's all time favorite musicians.  A few years ago, I brought Jerry to see Lightfoot for his birthday.  The line, so fitting: " I think that I was made for you and you were made for me."  How lucky am I? A rarity. And...Jerry called me Beautiful.



Saturday, April 8, 2017

I Don't Know

Stuck in a tornado of emotions,
Caught up in thoughts of sorrow, loneliness
And grief.
The dust bunnies multiply
I sit
My throat aches
And the tears tickle as they run.

How do I manage?
Day by day,
Yes,
But really how do I live without you
Month after month,
Year after year?
How?
I don't know.


Books Books and More Books

Piles of books teeter beside my chair where I watch the birds and sip my morning latte and then sit for afternoon tea.  More are beside my bed, while my shelves hold volumes.  Books are in my purse and in the car. It feels good to be able to read again, since my concentration has improved.  There was a time when I grew anxious about ever being able to read more than a Facebook post. For a short time I viewed myself as a fraud;I'm a reading teacher for goodness sakes who couldn't read more than a few sentences at a time. Thankfully, now I am reading and I am writing.  My concentration is improving. Relieved, I can authentically talk about my struggles with my students.  It gently reminds me just how much of the brain is robbed from chronic stress. I hope that this experience makes me a better teacher and human being.

Friday, April 7, 2017

A Full Bed


Ready for sleep, I see my bed is already full where one dog sometimes two, and three cats sleep.  With a sickly sweet tone I say, "Move over." Waiting a second for any sign of movement, I decide to turn down the covers and slide into bed anyway. Inch by inch I push my way with my legs into my own bed. I am teetering between the bed and the floor. "Impossible," I yell into the air and more gruffly order, "Move!" Nothing. I slip my hands under Rex's body and with all my strength I roll him over so I can get just a little room to sleep on my side in MY bed. Once I am fully on the bed, I realize that my 50 pound dog is on the top of the blankets and I can't cover to get cozy. Finally, I order him off the bed and quickly pull up the covers, my movements quick and jerky because I fear that I won't be settled  before he hops into bed again. This always ends with a chuckle.

The funny thing is this scenario plays much the same most nights, but it takes me by surprise each time it happens. A curious thing!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Questions and More Questions

From the way I have been talking anyone would think that H's death mattered chiefly for its effect on myself. Her point of view has seemed to have dropped out of sight. -CS Lewis, A Grief Observed

Even before I read the above quote, the exact notion had been on my mind for a long time.  My blog posts are all about me.  All about my pain and grief.  Twinges of guilt surface.  I am preoccupied with the complications of living alone in this world. Suddenly thoughts of Jerry are overshadowed, yet I think about him constantly.  It is hard to explain.

I know what images my Catholic upbringing creates for heaven, hell and limbo. The nuns used to give the impression that limbo was the worst-a place where there is no movement toward heaven and no movement closer to hell. My current understanding is that heaven is nearness to God and hell is remoteness from God and that limbo does not exist,but that prayers can aid the soul to progress closer to God.  While praying this morning I broke down.  A portion of the Prayer for the Departed caught in my throat, ".....dispel their sorrows, change their darkness into light..."  I have been saying this prayer a zillion times a day and only this morning, I wondered:  Is Jerry sorrowful?  Is Jerry in darkness?   All these months I have worried little about Jerry.  He is no longer in pain.  His health is restored.  He is near God.  He was not without faults (being a human), but suddenly I wonder, he is more than OK, right?

There has just been so much to deal with here on this earth.  Often I am overwhelmed.  So to compartmentalize my life and Jerry's new life with the trust that he is more than flourishing, I have been able to survive.  Lewis also comes to a point when he questions what state his wife is in after her passing.  They tell me that H is at peace. What makes them so sure of this?...Why should the separation (if nothing else) which so agonizes the lover who is left behind be painless to the lover who departs?  Does Jerry ache for me as much as I ache for him?  Somehow I picture him knowing my every thought, watching my every move, but how can I be so sure? I think that he has better access to me than I do currently to him.  It is all so confusing and there is so much that is really unknown.  I have so so many questions.

And then I remembered the dreams, so vivid, where he visited me reassuring me that he was whole, that he was always with me and that he loved me deeply.

I  continue to pray.  Thoughts of Jerry are a constant. I pray for reassurance that he is OK and that my family with time will be OK too.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

One Word

I walk into the local market to pick up some almond milk and one can of organic grain-free dog food.  I wander the aisles just in case I'm missing something important, but I feel much like a lost soul.  From aisle to aisle I discount we need more eggs, dried beans or mixed greens.  Careful about adhering to a budget, I put the two items on the conveyor belt, pay and head out the door.

While putting the cart away, I hug another basketball mom who I haven't run into since Jerry passed.  She asked what happened.  "Cancer.....all clear....sick all summer....no answers...pain." 

The word stuck in my throat.  Pain. My husband endured so so much.  I just lost it. 



Tuesday, April 4, 2017

WHAT MY CHILDHOOD TASTED LIKE

             
                               

Sea-salty steamed clams,                                
I remember the first time I ate them
dripping with melted butter                          
at Wormwood's Restaurant in Camp Ellis,
I think my mother cut me off,
I ate too many.

On hands and knees
in a vast field,
 I picked until my fingers were stained
red,
Little tart, sweet jewels
Wild strawberries.

My Gram pressed coins
into my hand
sending me to Reilly's Bakery
for eclairs,
the custard oozed
when bitten or the pastry was held too tight,
we indulged, just the two of us.

Peppermint stick ice cream
dripped down my hand,
down my arm to my elbow,
a melted flow,
my mother yelled, 'Lick!"
the napkin stuck to the sugar cone.

Root beer barrels, two for a penny,
I sat on the scratchy beach blanket
the candy rolling inside my mouth,
when I grew tired of root beer
I counted the licks to the center of a
cherry tootsie pop, until my tongue grew
tired.

  (This post is inspired by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.)            



Monday, April 3, 2017

Control and Order


The image begins to sharpen.
Before adjusting the lens
everything is a blur.
I see the little yellow birds feeding furiously.

For months now,
since shortly after Jerry's death
I have observed the living-
collecting data such as bird sightings and weather.

I thought that recorded observations would provide answers,
but instead
it prompts more questions.

Noisy jays visit one day and not the next,
this morning goldfinches perch
for the first time ever, feeding
while speckled starlings cling to the worn suet bag
and cooing mourning doves feed on the ground.

Carefully, I record the date,
the birds,
the temperature
and the weather.
I last filled the feeder yesterday.
Control and order
I realize
are really illusions.










Sunday, April 2, 2017

Anticipate, Plan and Hope

Jerry, Wispy clouds float in a sky blue,
most of the snow is gone
puddles dot the field,
the grass looks like shredded wheat,
lawn mowers sit undercover
waiting.

A squirrel darts from nowhere,
I grip the steering wheel tighter
and squeeze my eyes shut,
just for a second and exhale
thinking that was a close one
for that little guy.
How lucky.

I ran into the grocery store
the other day
at about 7 pm
the parking lot empty,
the store too quiet
I picked out a cantaloupe
on sale
unripened, too hard to eat.
It sat on the counter
until this morning I pierced the
webbed rind with the tip of the knife
and after a couple of cuts
I popped a chunk into my mouth
and I thought of you-
morning fruit medleys,
your favorite.

George our neighbor
met me half way between
our house and his
to open a bottle
of Maple Syrup
the one you bought me this summer,
my hand too weak to muster strength,
my heart too sad to
register all the ways
I miss you.

This is what the living do,
straddle between the before and after,
the what ifs and the what is,
the what was and what could have been.

Meanwhile, the compost needs to be dumped
near the strawberries you planted.
I can't help but wonder
what the harvest will yield.
On your hands and knees last spring
a year ago you anticipated years of picking
because that is what the living do,
Anticipate, plan and hope
For a future that may never come.

(This was inspired by Marie Howe's What the Living Do.)








Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Lumberjack


Stanley, the lumberjack is here.  So far he has cleaned out the ashes, started a fire and is now on his way to the dump to take care of the recyclables and trash.  When we closed the inn years ago, he stayed on with us at the log cabin.  It helped us and it kept him busy.  Jerry was his boss.  He and Jerry had grand plans-a vision.  Now, I must be the one to hold the visions and direct.
It's a big task.

This Saturday morning is strangely quiet. I miss Jerry.  I miss the hearty laughs and stories that Stanley and Jerry would exchange. I miss the delineations in our lives.  Jerry primarily dealt with heating, yard work/gardening and tinkering about the house.  Right now, I hold it all.

My vision is to simplify.  I know it will take time.  In the meantime, I must be patient, breathe and trust that all will be well. I am so grateful that little bits of my life remain the same.  It is good to have Stanley around now and again.