Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Two Months

It has been two months today since Bill died. That isn't very long at all, and yet it seems like a lifetime in some ways. Everything has changed and things are still changing every day. I like to think of myself as fairly flexible, but it's too much for me sometimes and I end up crashing before the end of the day. That's what happened today, and I found myself in bed before 8:30 pm without having written anything! If I hadn't had to get up to take my meds, I'd have missed writing anything today altogether.

I'll do better tomorrow about the writing, but I can't complain about how I am doing otherwise. Feeling stronger and more energized (well, except for tonight), and looking forward. Life is changing again, and I am resting up to roll with the punches.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Memory of Mom


The first place I remember living in was in North Long Beach on Ellis Avenue. It was a little one bedroom house with a garage, behind a bigger house. My sister and I slept on the couch in the living room for the first couple of years we lived there. We would be put to bed on my parents’ bed and then transferred in a semi-comatose state to the couch when they went to bed.

At some point, my dad closed off part of the garage to make a little bedroom for Barbara and me, leaving a little laundry room in the remaining space for my mom’s wringer washer and sink. I remember her hand scrubbing my dad’s workshirt collars on a washboard (one of those corrugated tin things with a wooden frame) before she would toss them in with the rest of the whites.

There was a clothesline just outside the kitchen door (the only door) where my mom would hang the clothes after wringing them, rinsing them, and running them through the wringer again. She had this wonderful housedress she made for herself. It was black and white and had a full circle of a skirt that she could lift from both sides so that it came up like large wings. There is a picture of her standing under the clothesline wearing the dress. She had a neighbor take the picture so she could send it to Dad when he was in Saudi Arabia.

I remember the stove, which actually had a space underneath large enough for a cardboard box. Oddly enough, that’s where we used to keep the trash – in a cardboard box under the stove. I remember setting fire to the contents of that box early one morning (I was six). I was up before my mom and lighting little bits of tissue paper and then tossing them back into the box when the flame came too close to my fingers. Most of the time, the paper was extinguished before it came into contact with the contents. Only this time, it wasn’t. The next thing I remember, my mom was up, out of bed, her face the same color as her copper red hair. She had the box outside the door and had me by the arm in a nanosecond. The next thing I knew, the paddle had come down off the top of the refrigerator and she was giving the back of my legs and behind as good a licking as she could with the balsawood paddle. She was shaking and crying – angry, scared, lonely (Daddy was 15,000 miles away in Saudi Arabia), and fed up with doing it all by herself.

I’m sorry, Mom. I know I must have pushed your buttons beyond anything that could be called reasonable.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Gratitude

I nearly copped out tonight. It's late, and I traveled today (San Antonio to Denver by way of Dallas and Oklahoma City -- I am firing my travel agent!). I can't lie. I'm tired and I ache all over from the medieval torture devices used as seats in commercial cattle cars, er airliners.

But I can't go to bed tonight without expressing gratitude. This little trip was balm to my spirit, and there are so many people who contributed to making it such a healing holiday. I hope I have remembered to thank everyone who fed me, and hugged me, and made me laugh, and made things easier for me in some way this past week (including such things as leading me to an ATM so I could pay my lodging bill). I feel like I have been treated like a princess, and I liked it a lot!

I reserve a special thank you, though, for the two people who made the trip possible -- My sister and her husband. They volunteered in August to come back in September and take care of the house and the dogs so that I could go to San Antonio with confidence that everything would be all right. Everything is way more than all right! Barbara and my Bob-in-law took care of a huge list of honey-dos: Wheelchair ramp taken up, medical adaptive equipment and excess furniture listed on Craig's List, deck rails painted to match trim on house, hot water recirculator and sensors installed, dogs broken of all bad habits, dual flush valve installed in powder room, and I haven't mentioned some of the other little things I noticed nor have I even been around to the whole house. Keep in mind that I was only gone for five days!

So, I am feeling enormous amounts of gratitude all the way through and all the way around tonight. I am thankful for a wonderful holiday, and thankful that I am safely home and everything here is all in order. I am thankful for friends and family who surrounded me with love and affection (and prayers) all along the way. I am thankful to the strangers I met who refused to remain so, and shared their hearts with me. And I am most thankful to the God of this Universe who brought us all together.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Daily Dose of Wow!

San Antonio - Day Five (and Final)

A day without brutal heat and humidity! Woo! Hoo! Another fabulous breakfast by the pool (crab omelet) and then a day spent being with people I love, starting with Berinda.

We went to church, where after an hour and a half I pulled the plug because it didn't look like it was going to end anytime soon. I had forgotten that there were denominations that focused on quantity rather than quality in that department. Berinda likes going for the music and singing. That was the first 45 minutes. Then the preaching commenced. I just wonder how long the sermon would have been without all the additional syllables added to the ends of words (Jesusah, churchah, etc.) and the frequent requests for congregational responses to silly overhead questions. I'd have stuck it out, but when I caught Berinda settling into her seat for a nap I figured she was ready to go, too. And so she was.

We came back to Chicken Paradise, where Anne (the proprietor) had set aside some chicken feed so that Berinda could feed the chickens before we hunted eggs. She enjoyed that very much, as she did the picture taking afterward. Here are a couple of them, taken by Anne who is a very accomplished photographer.





I was then able to take my next two meals with old and dear friends and simply relax and talk about old times and what came after. The conversations sure run a little differently these days than they used to! I don't think we ever used to spend much time cataloging our physical disorders and pharmacy orders. In the old days we'd have been bragging about something or other that we wouldn't even consider doing anymore!

Of course, Bill's name came up many times in conversation, on both sides throughout my stay here. It has been therapeutic to be able to share stories, memories, and a few tears. A lot of healing has taken place over the past five days, and I leave here grateful to all who have helped me take these steps. I'll be back next year -- with my golf clubs!

Daily Dose of Wow! 092610

This is a video taken of a hash run in Seoul near Yongsan on 9/25. My son, Josh, is the young man you see running ahead with the chalk marking the trail. He's what is called the hare. Awesome scenery. I'm sure glad I didn't know I could run and get drunk at the same time when I was that age!

H3 YKH3 Trail Run (Video)

Outstanding trail run with a superb mixture of city and mountain run over the Wall Of Whines and started and finished near Gwanhamun. Trail was HARED by GALACTICLY (sic) STUPID and DODIC. Fun and nice down-down with a few songs, and some Saki and Nips from the returners.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

San Antonio - Day Four

Ceremonies, meetings, banquets... I am officially tired and ready to go home. Tomorrow will be church with Berinda, lunch with friends, dinner with other friends, and then time to pack up and head out of Dodge on a Monday morning flight (I originally published this with "Tuesday morning flight" -- my subconscious mind has been wrapped around Tuesday the whole trip). It's been a good trip, and so wonderful getting together with old friends; but I realized toward the end of the banquet tonight that it has taken an enormous amount of energy simply having conversations. As much as I wanted to be in the middle of everything, at the same time I wanted to be in a protected corner just watching, or maybe even home in bed watching it on TV. Part of that is simply the introvert in me; I know this. The other part is the frailty I still feel hanging around me. It's as if I am convalescing from a long illness and haven't yet got my "legs" back. That's why this is short, and I am going to bed now!

Friday, September 24, 2010

San Antonio - Day Three

Another very full day. Of course, this morning was devoted to delivering the news to Berinda. I won't go into a lot of details, because this was her private moment of devastation and grief. She handled it pretty well, though. She cried, "I miss him! I miss him! I miss him!" And I just held her and rocked her and cried with her and said, "I miss him, too," and assured her that he would be there waiting for us when we get to "heaven." The wonderful thing about Berinda is that she pretty much stays "in the moment." She will have moments of grief, but she doesn't get stuck in emotions like the rest of us do.

The next stop was the reunion remembrance ceremony. Unfortunately, I have never been able to get to "Security Hill" (the location of the event) from any point in San Antonio without getting lost. I don't know why this is. I use a GPS navigator and there is nothing rational about it. Today was no exception. I was very nearly in tears before I finally got on the base and parked six blocks from the ceremony (all the other streets were blocked off) and race-walked to the EC-47 display in the heat and humidity.

I managed to get there before they began the reading of the names -- it was the only reason I was there, to hear Bill's name and observe the honors that followed (21-gun salute, taps, missing man flyover). I was alone, so when the emotions became too much, I could easily step away and just allow it. The Missing Man Formation has always been a tear trigger for me -- it's the combination of the jet noise ("the sound of freedom" as a colleague of mine used to call it) and the one jet pulling away from the others and flying off alone while the others remain in formation.

A picnic followed, and of course it was back where I left the car. This time, I took a bus! No kidding, the heat and humidity were KILLER today! I shared the bus ride with a very old friend -- well, he's older than me and we've been friends for a long time, since the early 80s. As we disembarked at the picnic grounds, we ran into other acquaintances and my friend would turn to me and say, "You know Joe Farquart (name changed), don't you?" And I would look at "Joe" and say "I used to know a Joe Farquart, but he had thick dark hair and didn't have a belly. You must not be the same person."

It was the same person. Every time. I just don't know what happened to these guys! I know I haven't changed that much -- well, except for the white hair, the age spots, the lactose intolerance and the swollen ankles. And perhaps some memory issues.

Speaking of memory issues: I have been blithely going along on this trip thinking I wasn't going home until Tuesday, and then I happened to look at my itinerary this afternoon. I go home on Monday! I have been doing a lot of that kind of absent-minded stuff. I forget if I have taken my medicine so I had to get a pill saver to keep track of it. I forget to take addresses and directions and check times and so I arrive late or not at all. These are things that drive me absolutely batty when someone else does it, and I am doing all the time right now. I know it isn't permanent, at least I hope not, and I hope my friends will forgive me if this has affected them in any way. I'm just kind of a ditz right now.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

San Antonio - Day Two

I awoke to the soft crowing of a rooster at about 5:30. As I found out later in the day, it was a Chinese Cochin rooster, a breed developed for the ancient Chinese royal court. A beautiful bird with the softest, sweetest wake-up call in the gray predawn light. I dozed off and on until the light was strong enough to walk to the bathroom without risking injury. Shortly after my shower, breakfast arrived at the door carried by Ann and Joe Barfield, the owners of this peaceful place. It was delicious and more than I could eat, but I gave it my best effort.

Then out to Castroville to the FTVA Reunion golf tournament where I helped put goody bags together, enjoyed the company of old friends, and missed my wing man. Golf was one of the things Bill loved when he was well. The good thing was that the folks I was with today knew him, and know me, and they were pretty wonderful about taking care of me today without it looking too much like they were. I hope they all know that I needed every one of those hugs!

As we traded stories and caught up with each other on the events of our lives since we were together last, my perspective got some needed readjusting. I heard from at least two who are nursing spouses with Alzheimer's, one with a spouse who is now bedridden,  another is a widower this year... Our age is starting to show in ways that are much more obnoxious than gray hair and paunchy bellies. These are the folks I used to "run the Ville" with, raising hell and sowing those wild oats. Now we look like hell, and we have to eat oats to control our cholesterol!

However, we don't ALL look like hell. One of my old friends at 70 looks better than he did at 55! The secret? He quit trying to live a life he hated and walked out on it and into a life he loves. He found his soul mate. After seeing the transformation in him, I now really believe in such a thing. Either that, or he is Dorian Gray and somewhere a painting is getting really creepy looking.

When I got back to Chicken Paradise, it was late afternoon and the chickens came running, thinking I was bringing food I guess. I wandered the grounds with them for a bit while we spoke of things eternal, and then decided I would try out the outdoor shower before calling it a night. What a sweet indulgent treat to shampoo with lavender scented soap under a huge spreading oak tree with all the evening sounds around you! After that, jammies and a cup of tea. 

I have to call this a good day. How could I not?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

San Antonio - Day One

I am so glad I was warned about the unreliable nature of my emotions during this grief process. The waterworks start at the most unusual and inconvenient times and places. Today it was as we were making our final approach to San Antonio. It was a perfect flight and I sat back and watched the clouds and enjoyed the landing, and then the next thing I knew the tears were flowing. Fortunately I was able to turn my head toward the window and just wait it out, and things were pretty much dried up before we taxied to the gate. But without the warnings, I might have thought I was just losing my mind.

As near as I can figure, the trigger was San Antonio. Bill and I came through here in mid-May on our last trip and our oldest daughter lives here in a group home run by Mission Road Ministries. Part of why I made this trip was so I could sit down with my daughter tell her about her dad. She does not yet know that he has passed away, and I am not sure how I am going to explain it to her. It is not a task I look forward to.


Berinda is a mentally disabled adult of 36 who understands things at about the level of a first grader. She also has a seizure disorder which was well controlled for two decades, until about six months ago when she started having seizures again. These aren't little spells of staring unresponsiveness. These are falling down, teeth gnashing, tongue biting violent seizures. This makes breaking the news in a controlled environment pretty important.

Since we could not get the team together before Friday, tonight I just took her out for dinner and brought her back to show her the place where I am staying. I found this little B&B, Chicken Paradise, only three blocks from Berinda's group home, and a perfect place for a restful stay in San Antonio. Hopefully it is also the perfect place to find the perfect words to deliver perfectly awful news.

Daily Dose of Wow! 092210

What if we could actually see everything around us? What do I mean by that? The range of Visible light is just a blip on the spectrum. This means that all around us there are things we do not see! Today as I was flying above the clouds and marveling at awesomeness of the sky, it occurred to me that I was seeing only a sliver of what was really there. And it was so stunning, that I imagine that we would simply evaporate from the visual overload of seeing it all unencumbered by our humanness!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

At the Corners of My Mind

Some interesting things have been happening for me in the memory department. Not only am I having memories of Bill, and believe me those are almost hourly, but I am having memories of situations, people, and events that don't include Bill -- many even predate our meeting in 1981. These aren't the random "I remember so-and-so and the time that we went apple picking in Vermont" type of memories. These are full-on memories of moments in which I can "feel" sensations like tropical humidity or a gentle breeze on my skin, "smell" scents like ylang ylang or BBQ, and "hear" music, laughter, and bits of conversation. These have been good memories of old friends and familiar places. Each one has left me with a smile.

Bill used to bring up memories of times and things I had said that I had little or no memory of. The same thing happens when my sister and I get together. We will talk about the same event and our perceptions are totally different. For one of us it might be a non-event; and for the other a life-changing moment. The thing that always frustrates me about these conversations about the past is that frequently I will be reminded of something I said or wrote that the receiver connected with, and I will have no memory of saying or writing any such thing. It always sounds pretty good to me; I guess it's that pride of authorship thing. Sometimes it even sounds like something I would say: because it contains some of my "signature" words and phrases or because it is something I say a lot and had only recently become conscious of.

I shouldn't have any trouble remembering what I've written. I always re-read everything several times...make that dozens of times. As a former communicative skills instructor, I am obsessive about spelling and punctuation (and always up for a heated debate on comma use and placement). And like anyone who fancies themselves a writer, I love playing with the words. Stroking them, so to speak, until I get the phraseology that has the right rhythm when I hear it in my head.  Frankly, there are times when that rhythm is going, the writing just takes over, and I am surprised at the end by some insight into myself or my relationship with the Universe that I have discovered in it. A lot of these kinds of things end up in my Moleskine journal and are not shared very widely.

I wish I could say that these were very deep things that I come up with. That would make me at least wise. Mostly, as of late, these have been brutally honest reckonings with who I have been. When I say "reckonings," I am not implying judgment. The brutality is in memories of angry words or destructive actions or clumsy choices. My evolving rules of self-discovery demand that I suspend judgment of the person I was even five minutes ago, but observe that person and the environment and the choices that took place and the consequences of those choices. In this way, I can have compassion for the person that was and is.

At the end of it, "Did you learn anything?" That's the question my father would ask us when we would come to him and confess some misdeed or poor choice that had resulted in appropriate consequences, since that's the way the Universe works. If we came to them, he and Mom would always have our backs when we dealt with consequences, but they didn't let us avoid them (It made their jobs a lot easier, I am sure!). However, just to be sure we wouldn't have to repeat the error, Dad would ask us if we learned anything.

These were not always easy conversations, and I am certainly not trying to suggest that I never had to repeat any lessons. I'm an Aries, and as hard-headed as any ram. There were some lessons I did over and over and over until I either figured out that I wasn't moving forward anymore or realized that "this hurts and I don't have to do it anymore." I guess the key sign that I am on the aging side of the equation is that I ask myself that question (Did you learn anything?) less often, and when I do ask it I try to be pretty clear with myself that I don't have enormous amounts of time to be repeating lessons!

And now, I am off to the airport to pick up my sisty-ugler and my favorite Bob-in-law!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Daily Dose of Wow! 092010

It is without a doubt the most beautiful night of the summer outside. After a blistering hot day, it is cool and clear with a few clouds catching the light of a gorgeous waxing gibbous moon which will be full in a few days. And Jupiter is so big and bright that it could nearly light the sky without the moon's help. This is the kind of night for sleeping under the stars.

Taking Care of Myself

I realized as I was going through some normal chores and routines, which haven't felt anything like normal since Bill died, that it doesn't feel as raw today as it did the last time I checked in on those feelings. I can put dishes away, wash clothes, and sweep floors without feeling the devastation of loss each time I do it. I can change the linens on my new single person's bed without having to sit down and run the pictures in my mind of what the room looked like before. I can take care of myself. Of course, I always knew that; but my self-confidence has taken a bit of a beating the last couple of years. It's a bitch finding out that you can't fix everything, even when you have ardent believers in your abilities.

One of the nice things about taking care of myself is being able to eat what I want to eat when I want to eat it. This morning I created a wonderful omelet with some fresh tomato, cilantro, marjoram (Greek oregano), roasted Anaheim pepper, and a bit of creamy Cana goat cheese. All those lovely colors and flavors! It was a work of art! With a bit of ground sea salt and pepper -- perfection! I really should have taken a picture of it; but I was pretty hungry from all those wonderful aromas, so it didn't last long on the plate.

The other part of taking care of myself right now is protecting myself.  I am aware that I am not 100% right now. There are times I feel downright frail with the aches, pains, and fatigue of a beat up old woman. And so I honor that frailty and give myself permission to not do things or go places or even have conversations when I don't feel an energized spirit. I have been around when my ego pushed my body into going going going when it needed rest, and the results are not pretty. I used to do a lot of that as a working wife and mother. I had myself convinced that nobody could do it better than me, so I was the only one who could do it and I had to do it all.

Now I just remind myself that I am on sabbatical and what I am supposed to be doing is healing, not creating stress and illness by going going going doing doing doing. These are hard habits to break, and I know more than a few of you reading this can relate to what I am saying!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Daily Dose of Wow! 091910

Enjoy some pictures of Colorado in living color! Fall colors, that is.

Sunday Drive

After the whining I did yesterday, I decided to take matters into my own hands today and get out of the house for a while. First I hit up the local Farmer's Market. After the bounteous market in Omaha, I have to say it was a bit of a disappointment. More clothes and jewelry than farm produce, no heirloom tomatoes, and it seemed like some of the prices were unreasonably high. One pound of honey for $8! I let them keep it to sell to somebody else. I came home with some produce and some roasted peppers still warm from the roaster.

After I got the stuff home and put away, I decided to take a drive up the hill to Black Hawk, ostensibly to put a few dollars into the slots and keep the Colorado economy healthy. It is also a good spot to pick up the Peak to Peak Highway (Colorado 119) and check out some of the fall colors, which is what I did after I blew through what I had budgeted for the one-armed bandits.

Late afternoon on a fall Sunday is a perfect time for being up in the mountains in Colorado. The Aspens looked like ribbons of gold on green velvet. With perfect weather and very little traffic, it was like being in an entirely different universe.

Before I turned the car towards home, I realized I was out near my friend's house in Lafayette, so I stopped in to see her for a few minutes. With Bill's illness and her deep into a graduate program, it has been way too long since we got together. I was reminded that life has gone on for everybody else while I was isolated at home the past few months, and it isn't easy for anybody. I am going to remember that the next time I feel like complaining about something that somebody else might consider a blessing.

When I got home, it was nearly 9:00 pm and the little dogs were more than excited to see me. I'm sure they thought they had been abandoned. The wiggling and jumping didn't stop for more than 10 minutes. Although I may have made one or two people that happy by leaving the room, I don't think I've ever made a human being that happy just by walking into a room! On the other hand the visual I get of a person, having caught sight of me, wiggling and jumping and wetting themselves with delight, is sending me to bed with a smile on my face!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Daily Dose of Wow! 091810

I bought myself a gardenia bush to add to the jungle indoors. It has one full bloom on it and is covered with the buds of future flowers. The perfume of that one bloom fills the house with tropical sweetness. Divine!

Another Saturday

I think I have to figure out a different way to spend Saturdays. For the past couple of years, Saturday has been a poker day. Unless we were on a trip, Bill and I would have a lazy morning with breakfast and newspaper and then go play poker. So, that's what I did today, and it was strangely unsatisfying. It isn't just that I am not winning, although I am sure that winning would make me feel better. I just felt like I could have spent my day in a more worthwhile pursuit.

Next Saturday, I will be in San Antonio visiting with my oldest daughter and swapping stories with old Air Force buddies. I will be looking for new activities for Saturdays when I return. There are lots of possibilities: AFA football, courses at Colorado Free University, hikes with the dogs... One activity I think I will avoid  is retail therapy. I've noticed that it is much easier to spend money on things I don't really need when I am feeling blue. Then, when the bills come in, I really feel blue!

I am craving the security of knowing that I have something I look forward to doing every week. Something that makes Saturday special again, the way it was when we were kids. Once the chores were done, Saturday was like the magic kingdom. Now Saturday is just kind of a lonely day with routines that no longer fit me.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Daily Dose of Wow! 091710

I dug up some of Mom's irises today, because it looked like it was time to divide them after two years. OH! My! Gosh! In the one bed that I dug up, I pulled up at least 30 rhizomes. I remember putting in about eight, because it was such a small spot. I get to give away flowers! This is an investment program that works!

Conversation

I was talking with my sister today, and I mentioned something about not having many conversations in the past few days. She, thinking this was a lament, commented that this must be one of the hardest parts about being widowed. I guess that might be true for some widows, but truly Bill wasn't very chatty. This was especially so over the last few years, when his energy went to fighting health battles. I spent a lot of time talking to myself in those days.

In fact, it was only in the first few days after everyone went home that I missed conversation. From early June until the first week in August, I had plenty of companionship and conversation; sometimes more than I wanted. This is because as an introvert (see Myers-Briggs), I crave solitude when my batteries need recharging; and I was and remain in need of serious recharging. At the same time, I know that it is important for me to be around people and be social. So I play poker on Monday and stay home on Tuesday, go out somewhere on Wednesday and stay home on Thursday, and so on. It isn't a perfect system, but I have a while to work out the kinks.

Knowing that I need conversation and activity, I've also put in an application to be a Veteran's Services Technician for Douglas County. It looked like a good opportunity to meet people and help other Vets make their way through the system. Since, I am pretty sure that I don't want to go back to work full-time, a part-time voluntary position makes more sense. Something that affords the flexibility to be able to pack a bag and take off for somewhere if the spirit moves me.

I might even let my sister talk me into one of those cruises she has been promoting. That might take some convincing; however, as I never have been attracted to the idea of being closed up on a ship and out at sea for days. Add that to taking meals with a few hundred strangers, and I am already thinking this doesn't sound like fun. I mean, seriously, what would I talk about?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Sleepy Day

I'm not sure why, but I haven't been able to keep my eyes open today. When I haven't been taking care of little chores around the house, I've been napping on and off all day. Now it's a little after 8:00 pm and I am thinking about making it an early night. Perhaps I am just catching up on the rest I missed over the past few months. I don't think it's anything to be alarmed about at this point. It's just been a sleepy day.

Daily Dose of Wow! 091510

 Ever  wonder how they did the music for The Good, the  Bad & the Ugly?  Well, according to an email I got today, this is the way it was done. Whether it is or isn't, I enjoyed the heck out of this and hope you do, too.
video

Ready For My Close-up, Mr DeMille

About a half a hundred years ago, before I was married or a mother, when I was a little twig of a thing, what I wanted more than anything in the world was to be an actress. I didn't care if I was famous or won awards, I just wanted to act in plays. I even picked my college  because of its association with one of the oldest Shakespeare Festivals in the country. There were roles that I longed to play when I got mature enough to play them. Now I am a little too mature.

Of course we all have dreams that are changed with the realities of our lives. I didn't get my degree at Southern Oregon College. In fact it took me nearly 20 years to finish my Bachelor's degree. Along with college, my acting career took a backseat to all the other exciting things that came my way: world travel, Air Force career, marriage, parenthood, mortgages, utility bills, broken pipes, car repairs, etc.

Still, I managed to pick up a part here and there in a community theater production, and for the past ten years or so I have subscribed to local professional theater companies where I live. I bought the first subscription (for Washington DC's fabulous Arena Stage) the second time that Bill totally forgot my birthday. I renewed it every year until we moved to Colorado, and he got the credit for giving me a great birthday gift.

This year's subscription is to the Arvada Performing Arts Center where tonight I saw Sunset Boulevard. For those unfamiliar with the story, this is the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical based on the old Gloria Swanson film of the same name about an aging actress with illusions of restarting her faded career. It was hard not to relate to the storyline of the actress writing her own script so that she has something to act in. Except, unlike Norma Desmond, I have no illusions about being an ingenue. I am ready for the mature rolls, the character parts -- I've been playing them for years.

Now, I am pretty sure this is irony, at least the way I define it. At long last, I am at a place in my life that I could go be an actor*; and I don't think I want to do that. At least not right now. Each day I am in search of the authentic me in this new life I find myself in. I am watching and listening to learn who this person is that I am attached to. I'm questioning some of the assumptions I've made about her. I have a sense that acting the part of another would kind of get in the way of that, somehow.

*actress is a diminutive expression and not PC

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Daily Dose of Wow! 091410

Daybreak is such a mystical time.
It's the same old sun every day, and yet the light is never the same;
the day is never the same.

I See Dead People

I've decided to pack up the hundreds of photos taking up the dining room and put them away for a while. I'll get back to those family photo books I promised the kids, maybe next year. It's not the sorting and scanning that has put me off the task, although that is pretty intimidating. It's something else that I have even less control over. It hit me today when I changed my profile picture on Facebook, to honor my late father's 80th birthday.


I picked this one because it showed Dad with all of the important women in his life (he adored his mother in law). And that's when I realized, my sister and I excepted, I was looking at dead people. The realization grew that most of the people in the pictures I've been sorting and scanning are dead. It began to feel like I knew more dead people than live ones, and the ones that weren't were going to be one day. That's just about as creepy as it sounds, and it certainly is not where I want to go in this year of healing and re-creation.

Instead of wallowing in the images of ancestors, friends, and colleagues who've gone ahead, I am treasuring the moments with the people who walk this earth with me here and now. These moments will be gone soon enough. It is time to be among the living.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Terrible Toronado

As I was driving back from Omaha yesterday, there was a stretch of lonely two-lane road that brought back a memory from long ago and far away.

I can’t remember exactly when I got it, the 1970 Oldsmobile Toronado – I guess it was late 1979, early 1980. This was a huge boat of a car: big and brown, gas guzzling, but a safe ride for me and my two little ones.

We drove it from Homestead AFB, FL in the spring of 1980 to Maxwell AFB in Montgomery AL, and from there to Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo TX. And then it began to start costing me money: tires, brakes, shocks. But it was the trip to Austin that sealed the Toronado’s fate.

I left the kids with a sitter, and drove to Austin for a week-long conference. I was excited for it to be over so I could head home. I had a date that Friday night with a new guy who seemed promising. I was only a little unnerved by the fact that the car seemed to be running a little hotter than usual. But as I headed for home, through Pontotoc, Texas (because I like the scenic routes), I had no idea what was in store.

Suddenly, at a point on the two-lane straight flat road where I hadn’t seen another car for miles, the temperature gauge on the car shot up into the red and red lights flashed on the dashboard display. I pulled the car over and shut it off. That’s when she began to howl like a banshee and pour steam. I evacuated the car and walked away from it for a little ways. The Toronado continued to scream and steam, and I realized that I could be waiting at the car for a very long time before anyone came. And there was my date tonight – how was I going to get in touch with Bill and let him know?

With more than a little trepidation, I walked back to the car and got my purse and keys, and started walking in the direction I had been driving, hoping that it wouldn’t be too long before I got to some signs of civilization. Where I was at the moment, there was nothing around for miles and miles but miles and miles. It was a warm day, but fortunately not too hot. I kept to the center of the road, because I didn’t like the rustling sounds coming from the brush by the side of the road.

After about 20 minutes, I came to a nice ranch house just off the road. I stopped and told the two brothers that lived there of my situation and asked if I could use the phone. They led me to the phone and excused themselves; they had a cow that was calving and they had to be there to help. I tried to call Bill, but could not reach him at home or at work, so I left a message that I would be in Llano (about 10 miles from the ranch) at the one motel in town.

I guess that’s how I knew Bill was a keeper. I hadn’t been waiting in Llano but about an hour (the brothers drove me into town) when he showed up on his white horse (his brown Malibu) to rescue me. We left the Toronado behind, and kept the story of our unusual first date.

Daily Dose of Wow! 091310

Today my blog registered its 1000th view!

After less than two weeks!

Awesome!

Thank you guys; you are all the best. Your encouragement and support is the stuff that keeps this old world rolling along!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Daily Dose of Wow! 091210

The sky seemed to be full of spirits all day.

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig

It's a little after 9:00 pm and I am home and fresh from a chamomile-infused bath and shortly on my way to bed. Today was kind of a tough day.

It started out wonderfully, with delicious breakfast cooked and served to me at "Cafe Candi," as my niece refers to her kitchen. Outstanding breakfast, superb service, and cozy company! Then I got some special time with my grand niece, while we read to each other from John Steinbeck's The Red Pony. The little Bug (her nickname) is just starting 5th grade and reads aloud better than most adults I know!

And then it was time to get on the road. Within an hour, I could tell this trip home was going to be more of a challenge than the trip into Omaha had been. It started with a vague agitation that built throughout the day. It took a great deal of concentration to keep it under control, and a couple of times I found myself simply screaming out loud for a few seconds just to relieve the tension. Good thing I was taking the less traveled route, with less fellow travelers to observe my bizarre behavior.

As near as I could figure it out, it was about being alone and being lonely and missing my usual traveling partner. If I didn't travel with Bill, I always came home to him. I was feeling the missing pieces, the change to my usual story.  My mood swung from blue to dark-night-of-the-soul and back to blue. It got a little easier, the closer I got to home. By the time the Rockies were in sight, the irritation was easing up and fatigue was setting in.

But there is still the emptiness of no one at home to hear about my trip and fill me in on what I missed while I was gone.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Road Trip

You may have noticed the absence of a post yesterday. You weren't imagining things. I'm not at home and as these things go, I had technical difficulties and was unable to get online last evening to post anything. Today I will try to figure out how to put a post out on my Blackberry. I'm not sure about that tiny keyboard, though.

Where am I? About 20 minutes southwest of Omaha in Papillion visiting with my niece and her family for the weekend -- specifically Patriot's Day. I wanted to spend the day with some real patriots, and so here I am in the shadow of Offutt AFB, the home of Strategic Air Command.

We started this morning at the Omaha Farmer's Market. What an absolute treat! We came back with Heirloom tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, and a fresh baguette. Any guesses as to what lunch is going to be?


Afterwards, we did an auto-tour of Offutt and swapped "lies" about some of the crazy stuff that we have been involved in. One of the nice things about this visit is that Candy (Christina) and Chris are in the same field that Bill and I were in when we were active duty. Chris is a Master Sergeant in the USAF, and Candy (my niece) will be one when her line number comes up early next year. We know some of the same people and have had similar experiences. I think we are all in agreement that General Tony McPeak personally destroyed 40 years of Air Force History when he reorganized and renumbered all the Air Force units. Intel unit numbers should start with 69; and that's all I have to say about that!

It's a beautiful day here in Nebraska, and I am working hard to stay in the moment. Someone I loved very much, and trusted with my life and the lives of my family, is trying to steal everything that Bill and I worked for over the last 20+ years (savings, retirement, investments). How does someone do that, and feel righteous about it? I should have suspected when stealing small amounts didn't bother this person. I am so confused, and angry, and I will admit it --  a little bit scared. Trying to breath through the waves of fury and panic and just go on with the day. I know that, however this works out, I will be ok -- but WHY in the name of Zeus should I have to be dealing with this now??!!? What kind of sick person steals from a widow?

Daily Dose of Wow!

If you've missed this feature the past couple of days, I apologize. I had connectivity problems yesterday, and the day before I simply had a brain fart. Today's feature is the beautiful deer I saw in Parker as I was leaving town yesterday. I stopped and watched this guy for about 10 minutes until he got self-conscious about eating in front of others.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Health

So, today I finally called the VA and talked to someone about the stuff going on with my own health. One of the things that happens when you are a caregiver is that you don't do a very good job of taking care of the caregiver. For the past year, I have been having nearly daily bouts of nausea. Some days it's just a little queasiness, and other days it's full tilt boogie. Today it came on full tilt, and I had had enough, so I called the VA. They were pretty calm until I mentioned that I also broke out into a real unattractive sweat with this and would have to sit down until I got my strength back. That's when they strongly recommended I come to the ER (the nausea, weakness, and sweat are suggestive of serious heart stuff).

The ER? Really? This has been going on for over a year! And it was only a little over a year ago that a hotshot cardiologist ran a wire up my groin and told me that my arteries were "perfect." But I am an obedient airman and I went in. It took less than 5 minutes for the ER triage nurse to figure out that I wasn't in immediate danger and I was sent to the Urgent Care Clinic. I ended up with three vials of blood drained and leaving some urine behind for them to examine. I go back in on Tuesday to see a doc and get results and figure out what is next.

I don't think this is serious. I am fair, fat, and well over 40 and it is very likely a cranky gall bladder. But I will do the drill and get back on track taking care of my own health. The cautionary tale is this: when you are looking after everybody else, you probably aren't looking after yourself very well and things go to hell. I also haven't had an eye exam in three years; and if I hadn't been taking Bill to the dentist every six months, I probably would have skipped that, too.

When I got to the VA Center and checked in, I was chided because it had been since May of last year since I had been seen in my clinic. Well, I was SURE they were mistaken! I am clearly not THAT irresponsible! 
Except that I am. I checked my datebooks from this year and last, and ... yep! I am doing the stuff I jumped all over my mother for doing before and after my father died. Not giving care to the caregiver. That just disappoints me. I thought I was doing SO much better than that!

And as soon as I have that thought I realize that I have found another way to make myself feel bad. "Wow! I did a good thing for myself and I am finding a way to feel bad about it." The guilt that haunts us in grief finding a new and exciting way to torment me!

For the guys with sensitivities to female things, I suggest you put fingers in both your ears and go "La, la, la" during this next section.

When I got done at the VA, I went to the mall and did some retail therapy. I went looking for shoes to wear to the reunion banquet in San Antonio at the end of the month, and ended up buying nearly $400 in lingerie. Oh!
My!
God!
But, truly, when you go in and find that you are wearing the totally wrong bra size and you realize that everybody sees you LIKE THAT; it is an EMERGENCY!

Afterward, I needed a drink. I needed three drinks. Cosmos. Actually, I just needed two -- but they were SO GOOD, that I had the third just because I could. And oysters. And good phone with my girlfriends!

Ok guys, you can come back now. Seriously, I don't know why you get freaked out when we talk about bras.

Daily Dose of Wow! 090810

I got through an entire day without weeping. Not even once.
Wasn't working at it.
Didn't even realize it until the day was entirely gone.
But, it's a new record!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Love Songs

Do you realize that of all the music written in the world, most are love songs? For the past 29 years, since early February 1981, with the exception of a certain Bob Dylan song that takes me back to 1970, every love song I have heard has reminded me of only one person in the world. Even now, when I hear a love song, my heart goes to Bill. That has made music a pretty tender space in these early grieving days. And yet my senses crave the comfort of music -- the energy of it that fills the tired and lonely spaces in my spirit and gives me wings to fly above the hurts.

I've been sticking with New Age instrumentals, but it is hard to hum along with most of that stuff. And speaking of humming, I really haven't been able to do that anyway. I was never a great singer, but I COULD at least carry a tune. Right now I can't even hold a note! My voice quavers like a 90 year old. For most of July and a good bit of August, it wasn't just singing I had problems with. I avoided conversations that lasted more than a few minutes, especially on the phone and especially with Bill's close relatives. My voice would go weak and quivery and then disappear altogether -- it still does once in a while, but I seem to be regaining some control over it. Maybe by Christmas I can sing Jingle Bells, eh? That is, if the tune doesn't make me bawl like a baby.

Every couple has their own special tunes that define times and events in their relationship. For me and Bill, Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called to Say I Love You" was always about the year we spent separated while I was stationed in Korea. International phone calls weren't as easy in 1985, and were very expensive; but we had been married less than two years when I was sent over, and calling to say "I love you!" was one indulgence we allowed ourselves. Years later (1999), when I was on vacation on a little Greek island in the Aegean (and tipsy on Ouzo), I again called Bill just to say "I love you," and it was just as sweet as I remembered it (and just as expensive). Now I can't call. It doesn't matter how good my calling plan is or how much Ouzo I drink; it just isn't good enough.

And so I have allowed myself to listen to love songs the past couple of days. I was surprised to find that it didn't affect me the same way that some other, less loaded things have. After all, if picking up a can of creamed corn in the grocery store can get the waterworks started, I figured love songs were some really dangerous territory. Not only does it not hurt, but in a strange way, it is as if the music is a way for us to keep those telephone lines open.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Daily Dose of Wow! 090710

Today was one of the best days I have had in a very long time. I had brunch with old Air Force friends, the Nurres, this morning and we had a wonderful time catching up and reminiscing. I hope we will be able to do it again very soon. This evening, I was treated to dinner at Maggiano's and lots of love and affection (as well as a thoughtful gift) from my good cousin George and his wonderful wife and all the Kerr "kids". And throughout the day I got lots of reminders from friends and loved ones that I was loved and appreciated. I am so blessed and grateful.

Butterflies

This summer, it seems that my backyard was ground zero for the reproductive efforts of the Anise Swallowtail. From June until only recently, they could be spotted daily fluttering about the maple tree just outside my living-room window. At one point, I gave up my parsley and dill plants to the half dozen or so Swallowtail caterpillars who had taken up residence and were vigorously chowing down and fattening up on my herbs.



I have always loved butterflies. Who doesn't? There is no more magical story to a child than that of metamorphosis -- the changing of the often homely caterpillar to a lifeless dry chrysalis and from that to a gorgeous winged creature who floats on the breezes. Throughout history, butterflies have been used in symbolism to indicate transformation and rebirth. For Christians, the butterfly's three steps of metamorphosis  are clear reminders of spiritual transformation. The caterpillar's incessant crawling and chewing reminds us of our mortal obsession with physical needs. The chrysalis (cocoon) resembles a tomb and the empty shroud left behind by Jesus.  The butterfly itself represents resurrection into life free of material concerns.

I can't say that I am free from material concerns, but from the time I began seeing the Swallowtails in June, I knew they were there to remind me that this was a beginning as well as an ending. Each step forward in our lives means loss and leaving behind. Just as the seed must die so that the plant can grow; so our old life becomes the fertile plain where new life is cultivated. I can resist and suffer (we suffer because resistance is futile), or I can surrender to the transformation and go where it takes me.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day 2010

I had me a man in summertime
He had summer-colored skin
And not another girl in town
My darling's heart could win
But when the leaves fell trembling down
Bully winds did rub their faces in the snow
He got the urge for going And I had to let him go
                                   Joni Mitchell


Summer is over. It seems like it barely started. Just a few weeks ago, it was early May and I was getting the camper packed up for our trip to Florida. Now, it is September, and the camper will soon have to be winterized again. One of my girlfriends thinks I should take it south and spend the next year or two on the road with the dogs and my laptop, starting with the Grand Canyon. A romantic notion that appeals to me in moments when I am feeling strong and self-confident, and scares the willies out of me when I am not -- which is most of the time right now.

Although the Florida trip was long and hard, and definitely colored by the loss of Bill's brother and his own poor health; I know we both treasured that time together, and stored up little moments every day to bring out and cheer us this winter. The night we spent in DalHart, Texas the wind buffeted the camper and blew our folding chairs away, I made him promise we would never have to stay there again on any other camping trip (this was our third stay and it was always windy and awful).

We spent three nights in San Angelo at Lake Nasworthy, recovering from DalHart and reminiscing about our beginnings as a family there in the Concho Valley. How many times we had camped with the kids at the lake, and snuggled in the camper when the kids were all tucked in? Independence Day, Chili Cook-off, and just because it was close by and we could easily get away.

And then the long trek through Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. We skipped New Orleans because Bill was already showing signs that this was no ordinary road trip for him, and I was anxious for the remaining Frizzell siblings to be together. When we got to Sarasota, Bill had already lost his stamina and there wasn't much visiting done. We stayed in Sarasota two days, and didn't even see his family on the second day because Bill didn't have the energy to get in and out of the car that many times.

The drive home was as close to a death march as I ever want to get. We got to the panhandle of Florida the first day, and then spend three days there at a campsite on the bay while Bill recovered enough to go on. The rest of the trip was done in much shorter segments, with visits to friends in Louisiana and Texas as we went. On all of these visits, Bill spent most of his time lying down recovering from the effort of getting through each day -- but he wasn't ready to see a doctor.

It was while visiting with friends in Rusk TX in late May that we first noticed the mass beginning to develop on his chest wall. At that point it looked like a pacemaker inserted under his skin on his chest on the upper left side. He had begun to lose weight dramatically, and I began to wonder if I would be able to get him home to Colorado.

I have to tell the truth. I was also pretty angry about all this. I was doing all the work for this trip (hitching, unhitching, hookups, cooking, navigating, driving, etc.) and he was sick and dying on me. You can be as judgmental as you want, but it pissed me off. I was exhausted and worried and totally angry. I didn't want to be left by myself! I'm still pissed off about it! We were supposed to have this time together -- these golden years -- to see and do things and make up for all the sacrifices we had made over the years to get to this point. I was robbed.

I'll ply the fire with kindling and pull the blankets to my chin
And I'll lock the vagrant winter out and bolt my wandering in
I'd like to call back summertime and have her stay just another month or so, but
She's got the urge for going and I guess she'll have to go.