Monday, December 24, 2012

Sheba the Christmas Shepherd

I used to clean my neighbors home.  I was new to the area and wanted something to do outside of my own home.  My neighbor, a beautiful woman, worked very hard at her job and had little time for cleaning.  She had a cleaning lady although one day was talking about the areas she wished could be improved.  I offered to clean her home.  I really liked it, as I would walk over in my slippers, unlock her door, put on my IPOD to some rock-n-roll and just clean.  To me, it was like I was getting paid for a fun workout!

One day, in the winter, I was jamming away, dancing around and cleaning when it was time to clean the exterior of her sliding glass doors.  I went outside.  It was a cold, cold day, but sunny.  I wondered if the Windex would freeze right when it was sprayed on the window.  I had taken off my IPOD and I heard a sad wailing.  I could tell it was an animal and it sounded hurt.  The sound seemed to come from the river. 

Each winter, when the temperatures drop, the top of the river freezes over.  The water still flows beneath the river, although the top forms an icy crust.  I walked across her back yard and stared.  Sure enough there was an animal walking and crying in the center of the river.  I went down to the dock and started making kissing sounds, calling to the animal.  The animal started walking toward the dock.  Once the animal was about 30 feet from the dock, I could tell it was some sort of dog.  But, it looked strange.  In the distance I could see it's face did not look normal, and it must have been just a pup.  I kept calling and calling but the animal seemed frightened and stayed on the ice.  I went inside and called animal control. 

A few minutes later a Sheriff arrived, as in our small town, animal control is the Sheriff.  He came in and walked out onto the porch with me.  I explained the situation and we caught sight of the pup whimpering and wailing walking along the center of the river.  It was a scary situation, because the ice was not solid and there were little melting puddles within the ice that was very thin.  The animal could have fallen through and I was beside myself.  The Sheriff indicated that there was nothing that could be done, as the dog started running up the center of the river and it was too dangerous.  No human would consider doing such a foolish thing, going out onto the ice, they would surely fall through.  I thanked the Sheriff as he left and continued to clean, the whole time listening for the poor pup.

At the end of my shift, I poked my head out of her sliding glass door, to hear another neighbor calling to it.  I walked down to the dock again, this time to see a neighbor downstream, kneeling at his dock holding out a hot-dog.  The pup was back and crying on the ice, walking slowly in but  stopping about 20 feet away from the dock.  Then it started running up towards my direction and ran past me on the ice.  This time, I had a chance to see it closer and realized it was a German Shepherd puppy.  It's eyes where white, because it was blind.  A blind dog, stranded on the ice.  My heart just tugged, but still there seemed nothing we could do.  I went back to my house.

For two days all of us who lived on the river, listened to the poor baby crying on the ice.  We all talked on the phone, we all left food out on the docks, we all called to it.  It seemed like a helpless situation, and it caused us much anxiety to hear the wailing in the middle of the night, knowing this pup was on its second day there, with no food and bone chilling temperatures.

My hubby had been on the road for work.  But, he spent time on the phone with me as I told him about this dog and how heartbreaking the cries in the night were.  On Christmas Eve, my husband was due back home.  Once he arrived, he asked have I heard any news on the dog?  I shook my head 'no' as the last time I heard it, was the night before.  I was sure the dog had perished.  Just as I said this, we both heard a wail.  I jumped up and said that is the dog!  Next thing I know, my hubby was out the back door.  I ran to the porch after him.  Yelling for him not to do anything crazy and to be careful.  He disappeared through the archway which lead to the river.  I stayed on the porch completely frightened for him.  Time began to pass and I heard nothing.  Not my hubby or the dog was making a sound.  When suddenly, in the darkness of the sunset, my husband's silhouette appeared beneath the archway, with a bundle in his arms.  My heart leapt!  He carried into the house the dog who now had now been on the ice for three days. 

The dog, we called her Sheba, was a puppy of 6 months.  She was completely blind.  Around her neck was a nylon cord that had been broken or chewed.  Her nose was hot and she was barely hanging onto life.  We fed her milk and water through a dropper.  We kept her warm.  We took care of her until a vet was willing to see her a couple days later.  They put her on an IV and was not sure if she would make it.  She had an infection from the cold temperatures.  But, Sheba pulled through within the week.  We knew we couldn't keep her there on the river, so we were going to take her to an animal sanctuary in another state.  Before we had the chance, the vet found a wonderful home for her up in the hills.  A home where they raised German Shepherds, with acres for them to run, all fenced off.  It was like a dream.  On every Christmas Eve, I think about Sheba, and of course my hero, my hubby.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

I Just Called to Say I Love You

Our family recently got through the one-year anniversary of my husband's passing.  On the day, my son and I wrote little notes to him and then burned them.  We blew the ashes out into the wind.  It was our way of sending him the thoughts in our hearts.  Later, we were talking about other ways that we still talk to my hubby.  My son told me he calls his cell phone and leaves messages on his voicemail. 

After my hubby passed away, I could not bring myself to cancel his cell phone service.  So, I pay for his line every month.  I had already played his voicemail greeting and recorded it on a hand-held recorder, just so I could have the sound of his voice stored, but still, I want to be able to call him.  So, his cell phone account is still active. 

While discussing this with my child, he told me he calls his line often and on particularly difficult days, he may call more than once.  Then, he told me that he even texts him.  I asked how often he texts his step-dad and he says about once a day. 

To which I responded, "There's just a slight problem with that, your Dad doesn't have texting on that line.  No wonder my phone bill has been so high... :)"

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Big Hill

I'm a list maker.  I always have been.  I save all my tablets of lists from over the years so that my grandchildren could read about all the mundane things a person did, back in the old days.  When my family was young, I made lists for shopping, homework and chores.  When my hubby had his trucking company, I made lists of repairs and maintenance, lists for taxes.  I think my hubby liked this in me.  I made the lists so he didn't have to.  If there was something he was forgetting, he could always look at my list - or the 'honey do' list that I made for him :)

When my hubby was diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis, my list making really went into action.  This is where my expertise kicked into gear.  I made lists for medication, bathing, food, topics to bring up to the doctor.  Lot's of stuff to list!  When my hubby was on hospice, I made more lists having to do with the end of his life.  Some where things I knew that I would need to do, other lists I took dictation from him.  Call so-and-so.  This is what I want for you and the children, ect...

I started doing this a long time ago, because I had trouble sleeping.  I would toss and turn and think of the things that I thought needed to be done.  I realized that writing things down eased these feelings and would help me sleep better.  I also felt that it was my way of taking care of others.  To know what was expected of me and what needed to be done.

After my hubby passed away, I made a list of 5 small things that were actually huge.  They were some of the biggest things, I knew in my heart I needed to do.  Some of the items had to do with finances, others had to do with the children, another healing.  This list, for once, I didn't write down.  It stayed in my head and I tossed and turned many-a-night.  These were such large things to me, that one could simply give up due to the overwhelming feeling and sometimes I really wanted to.  The things on the list were also connected to my life with my darling husband.  A way to make him proud of me, if that is possible.  So, I couldn't walk away from this list.

Today, I completed that list.  I should feel proud and in some ways I do.  I actually think the list has got me through this last year.  It gave me a reason to go on.  Now, I have finished it.  I climbed a big hill and now am sitting on top of it, feeling not proud, but sad.  I never thought of what I would do after climbing the big hill.  I guess I will sit here and ponder it for a while. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Red Tree

Every year, on the day after Thanksgiving, my hubby would climb into the rafters to pull down all our boxes of Christmas decorations.  This year it was two days after Thanksgiving that I climbed into the attic to fetch the boxes. 

"Not bad."  I thought to myself, somewhat proud that it was only a day off from what was our annual tradition.

One by one, I pulled down the boxes which were labelled with permanent marker in my husbands handwriting, "Christmas". 

Once all the boxes were brought down, I realized that I didn't need the smaller white tree that I had set up in our bedroom the previous year.  I had the tree in our room, so that my husband could experience Christmas from the bed.  The thought of having the tree in the room reminded me of all the nights, that we said 'goodnight' to each other and I would roll over and stare at the lights of the tree with silent tears rolling down my face. 

I mentioned to my youngest that maybe they could put the small tree elsewhere in the house, and he said, "No, Mom, that tree goes in your room."

"Honey, we just did that last year but it's not tradition or anything."  I replied.

"Yes, it is Mom", He argued, "It's our new tradition." 

"Okay, sounds good.  We will put the little tree in my room." 

Looking through more of the boxes, "Oh, look!  Your Choo-Choo train!"  I exclaimed.

This was the train that we set up around the main tree ever since my little-one was 4 years old.  Every year the sound of "All aboard!" and the train's whistle filled the house. 

"Oh, I don't think we need to set that up this year, Mom."  My child says.
"Are you sure, Honey?
"Yeah, let's just keep it simple."  He replied. 

Then, I open the big box.  The one with the big, white tree that goes in our main room.  I am so excited.  I love how the tree glows, so bright and pretty.  I begin to pull the tree out of the box when I see that large portions of it had become discolored and yellow.  All these years, we have stored the tree in the same manner, and it has always remained pristine.  Why now?  I wonder to myself. 

I tell myself that it has a sweet, aged appearance, it's like an antique effect.  I proceed to set up the tree.  As I arrange each branch negative thoughts begin in my head.... 

"Why bother?  You know you feel sad.  Nothing will ever be the same without him here, not even the tree.  The glorious tree.  It's all gone now.  Who even cares?"

My thoughts run away with me as I put each ornament on the tree.   

"Do it for the kids.  But, where are they now?  Oh, yeah, playing video games, while Mom decorates the tree all by herself.  Well, you better get used to it, after they leave you will really be alone probably too achy to get up into the rafters at all!  Then what are you gonna do?  Your a real piece of work thinking like this.  Isn't this suppose to be about the wonderful gift of Christmas?  So much for that!"

"Whoa, Mom!  The tree looks great!"  says my oldest, coming up the stairs.
"Yeah, great, if you like 'the dog-peed-on-it look'."  I said flatly.

Finally, I plugged it in and all the lights twinkled and it glowed again.  The next morning, I walked by the tree.  Only noticing the yellow stains.  This doesn't look antique at all.  It looks horrible.  Maybe I should just go buy another tree.  But, I don't want to.  This was 'our' tree.  Here come those thoughts again....

"The tree doesn't look bad with its lights on.  Whenever visitors come, just turn on the lights.  You should be happy, you should be grateful.  Stop being so superficial.  It's just a white tree with enormous yellow stains.  But, I don't like it.  What are you going to do, be bothered by it all season?  Do something if you don't like it.  I miss my hubby."

Then it came to me.  One-by-one I took each decoration off of the tree.  I ran down into the garage, my feet cold on the bare floor, searching through my husband's shelves of this and that.  Until I found it!  A can of red spray paint.  Shaking the can and hearing the ball bearing rattle against the edges,
I thought, "Oh yeah!  I'm gonna do it.'

I placed the tree, in all of its yellow and white glory onto the balcony, still shaking the can of spray paint, more thoughts ran through my head...

"If he was here, he would not like this at all.  Maybe you should test the wind direction. You're probably going to get paint on the deck." 

I began to spray and immediately the tree started to look better to me.  I kept going, like a frantic artist on a masterpiece, like a street graffiti artist tagging in the subway.  It felt good, really good.  I could almost feel my hubby saying, "You go girl!  Do what you gotta do!"

Not sure how many people can say they spray painted the Christmas tree.  In the end, not one drop got on the deck.  I walk by the tree now and think it looks "different" which is fine with me.  Maybe next year I will get a new tree, or just buy a can of gold spray paint...  Good, bad, or ugly, I realize that I was marking the moment of new traditions yet to come.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

On This Day, Last Year: Details from 11-03-2011

With my husband in the end stages of Pulmonary Fibrosis, I tend to write about the emotional side of things and often gloss over the physical parts of dealing with this illness.  Many people who suffer from this disease have different courses of treatments to try and experience a wide range of issues.

For my husband, he was diagnosed just a little over a year ago and during this time last year, he was able to rake the leaves on the lawn and was still embarrassed about using his oxygen in stores or public places.  He was on 2 liters of oxygen back then. 

At that time, he was the first one up in the morning to bring me my coffee and throughout the day created his own schedule of getting cleaned up for the day as well as helping out with dishes or watering plants on the balcony.

As time progressed and we received more assistance from in-home care, he no longer prepared his breakfast or lunch as to reserve his energy.  He also took physical therapy and learned exercises in order to retain his lung function.

Slowly, the level of oxygen he needed increased.  He would sleep on 4 liters and go up to five, while awake. 
Then, about a month ago his SAT's seemed a bit lower and we had to go to 8 liters during the day and 6 at night.  Pretty soon, anything that had to do with movement took great effort from him.  Such as washing his own hair.  So, I pitched in to help him with this. 

About two weeks ago, he needed a bit of assistance getting to the bathroom.  Someone to hold his arm as he walked there. 

As of last week, at 100 pounds, my husband was carried to the bathroom for his last "real" bath and since then, he cannot leave the bed. 

What is it like to be in end stage Pulmonary Fibrosis? 

At this time, he is on 12 liters of oxygen at rest.  Things like sitting up or moving his arms cause his SAT's to drop down into the 50's.  It takes additional oxygen through the mouth to get them to slowly climb back up.  He no longer craves big, juicy steaks and now sticks with small portions of nourishment that are bland and easy to digest.  Eating also causes his oxygen to drop.  Water or Pedialite must be dropped into his mouth with a straw as sometimes, he cannot hold the cup.  He is given Morphine, orally, to help with the oxygen craving.  This helps him to sleep and forget that he has to work so hard to breath.  This will become our primary course of action to assist him as he progresses even further.  

We have a schedule.  Periods in-between his personal care and rest, when he enjoys spending time with family.  He is all there, mentally.  He responds well and knows exactly what is going on although he does forget which day of the week it is.  When I squeeze his hand three times for... I Love You.... He always squeezes back three times.  Even when he is asleep. 

Every morning when he awakes he is always thankful for another day, which amazes me...his desire to live.  

For us, that is what it is like to be in end-stage Pulmonary Fibrosis.  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mr. Meticulous

In the years I have been with my husband, one thing became very obvious.  He was a meticulous man.  From his bathroom shelves, to his closet, everything had its place.  He wanted things done right.  He long told the children that it would always save them time to do things right -the first time- and if not, they would end up having to do the job all over again. 

I always liked this idea, at least the part that pertained to the kids.  But, me myself, am not always so meticulous.  My home may seem clean, as long as you don't open any closets or look in any drawers!  Many times, this theory of being meticulous was something that I had to work towards and as I did, I realized that it is just a matter of slowing down.  I noticed that my husband took enjoyment from what most would perceive as small taks.  Not being in such a rush to get a task over with, and to give the task full attention. 

Still, because of my husband's skill of being meticulous, there were just some things he was better at.  I remember one time, I wanted a small button sewn onto a silk robe, so the robe would stay closed.  I decided to hurriedly sew on the button.  When I did, it looked as if the button had been tied onto the pretty robe in a messy knot.  The button hung there loosely and within a few minutes, had already fallen off.

"I can't do this."  I told my husband while handing him the robe. 
"No problem."  He said, taking the garment.

He then sewed the button on for me.  It looked and fit perfect.  From then on, he became the Official Button Sewer and Hemmer in the family.  Same goes for any present wrapping.  My presents look as though I wrapped them with my eyes closed, while standing on one foot.  His, on the other hand, looked as though they came, pre-wrapped from Macy's.  So, on every birthday or Christmas, it became his job to do all the present wrapping.  He was the Official Present Wrapper.  The only thing my hubby asked for, in return, was big kisses!  Easy!

Halloween became his task as well.  During his off hours from work, he spent weeks in advance working on the children's costumes.  He made some fantastic outfits for the children.  He created cowboy outfits, biker outfits, head-on-a-platter outfits.  All, very meticulously thought out, down to the smallest detail.  My hubby became so involved in this part of his duties, that in advance he would arrange for time away from work, so that he could go to the children's school and help them complete their costume for the school's Halloween parade.  The only thing my hubby asked for in return, was a picture of him with our kids.  And, of course,  a kiss from me.

My hubby always took the children trick-or-treating.  He would load them into the back of our 4-Runner, and put the back-hatch down.  He would drive a few blocks and let the children jump out and run to the houses.  Then, back into the truck they jumped, onward to the next few houses.  They stayed out there doing this for hours.  At the end of the night, all would have runny noses and red cheeks from the cold and wind.  When they arrived home, they would find the house glowing with candles and lights, the smell of chili and cinnamon rolls.  They would dump their pillow cases, filled with candy, onto the kitchen floor.  Where my hubby would sort through and inspect each one for them.  The only thing my hubby asked for in return, was two pieces of candy from each child, and a kiss from me.

A couple weeks ago, our youngest child and I were walking through the store, looking at all the Halloween costumes.  I asked him what he wanted to be and he shrugged.  I shrugged, too.  We were both clueless as to where to begin.  It's three days before Halloween and we still do not know yet.  For now we are just going to wing it.  They sure do miss him, and I miss those kisses.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Our Story-Chapter 2 (continued)

"Are you sure?"  I ask.
"Yes."  He said, "We might as well get it done." 
Hands shaking.
 "I'm scared.  I can't believe I'm doing this."
"You just got to get in there."  He assures me.

I dip the razor into the coffee cup filled with water, still hesitant, I ask him if I should trim it with scissors first.  He shakes his head  'No'. 
He curls his top lip tightly down and tilts his chin up towards me.
And I say, "Okay, here goes...."

I press the blade of the razor to the top his mustache and make small motions downward. 

"You can press harder if you want."
"Well, I don't want to cut you." 

My eyes shade over in a misty way, the way they do when tears are about to come.  He then changes his lips into an exaggerated kiss pout.  It looks funny with all the soap.  I lean forward and plant a big one on him, soap and all. 
He, then goes back into the shaving position.  I take a deep breath and firmly press the razor against his mustache and draw downward.  Making small motions and taking more of his mustache off.  Dipping the razor back into the coffee cup, I walk to the bathroom for a change of water.  Pouring the cup into the sink, I watch the remains of carmel-colored hair slip down the drain. 

"Oh, C'mon, you know you have been wanting this for a long time."  He teases.

His mustache had long been a source of teasing between us and there were moments that I really, really, did want to shave that thing off.  He had his mustache when I met him and it was nice and trim and grew down the sides of his mouth and stopped at his chin.  A few years into our marriage, apparently he decided (without me) that he wanted a full Sam Elliot type mustache.  The kind that grew all in one length and would cover his entire front lip. 

I would make jokes, like-  When it gets long enough are you gonna braid it?  I would complain that in order to go in for a kiss I had to go 'under and up' just to find his lips.  When he drank his chocolate milk the whole front of his mustache would become soaked and separate into two dripping points and I would say, "Ummmmm, you have a little something on your lip."  There were times I suggested he get some wax and twist his mustache upward.  It went on and on. 

Every year, on my birthday, he would walk out of the bathroom cleanly shaven and the sight would nearly cause me to faint from shock!  It was kind of like his birthday present to me.  I actually loved when he did that because he had the faintest scar on the right corner of his upper lip.  I found it so sexy.  The rest of the time, the mustache was there to stay.

As I leaned across him, removing more, I knew he was right.  The mustache was getting in the way now.  Especially since he had to wear a cannula for his Oxygen. 

We both knew we would never see him again with that mustache and we also knew that from here on -I would be the one to shave him. 

"Well, Honey, I never really meant all that and now I wish we could keep it." 

While making the last stroke, 
revealing that little scar I liked so much.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Our Story- Connection in the Stars Chpt 2

One day I was simultaneously talking to my mom while streaking bleach through my hair, giving myself highlights.  She was on a speaker phone and was asking if I had read that book about Astrological love signs my sister had given me to read. I giggled and told her that I had and it said the sign that would be most compatible with me, a Scorpio, was a Cancer.  It was all tongue and cheek as I really wasn't looking for anyone.  But my mom, being a mom, of course pressed.  Knowing her daughter was still a young lady coming out of her first marriage with much to still offer, she asked me what qualities I was looking for in a mate?  This was an interesting question, because in my first marriage, I really hadn't considered that.  So, in light-hearted fashion, I began rattling out a list of my dream guy.

"Of course, he should be kind and good with children.  Patient with me.  I would like to meet someone that was good with his hands.  That liked to fix things around the house.  He should be good with tools so that we could work on weekend projects together.  He would have a rugged exterior, and rough hands, yet, was a big teddy bear inside"  I gleefully told her, happy to have nailed down the qualities of a person I would like to spend time with.

"Do you think that is too much to ask for, Mom?"  I asked. 
She laughed and said, "No, not at all honey".

Later, after my shower, towel wrapped around my head, I poured myself a cup of coffee and looked out of the back window to check on the kids.  Some of the neighborhood children, along with my oldest were playing as sword fighters with sticks in the backyard.  My little one, was on my hip.  I walked with him into the living room and stooped down to play some music on the stereo.  On of my favorite things to do at home on Sunday's was dance with my baby.  We swirled and danced, until out of my front window, something caught my eye.  I put Scott down and peeped outside.

"Oh, it's just that guy from the birthday party a few weeks ago" I thought to myself.  (see the story -The Invisible Man)

I couldn't remember his name, but noticed he was in front of my neighbors house, polishing his truck.  He seemed to be in his own little world, focusing on every tiny detail of the baby-blue 1988 Toyota 4-Runner.  I thought, he must take really good care of that old truck as it still looked brand new. 

I picked up my baby and to his great delight, we swirled around and danced to the music once more.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Today, I received a newsletter from our hospice company, indicating it has been 9 months since my husband passed and that they understand how difficult it has been.  Inside the newsletter was a lovely poem called....

Peace in My Soul

It was such an awesome day
And I stopped to stare at the sky.
My heart skipped a beat as I heard you speak.
When you asked the angel, "Why?"

"I wrote 'I love you' in the sky
As big and plain as can be
How can she stand down there and look up here
And still not be able to see?"

The clouds were broken and thin,
And swirled randomly through the air
I searched and strained at all that remained
Of the swirls of white still there.

The angel's voice was soft and low
As I smiled and raised a brow,
And I heard her say in the sweetest way
"She's starting to see it now."

There's a bittersweet peace in my soul
And a sense of awesome pride
Knowing you're up there writing
Words in the air,
And our love never died.

By Fern Lary Mills

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Ray of Light Through Worn Wood- continued

*In remembering my husband, I have been looking at the big picture- seeing who I was before we met allows me to understand the full impact he really did have in my life....*

In my old Ford Bronco, we headed up the freeway through the Wasatch Mountains.  Destination, Strawberry Reservoir.  The views are stunning.  I glance over at Jade.  She's sitting next to me on the bucket seat and is looking out the window.  Behind her passes a stream of Quaking Aspen and Pine.  The blue sky is etched by the towering mountains that have craggy stone faces of grey with peaks still covered in snow.  Looking down at us; as they seem grow taller the closer we get.  All surrounded by bright green fields of the season's new grass and sprinkled with bursts of white, red and purple wildflowers.    

Jade looks at everything going by as though she does not want to miss a thing.  She is only about two years old although she has been on enough of these trips with me to know what to expect.  We will wind up the open highway onto a dirt trail that climbs even further into the mountains, until we see old remnants of tire marks veering off the dirt trail into an oblivion of trees.  We will pull off there and that is where, I will set up our camp.  Since we are only staying one night, we will make a comfy bed in the back of the Bronco.  But first, once we have staked out our campsite, we drive back down a bit on the dirt road and turn to see a beautiful view of Strawberry.  There we pull up to the reservoir and  look around to see a few other cars there, usually other fishermen, getting their gear in order. 

I will pull out my float tube.  Then I will try to find a inconspicuous way to squeeze myself like a sausage into my waders.  Get my boots and flippers on, I will try not to stumble as I get the float tube around my waste, grab my fly rod and walk backwards into the water.  Once I am eased into the water, I will use the flippers on my feet to paddle out into the center of the reservoir, grab my fly-rod and make my first cast out into the water.  That is when I take my first, good, deep breath, as all the stress eases from me.  That is the moment I really look around at the trees and notice the birds in the sky.  That is the moment I feel I am not just an observer of these things but part of it.  That we are all connected and one.  This is the time, my mind is allowed to wander freely. 

All the while, Jade, will lay down on the shore.  Her ears are still up and her posture is as though she is watching and waiting for me to return.  She stays there, because she knows I need her and so she is faithful and waits.  That night at the fire, we will share our grilled corn and fish together.  We will stare at the fire, as though we are talking but in silence.  I will feel very fulfilled in knowing that as a girl, I did this on my own.  At the same time, I will look up at the stars and wonder if I will remain alone.  I will wonder, for a moment if anyone was out there that was truly meant for me. 

In the morning, it will be cold.  We will drink ice-cold milk and eat powdered sugar donuts.  By then, I will feel very grubby and be looking forward to a cup of hot coffee and a shower.  The thought of heading back down the hill and to the subdivisions with identical houses, the gas stations every quarter of a mile, the shopping centers and traffic does not appeal to me.  I wished I lived in a place that I could really breath and catch my thoughts as I packed up the Bronco.  Driving back down the dirt road, I fully intend to turn left to head back to the freeway, but to the right is the reservoir.  I will look at Jade and she will look at me, and we will turn towards the reservoir for one more moment on the water before heading back home.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

-Ray of Light Through Worn Wood - continued

One day, I had a chance to connect with a part of me that I had not seen in a while.  My younger sister, the only relative who lived in the same state as myself, offered to watch the kids over the weekend.  I jumped at the chance.  Soon it would be time to drop the children off at her apartment in the Avenue's, a historical and lovely area located in downtown, Salt Lake City.  I was still packing for my little jaunt into the mountains.  The 1987 Bronco, had the back seats pulled down to accommodate for everything I would need.  Which wasn't much, I was a light packer when it came to camping.  Also, I needed to save room for my fly-rod, float-tube, and waders.  So, besides a sleeping bag, I mentally went down my checklist. 

It was only an overnight trip, so I decided to bring a pair of black sweats to go beneath my waders, in addition to what I was currently wearing.  Faded blue-jeans, black socks with white tennies, black tank beneath a white T-shirt and a grey sweater tied around my waist.  My auburn hair, in a pony tail and tucked into a black baseball hat, and not a stitch of make-up on my face, was fine for me.  I'm not going to a fashion show.  If I were lucky enough, I wouldn't see another soul the whole time. 

I packed my cooler with a few simple items.  A gallon of frozen milk.  I always used this technique to help keep other items in the cooler cold.  In the morning, I could always drink the part that thawed, eaten with a package of Hostess powdered sugar donuts.  I threw in a couple limes.  They were going to be perfect to squeeze on the Rainbow Trout I was going to catch for dinner tonight.  Sweet Corn in their husk.  Tonight, I will throw them on the fire coals for dinner as well.  That reminded me.  A Duraflame log.  I consider this a luxury.  I would gather wood and make a pyramid of it in my fire pit, all on top of a chipped piece of Duraflame for easy starting.  Back in the day, when I used to camp a lot, the whole log of Duraflame would last me nearly two seasons as a fire starter.  Oh, and of course, a gallon of drinking water. 

I then, threw a red frisbee in the back of the old Bronco for my dog, Jade.  She will use this as her dog dish and share all of my food and water.  At the time, I had read that if you feed your dog from a frisbee it teaches them easier to catch the frizbee in play.  My dog, Jade, a Black-Lab and Blue-Healer mix, never did catch on to the frizbee game, so I'm not sure how well that technique actually works.  But, she was a hell of a companion, up there in the mountains.  I thought this as she stood there, big grin on her face and tail wagging....


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Chapter One -Ray of Light Through Worn Wood -

**** The passing of my husband due to Pulmonary Fibrosis has left me walking around this Earth with what feels like a heavy weight, to the very core of my being.  Since he has been gone, I still smile, I still dream, I still appreciate the small wonders that unfold within each day, but all while always aware of the weight in the center of my chest.  It is hard to describe, even for myself.  After much thought, I believe it consists of many memories of 'us' that pile on top of one another like a heavy quilt, rich in colors and fabric.  The quilt is so heavy because I carry it alone and I am not used to this, as this beautiful quilt of memories was something that he and I carried together.  ****

-Ray of Light Through Worn Wood-

From the day I handed Rick a slice of cake at my neighbor's birthday party, I hadn't thought about him at all.  I never correlated that this person would be someone who impacted my life.  I had plenty to worry about on my own.  Two small children, 7 and nearly 2, that I loved dearly.  The children's father and I split, over a year ago.  The statistics on marriages that survive a child born with a serious illness are never very good, and ours ended in divorce.  My youngest child was born with a heart problem that was serious enough that I was given the option to terminate the pregnancy when it was discovered by medical professionals.  But, I couldn't do it.  So, two open heart surgeries later, here we all were, the children and I. 

I lived in a house that looked similar to all the other houses on my street.   I picked this house, not for the house itself, but for the grand, mature trees that lined our street.  I loved driving up that street and feeling as though I was under a canopy.  My ex felt as though he needed to find himself and lived in a modern apartment across town.  At the time, he was just trying to save himself from whatever weighed down his spirit and as a result not much thought had gone into what type of support would be given to the children or myself.  I was struggling to get by.  None of the day cares would take my youngest, who at the time was on oxygen to help open his pulmonary arteries.  The children's prior Christmas, consisted of used books and stuffed animals from the local thrift store and of course an orange.  Strangely, they remember that Christmas to this day. 

Time had passed and every day a new problem arose with the house.  My neighbor used to make fun of me for hammering in wayward nails with a rock that I found in the garden.  What was I supposed to do?  The children's father never had a tool box and now it was up to me to get this nail into the wood.  Every night, I cooked the most amazing meals, things I remember my grandmother cooking when I was a child.  Of basics that could be found in even the most sparse cupboards.  I also planted my first garden.  I had always wanted one and thought that I needed help to do it.  But, I found that it was something I could do on my own.  We always had plenty of carrots, tomatoes, cabbage, and mint.  In the evenings, I sat on my porch, which stared into another neighbors back yard- divided by a chain link fence.  I sipped mint tea and gazed at the sunset with the sound of my, and the neighborhood children, playing in the yard and thought, this was about as perfect as life could get...

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Take care of all your memories. For you cannot relive them.
-Bob Dylan

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Still Crazy After All These Years

Have you ever entertained the idea of just going nuts?

I've often felt so overwhelmed that I thought about "Just Losing It".  So, sometimes I fantasize on the luxuriousness of the idea.... Hmmmm.  Maybe the first thing I would do is just put on some deep-red lipstick, all crooked and stuff.  But, no, that's not going to work, I only wear pastel lip gloss and if I have to go to the store to buy my supplies of lipstick -then forget about it.

Then, I thought, well... I could run down my street, naked.  First, I have to wonder, where would my running destination be?  Also, I really need to do some crunches before this escapade.  Too much work. 

I do talk to myself, in first person, though.  Yes, I answer myself, but that is good, too.  Sometimes, I am my own best friend.  So, that doesn't count. 

How else shall I go just, absolutely, nuts?

I thought about developing a twitch in both my left-side shoulder and eye.  That would be a fun one.  Especially on public transportation, or at Wal-Mart.  But, it takes a whole bunch of physical effort to do so all day, which seems extremely difficult and taxing on the body.

I figure, If I have to plan my crazy-ness, then it's not meant to be.  At least, not at the moment.  It should be something I don't have to think about or even realize is occurring, right? 

So, I rebel.  Big time!  I stay up way later than one should on a work night. Sometimes, I garden without gloves... that's right!  I really get in there with the dirt and my fingernails. 

For the most part, I tell all of you my real feelings...Now, is that nuts or what?
How do you really let it loose?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Reconciling the Two of You

"You know, a year is a long time to be sick" a person once told me in regard to my husband.
I really didn't think it was.  To be terminally ill within a period of a year, seemed like a pretty fast course of events in my eyes.  After all, it is not as though my husband was immediately incapacitated the moment he was diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis.  As a matter of fact, he only went into the doctor's office thinking he had developed allergies...

The illness occurred in stages, as well as his acceptance of what was happening.  He had always been a very active man.  He took care of everything.  To everyone who knew him, and even to himself, he was strong.  I can tell you, I have never felt so safe and secure with anyone else.  Being that he was a bit of a traditional person, this worked out nicely.  He was my protector.  His physical strength led to the belief that he was emotionally the same way.  Dependable and strong.  Which was true as well.  At least, he worked very hard to be so.  I think he tried to give me the best of himself. 

These things do not immediately change when diagnosed with a disease.  The disease itself did not truly begin to reveal itself until a good six-months later.  That was when everything he did began to take a great deal of effort.  He was gallant in his will to hold onto his strength.  But, in stages and degrees, his strength began to slip away from him.  Within each degree, he suffered greatly emotionally.  It was so hard for him to believe that this was happening.  It was hard for me to believe it, too.

By October, I knew he had become a different person than he was before.  He needed me.  He always had needed me, although now he needed me to help him through the rest of his life.  I took a leave from work.  I didn't want to do this because it meant he would not have much more time, and how could I possibly accept this?  The logical side of me knew it was time, but my heart denied it all the way.  All the way up until the day he passed away, in December.  

Now, when my heart and mind goes to him, I think about all the things we did in our years together.  We are active.  Moving.  Always moving.  Now and then, my mind and heart jumps to the other spectrum -his last days.  All the things I blocked out as they were happening, come back so fresh it fills my eyes with tears.  Him, carried into the bathtub for his last bath.  The few steps he was able to take before resigning himself to bed, for good.   

I know this is hard to hear.  Especially if you are reading this and have Pulmonary Fibrosis.  The interesting thing is that it affects each person differently and many have found ways to live a flourishing life and go much further than my hubby and I did.  This is hard for me to say, too.  But, I have to be honest to my experience.  What I am currently struggling with, is how this disease could have changed my husband so quickly?  I was there with him, but still can't seem to believe what has happened.  My heart can't seem to reconcile the vast differences in memories I have about one person.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Since You Have Been Gone (6-months)

Dear Babe,

I can't believe that is has been six months since you passed away from Pulmonary Fibrosis.  Honestly, I can't believe that I have survived this long without you.  I constantly miss your touch, laughter, comfort.  I look for you in all things and everywhere I go.  Sometimes, I think I see you in a bird in the garden, a sunset, or the way the light dances across water.  Sometimes, I think I feel you in a warm breeze, or a caress across my hair.  Sometimes, I think I hear you in words that other people speak, in music and in silence. 

I still write to you every morning.  Small messages, or questions that you only know of.  I look for your response throughout the day.  

You always apologized for your perception of me taking care of you while you were sick.  I always told you that this was the easy part, the hard part was going to be living without you.  Everyday there is so much difficulties, trials, yet beauty.  Life is bittersweet.  For moments of loveliness, I wonder why you can't be here.  In moments of hardship, I wonder why you can't be here.  Life, for me was so much easier with you here.  You provided the humor and comfort that only a husband can do.  Memories that only we can share. 

Everyday, I look outside the window and think about all of the things that you have given me.  Your efforts, of course, so much more apparent after you are gone.  You really did try to change my life by simplifying it.  By taking me to a place where nature is supreme and it's beauty is within the land and water.  You knew this is what my soul needed and you worked very hard to give that to me. 

You took me everywhere, so that I may see all of our beautiful country.  Showing the the promise that all places contain.  Of the mystical, rural, isolated, busy, or wondrous places that we have been, you also showed me that the most blessed place is the place we called -home.  I miss sharing that with you.

You probably already know this, but with everything I set out to do, I think of you.  I wonder if I am doing things the right way.  You always did such a good job at anything you set your mind to and you always finished everything you started.  Since you have been gone, our oldest graduated high-school.  The youngest has been such a help as we navigate through our grief together.  He sure misses you!  Oh, I finished the dock.  I know you really wanted to get that done.  I still planted the garden.  As for the river-bank, I have made the choice to let it grow wild, but we still have the path down to the Willow.  I guess, you can see that I am just trying my best.

I haven't felt you as frequently as when you first passed away.  Sometimes, I wonder if that is because my perception is changing or if  you truly are not here as often.  I think it might be a combination of both.  The other night, before sleep, I was wondering this and realized, that in life, you spend so much of it traveling because you enjoyed the sights and experiences, so why should that be any different for you on the other-side?  But, please do not forget to check in, because I will always need you. 

I love you with all my heart!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

On Memorial Day, my Husband and I would take the long road out to the town's cemetery and place flowers on his Father's grave.  Somehow, over the years, we made a date of it.  We didn't just buy flowers.  We held hands and entered the store, and purchased soil, a living plant and a perfect planter; in which these flowers would live.  Then, on different times, I had the fortunate (depending on how you looked at it) honor of placing the arrangement under my coat, while holding on to my Hubby's waist as we took the '72 Harley Sportster out, as our primary mode of transportation.  I loved placing flowers on his Dad's grave. 

Sometimes, when the weather wasn't quite right (or later in my marriage -when I knew better) we took the pick-up.  The year, 2010 was like that.  We took the pick-up truck. 
Afterwards, he said to me as he did every year, "Do you want to go for a little ride?"
I nodded, yes, and always welcomed this moment. 

It was time we would drive around and look at old, country-farm houses and play the game, would you live there?  "Yes!  I would live there." 
The fields just turning to a beautiful green....

In the same year about 5 months later, my husband was diagnosed with his illness.  But at that time we just talked in the car without a care in the world about things that sometimes, couples do... 

"I would not want to be buried.  Would you?"  

"No",  He said, "I want to be cremated."  

So, it went on from there.  Discussing all of the things that we so wished.  Not in a very practical manner.  I remember him saying that he wanted his ashes spread everywhere.  He was a truck driver and knew how he felt, keep in mind...

I had to narrow it down.  "What do you mean, everywhere?"

But, still, he had a wide range of area from Texas to Hershey, PA. 
I remember kidding him and saying, "Thanks a lot.  You sure don't want to make that easy on me..."
and he said, "Nawwwwww.  Just sprinkle me off of any, old bridge".    

I can't help but remember that.  Who would have known that within Fall of the same year he would be diagnosed with a terminal illness?  Also, I think about why couldn't he have simpler plans, like myself.  Just sprinkle me into the water off of the Santa Cruz Pier?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Falling Backwards

The other night I had a dream about being in my Husband's truck.  This was one of my most favorite places to be.  He was a long-haul truck driver and together we have had many adventures on the road.  I have always loved the promise of beginning a new trip and everything that the road ahead held for us.

In my dream, I was in the driver's seat behind the wheel. 
(I reality, I never drove his truck, as I simply would not have a clue how to do so.)
 I am backing the truck into a parking spot, when, in my dream I suddenly had a feeling of falling.  From a distance, I could see myself in the truck and it is precariously perched on the tiniest tip of a very tall and steep mountain.  The whole trailer of the truck is hanging off of the mountain.  I am in the truck and trying with all my might to keep the truck on the top of that hill.  But, gravity gives way and soon the truck and I are falling backwards. 

The next thing I know, my son and I step out of the truck into a sunny and sandy location.  It is a little town.  We step into a house which is simple, bright and clean.  It is pretty there. 
I, then, looked at my son and said, "This isn't so bad.  Let's make the best of it."

That is all I remember of my dream.  I wonder if it is subconsciously how I feel after losing my husband to Pulmonary Fibrosis.  Trying to hold on and work so hard to save the things that my Hubby and I built together.  Our house, family, dreams.  Sometimes feeling as though no matter how hard I work for these things, there is a sense of falling backwards.  I also wonder what would happen if I just let that occur.  Would I find myself in a spot that I would say,
"This isn't so bad.  Let's make the best of it?"