June 2010


Her name was Clara.  She starred in one of the great commercials of the last century.  It was a Wendy’s commercial.  Clara was 81 at the time.  She had a strong, harsh, manly voice.  She stood at the fast food counter a few steps back from it and in as loud a voice as she could muster (which was very loud) she asked, “Where’s the Beef?”  Wendy’s was, of course, making the point that they had more beef in their burgers than those other fast food places.

Where’s the Beep?? That is my question.  I would give almost anything to hear that beep again.  In the last weeks, maybe even months, Mary Ann could no longer manage to get the button pushed.  How I wish she would beep for me to come and help again.  I would give almost anything but not having her back to endure what she endured toward the end.

Not long before she died, I complained of all the beeps in our house.  Her pill timers at one point both went off one every two hours and one every four hours.  I used to see if I could push them at the exact same moment when setting them to see if I could get them to go off at the same time when the four hour and two hour times coincided.  I could sometimes do it.  I was so proud.

Then, of course, there is the microwave that beeps when it is done; the stove timer than beeps when the food is done; the oven beeps when it has finished preheating; the washer beeps when it is done; the dryer beeps four times, then later cycles a couple of times and beeps four times again.

Then there was the button.  There were actually four buttons placed in different locations, the living room by her chair, the bedroom by her bed, each of the two bathrooms within reach of the toilet stool.  There was one receiver that made two different electronic doorbell sounds depending on which button was pushed.  She was to push the button if she needed me.  It was a way for me to be out of sight doing something else while she was doing whatever.  The buttons provided me a bit of freedom.  When I heard the doorbell sound, I could come and help her so that she wouldn’t fall.

When the kids were all here, we were doing load after load of clothes.  The washer and dryer were going constantly.  After I commented on how tired I was of all the beeping, Micah turned off the beepers on the washer and dryer.  At one point after everything was over, I said that I never wanted to hear a beeping sound again.  I have now turned the washer and dryer beepers back on, and I wish, how I wish the doorbell sound would bring me back to her side.  Today, Micah took the buttons and the doorbells, along with the lift, the commode, the transfer chair, a shower chair, the support handles that were around the toilet stools, the ramp, the hair washing basin, and the ramps so that they can end up helping others (Craig’s List, Freecycle).

Every once in a while when I looked at the end coming from a distance, I wondered if I might get over her loss too quickly.  What was I thinking????  My usual pattern has been to live in the present.  I have never wanted to go back, once I have taken a step forward.  Not now.  I can see that this seems likely to take a very long time.  I remember often hearing people say that they had trouble when they would come upon something belonging to the Spouse who had died.  I empathized with them, agreed with them than it was a hard thing, assured them that it was very normal.  While I meant what I said, I didn’t appreciate just how powerful those little reminders would be for me.  Today I was getting rid of some old T-shirts to make room for some new ones.  The first two I grabbed were ones that we had split down the back when we could no longer move her around to put a shirt on over her head.  It is painful right now just telling you about it.

There is a bit of a pattern that I have observed in how the last few days have been going.  The first third of the day is more okay than not okay.  I usually am fairly busy doing things.  The middle third of the day has okay and not okay woven together in equal parts.  The last third of the day is more not okay than okay.  The pain is there most of the time, sometimes almost overwhelming.  These are not clean segments.  Any time of the day I can be okay, then not okay, then okay, then not okay again.  Right now “not okay” holds the strongest position.  I long for the day when “okay” will assume the place of prominence.  As I said last night, at the moment that day is nowhere in sight.

This morning I got up very early and left the house by 6:30am to walk at Cedarcrest. When I got home I showered and headed off for the Farmers’ Market.  What a busy place.  It must be two or three times the size it was the last time we went a couple of years ago.  There are food vendors, craft vendors as well as the vendors selling fresh produce.  I bought beets (with the greens), a freshly baked scone, a bottle of BBQ Sauce (Uncle Sunny’s), a breakfast burrito, five pounds of local honey, and a small vase of flowers (now that the funeral flowers are gone). The bright flowers lifted my spirit a bit.

I took all those things home and then went back out to Penney’s to pick up some shorts, T-shirts and short-sleeved dress shirts.  The shorts are Lisa’s suggestion.  She made the point that it was no wonder I was hot since I always wore jeans, hiking boots, a T-shirt and a casual shirt over it.  See, I can listen.  (You should see those shorts with the hiking boots — not really, I switched to tennis shoes.)

The dress shirts seem to me to signal one of the changes in my pattern of life.  I got them so that I could dress more appropriately for morning worship services.  When I was caring for Mary Ann, I didn’t care much what I looked like.  The Evening Service is “come as you are.”   I had a single center of my activity and purpose in life – taking care of Mary Ann.  Now I am being forced to look again at who I am and what I am about.  One thing is for certain, I need to be with people.  The morning worship services allow more interaction time with people who after so many years have become like family.

I made a another trip to the grocery store for something I missed yesterday.  I noticed that I am also now needing to engage people in conversation.  I noticed an accent in the speech of one of a couple of folks I ran into three or four times in the store.  She was from Germany.  I could practice the one sentence in German that I know.  It is the one that says that my Mother was born in Germany.  When I engage people in conversation, strangers or otherwise, I feel better.  They may be annoyed, but I feel better.

I worked some more on Thank You notes, then Micah came over to pick up the items from the garage.  We talked about a variety of things, but some of our conversation was processing candidly what we are experiencing and how we are trying to deal with it.  It was very helpful to me.

This evening Don and Edie had invited me for dinner.  As always, it was a great dinner with lots of good conversation.  All the activities today helped provide some normality.  The undercurrent and plenty often bubbling to the surface of the pain remained, but it helped to be pulled away from it so much of the day.  It still hurts as much as ever.  A good day doesn’t fix what I am going through.  It is not fixable.  A good day is still better than a bad one!

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I didn’t know — honest!  I wondered why her Mother was crying in the portico at church one Sunday. She wasn’t wearing the ring.  When finally we talked about it, she said she wasn’t wearing the ring because she had decided to send it back to Allen, who, if I understood correctly, was in the military in another part of the country.

She also told me that before Allen, there had been Louie.  She was also engaged to him, for how long I don’t know.  If I got it straight, both of them were at least a couple of years older than she.  Joy, Terry and Cherri have the straight scoop on that.

I remember the first time we kissed.  We were riding (not parked) in the back seat of the car as four of us were headed somewhere, who cares where.  I don’t know how many times we had dated when that happened.  I just know it happened.  The earth didn’t shake, there was no thunder and lightning, no bells ringing, but darn near it.

I remember sitting upstairs in the old parsonage, where the Vicar (pastor in training on his internship at our parish) and a few of the guys were talking.  The subject of my having had a few dates with Mary Ann came up.  They assured me that I was not up to the task of taming that feisty lady.  They were right.  I just married her, I did not tame her.  By the way, I have no doubt the other guys in the group were hopelessly jealous of me.

I remember one time at Mary Ann’s house when a bunch of us were there, she said, “Where’s my Man?”  She was talking about me.  My heart jumped right up into my throat.  At that time in my life, the stature, big ears and pointed nose remained the same, but I had worked out regularly that first year of college.  I was 135 pounds of toned muscle, having done a record 17 back handed pullups during the physical fitness test we took.  I could bench press my weight.  I curled 90 pound weights regularly.  By the way, now that I have been lifting Mary Ann for so many years as her Caregiver, I am again 135 pounds of toned muscle, just wrapped in 30 pounds of fat.

As the letters I wrote to her confirm, I fell head over heals in love with her in short order.  I wrote her every night for the next three years, other than summers, when we were together.  During that time, Sunday afternoons were the worst, I missed her so.  The second and third years of dating were during my years at a pre-Seminary school in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.

In addition to the letters there were weekly phone calls.  In those years, long distance calls were very expensive, a luxury.  The phone calls were less than satisfying.  The letters were better.  Often when we called the conversations found us in different moods.  Mary Ann never liked talking on the phone.  She was not overly sentimental and I was hopelessly lonely and in love.

Weekends together came after much anticipation.  The pattern was, a couple of days to get re-acquainted and in tune with each other, and then it was time to say a painful goodbye.  One day, she surprised me by leaving for church in Aurora in the morning and arriving in Ft. Wayne four hours later for lunch.  I won’t forget that day.  Her parents were very displeased even though she was 22 or 23 years old at the time. She had not told them what she was doing.

Summers were great.  By that time my parents had moved to a house they built at what we called the farm, my Dad’s dream place in the country.  He used every penny he and Mom had saved to build a three bedroom house in the woods, with a creek running by.  Mary Ann lived in town.  We were twenty miles apart.  After a while I could practically drive that blacktop in my sleep.  In fact, many times, I would become alert again after I had made a treacherous S curve with no memory of doing so.  That 1958 Chevy Impala with a powerful V8 engine could fly.  It was my Dad’s car.  I still didn’t have a car of my own.

Yes, I stayed out very late and got in trouble with my Dad more than once.  We were just talking!  Again, let me be clear.  We played by the rules and waited until we were married.  She made sure of that.  I was a typical young guy with hormones raging (cover your ears, Lisa and Micah).  By the way, is this in the area of too much information? That is all I will say about that.

Mary Ann and I were never afraid to argue with one another.  Mary Ann was strong willed, and as much as I loved her, I was willing to express myself also when something seemed unacceptable to me.  Sometimes we wondered if we should stay together, but making up was such fun.  (Again, too much information.)  I wonder if our ability to argue during those years helped us learn how to survive together and love each other with a lasting love.  We didn’t put each other down.  We just got mad at each other and said so when we were.  We could do passive-aggressive pretty well too.

At the end of my Senior year in college at Ft. Wayne, I finally got a car.  It was a 1950 Chevy in mint condition with 43,000 miles on it.  I got it early in 1965.  I drove it over to St. Louis at the end of that school year, ostensibly to check out the Seminary campus.  When I was there I went to a little office on one of the upper stories in an old building in downtown St. Louis to a wholesale jeweler to who catered to Lutheran Seminary students.  I got a diamond that is of exceedingly high quality, almost a half caret (pretty special for a college kid trying to make it on his own) and beautiful.

I surprised her with it one evening at the beginning of that summer when we were together at my folks place.  As is now obvious, she said yes!

Enough for now.  Like it or not, the story will continue in the next post.

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This is way harder than I ever imagined it could be.  I have counseled people, comforted people, ministered to people who have been in this kind of pain.  I thought I understood, felt their pain.  I had no idea just how much it hurt.  I saw it in their eyes, felt it in their tears, heard it in their voices.  I had no idea the intensity of the pain I was seeing.

Friend John from KC called to check on me.  I told him that I was grieving appropriately, keeping my reactions in check, only having allowed one evening of tears.  Daughter Lisa called to check on me.  I was writing thank you notes at the time she called, listening to a CD of Mozart (a gift to Mary Ann from Young).  Just as Lisa phoned, the piece of music that had started playing was a vocal solo with a voice much like Kristen’s (who sang at the funeral), singing Laudate Dominum, the very piece Kristen sang.  I did not react other than in my gut, but that reaction was painful.

If I were counseling myself, I would tell me that it is way too soon to expect any diminishing of the pain.  In fact as everyone, including me has said, it gets harder after the initial flurry of activity comes to an end.  I would tell me that.  I would be right.  So, what difference does it make to tell me that.  It still hurts like hell.

I now appreciate just how courageous all those people are who have gone through this and survived to live again.  Now I understand.  I can only hope that I will find similar courage.  I am confident that I will be fine, come to life again.  I just don’t have that time in sight yet.

I am currently planning on writing two posts tonight.  This one is about my struggle.  I just could not sit down and start writing about Mary Ann’s and my history together (the second post I plan to write tonight).  I needed to release some pain in words.  I can assure you, if you have not yet tired of it, you will soon tire of me whining about how much this hurts.  Almost everyone I have counseled during times like this has commented on how hard it is to find people willing to listen after a while.  People just tire of hearing the same sad story of how much it hurts.  If they don’t actually say it (sometimes they do), they are thinking, “when is he/she going to get over this, they have been whining too long.”  The problem is, it still does hurt, long after everyone else thinks it shouldn’t any more, that he/she should be getting on with life.

The harsh reality is, no amount of talking, thinking, praying, meditating, writing, crying, walking or eating ice cream is going to take the pain away.  It will have to run its course and find a tolerable spot to live in me as life goes on.

At this point, too much quiet, alone time, as much as I have relished it in the past does not seem to be a good idea.  I suspect I am more in need of social interaction than solitude.  In social settings a holy hypocrisy takes over.  It calls me to be better than I feel, to be okay even if I am not.  I don’t feel okay, but if I wait until I feel okay to re-enter life and function normally, it will be a long time in coming.

I got up early this morning and went to Cedar Crest again to walk a couple of miles.  It was a cool morning, blue sky with whispy white clouds, some with little puffs in rows.  The birds were singing again, Meadow Larks, Robins, Blue Jays, Red Winged Blackbirds, a Great Blue Heron and more that I didn’t recognize.  What appeared to be a Green Heron flew over at one point.  They are far less  common than the others.

I did some chores, changed the linens on my bed, washed them along with the few things I had in the hamper.  I am going to have trouble getting enough for a load of wash and filling the dishwasher full enough to justify running it.  I fed watered plants and fed the birds.  The routine tasks help give me a sense of accomplishment, however insignificant tasks are.

I made a necessary trip to the grocery store.  It felt strange to be pushing only the grocery cart instead of pushing the wheel chair with one hand and pulling the cart with the other.  I bought nothing frivolous, but it came to $75.  What does one person need with $75 worth of groceries.

Even though I have only done a small percentage of the thank you notes, I am glad to have gotten started.  As I suspected, that is a therapeutic activity, if sometimes a little sad as memories are triggered.

Writing about the intensity of the pain has helped take the edge off.  Now I am ready to write some more about Mary Ann’s and my life together.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

FIRST CONTACT: She was 5 and I was 3.  She pushed me off the chair — or did I push her off?  Our Mothers never told us who pushed whom, just that it happened.  It was a Ladies’ Aid Meeting at Our Saviour Lutheran Church, 420 Downer Place, Aurora, IL.  I did not have to look up that address.  I remember it well.

We broke up for a few years after that incident, sixteen years to be exact.  I tried other girls in between.  There was Marsha in the 1st Grade.  I was devastated when she moved.  I don’t remember if we ever actually talked.  That is irrelevant in the First Grade.  That, by the way, was the year Butch and I decided that we would walk home to our respective houses on the same block even though it was just recess time.  The Principal came, picked me up, and sent me back to the classroom.  I still have a little video in my mind of walking back into the classroom that afternoon.

Then a few years later, I was playing in the basement at Sharon’s house (how I got there and why, I have no idea).  She kissed me.  It scared the bejeebers out of me and I ran home as fast as I could go.  We never spoke again.  I suspect Sharon doesn’t even remember it happening.  If she does, I doubt she would ever admit to it.

Then in the 7th Grade, it was Georgia.  Her hair stuck out in curls on either side of her head. She looked cute in her Poodle skirt and bobbie sox rolled down.  The closest we came to contact was sitting next to one another by accident at an all school Assembly.  She seemed decidedly annoyed that she ended up sitting next to me.

Then there was Paula, tall, with long blond hair.  It was the 8th Grade.  I thought there was hope.  She shut me down when I called her.  She said, “I thought I told you not to call!”  Then she hung up.  She never told me not to call!!

By the way, those all happened in the years I was still tall, second tallest boy in the whole Seventh Grade of maybe sixty kids.  Apparently my Pituitary Gland decided it had had enough and stopped putting out.  Everyone else grew, I was done with that.

It was not until Pam that a girl I liked actually liked me back.  She was from our church, a year older and pretty.  As a Sophomore in high school, it was no small thing to be going with someone older.  After all the rejection, I was sort of surprised anyone would be interested.  When I got my class ring as a Junior, my parents were mightily displeased when I gave it to Pam to declare that we were going steady.  Let me clarify for the young among you.  It was two years of dating before we held hands and not until she was at college that we kissed — and then it was the sort of kiss that would be seen in a 1950’s movie.  Some time in the Senior year, I broke up with her.  I am not sure why.  I remember during the first year in college writing her and telling her I had made a mistake, but it was too late by then.

My Senior year I did have a couple of dates with classmates.  I don’t suppose there would have been any future if the date with Carol had been any more than just a one time casual date.  I am not sure a Jewish Spouse would have been a popular thing for a Pastor in a fairly conservative branch of Lutheranism.  One of the kids I hung out with in choir and music activities suggested that I ought to become a Rabbi (which is what Mary Ann’s family calls me).  I did try to learn to chant Hebrew once.  I could read Hebrew and I could chant, but I could not put them together as any fourteen year old Jewish child who goes to Hebrew School can.

When I got to college in Milwaukee, the girls were nowhere to be found. It was an all male student body.  What a bummer!  I asked a school secretary out, but she said no.  Later she told me that she was going out with someone in her home town and was afraid she might like me too much.  Nice try!  Actually, she married someone who turned out to be a nationally acclaimed writer.  She did very well.  I know her husband as well and like both of them.  They are good people.

In college I did date for a few weeks a girl who made me look tall.  Then a young woman came to the school with a choir from another campus of our church body’s schools.  Alice had striking red hair.  We sort of hit it off, but distance made dating impractical.  I don’t actually know how interested she might have been.

Understand that I was always surprised when there was so much as a hint of interest from a girl.  Short, big ears, pointed nose, and no practice at the art of dating and interacting with girls, made me very unsure of myself.  In those years there was no “hooking up” to be done, especially for a naive ministerial student.  Courting was a very measured matter.  Or maybe that I thought so was one of my problems.

After the first year of college in Milwaukee, I returned to Aurora to work at Fredrickson’s Office Supply and live at home with my parents for the summer.  I had participated, and, I guess, help found a Singles’ Group at Our Saviour.  We enjoyed social gatherings, playing Hearts, eating pizza.

SECOND CONTACT: She and Joy were sitting on the bleachers two rows down and just to the left of me.  She was yelling (not sweetly) at the umpire at the church softball game.  It is there that I met her again after the nasty incident at the Ladies’ Aid Meeting.  She had long dark hair, olive skin, striking blue eyes, and a whole lot of attitude.  Whatever “at first sight” there was, it sure turned into love in short order.

That story will continue tomorrow.

Today went reasonably well.  I began it with two rounds on the path out in the open area at Cedarcrest, the Governer’s Mansion.  It is a beautiful estate whose grounds are open to the public.  It was a cool, clear morning.  The birds were busy, singing loudly.  By the way, an exercise walk is not a time for birdwatching.  It is a time for bird listening.  I was frustrated at how little I know about identifying birds by there call.  I did recognize the Red Winged blackbird’s various songs.  It took me right back to my years playing in the swamp.  The walk was over two miles. At least it is a start.

Every once in a while it would pop into my mind that I needed to get back to the car to check on Mary Ann.  After one round, I needed to get back to the house to check on Mary Ann, then I realized that was not necessary — I could walk a second round.

After showering, having breakfast and feeding the birds, there were a few emails to which I responded.  Among them were the ones related to what we will be doing in the Aurora area as a remembrance for Mary Ann.  The date is set:  Saturday, July 10 at Reuland’s, 115 Oak Avenue, Aurora, IL 60506.  We have the room from 11:30am to 3:30pm.  We will set a specific time for the worship part and remembrances and include that information in a subsequent post.  My hope is that everyone who wants to come will come for the luncheon portion also.  Those of you who read this blog and are close enough to come are welcome. Please comment to let us know a number so that we can tell Reuland’s how many to prepare for.

When I was walking this morning I thought again about the difference between what our life together looked and felt like from the inside compared to how it looked (and now feels) from the outside.  Our life was not lived in relation to what could have been.  It was lived in relationship to each other and our reality at the moment.  It was the only life we could actually live.  What could have been simply did not, does not exist.  It is somewhere in those observations that I hope to find the ability to come to terms with the horror of what I see when I look back, when the video is running in my mind.

The day included a trip to the funeral home to deliver the check for the difference between what the Pre-need Plan paid and what it actually cost.  I caught the Assistant Administrator off guard when I phoned her after receiving the bill today.  I told her that they had undercharged me for something.  She corrected it.  When I brought the check, she admitted that it was the first time anyone had called to notify them of being billed too little.  I would have complained if it had been the other way around.  They did the work, they deserve the pay.  They also did a very good job.  By the way, the funeral home is just blocks away from G’s Frozen Custard.  Who knows when I will be back in that area.  (Actually, I could have mailed the check.  I saved a 44 cent stamp and it only cost me the a dollar’s worth of gas and $3.52 for the Sundae. What a deal!)

Apologies — I still haven’t started the Thank You’s.  I now have absolutely no excuse not to get things done.

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It is the name of a movie and what happened at our (my) house last night.  I set the stage in a way that would allow it to happen.  I needed for it to happen.  It changes nothing.  It just needed to get out.

After finishing writing last night, I did a few chores and then got out the box of letters I wrote Mary Ann.  I put on the CD that had brought me to tears months ago when we first realized it was time to call in Hospice.  I read a few of the letters.  Actually, the letters did not tap my emotions.  They are pretty boring.  I ramble on about Greek tests and singing groups and learning recitativs for someone who couldn’t sing the solos at the last minute.  Each letter so far, and I am sure all of them, end with declarations of love in as many different ways as I could figure out to say them.  I have read eight of the letters so far.  Understand, for three years, except for summers when we could see each other, I wrote her a letter every night.  (No wonder I have gotten into this blogging every night business.)

Remember, I was nineteen or twenty years old and very much in love.  They sound like something from a bad romantic movie.  The only redeeming element is that I really meant what I was saying: “I don’t know how to tell you just how much I love you and miss you.  I can hardly believe it myself.  I love you.”  Then another: “Even if you didn’t love me — I love you enough for both of us.”  I will spare you any more for now.

It was not the letters. Certainly the music lowered my defenses and helped me let go of my control.  I just pulled down a picture of the two of us from a year or two or three ago.  It is the one that was cropped for the obituary.  I looked and I remembered the indignity of it all.  I remembered what she endured looking from the outside in rather than from inside the struggle.  I could not tolerate the thought that she is gone.  I spoke out loud because I couldn’t not speak.  In a moment of self-pity, I asked “Why did you give her to me to love and then take her away.”  I was angry — not out of control angry, just angry.  “It’s not fair that she should have had to suffer so — she did nothing to deserve it.”

Please understand, I realize that God doesn’t like death and sickness any more than we do.  I realize that God understands death from the inside out and the outside in.  God didn’t wish for Mary Ann to suffer, for me to be in pain with her.  What God did was hang in there with us through it all, never letting go of us.  Understand also that God’s relationship with us is strong enough and intimate enough to allow anger to be a part of it.  I needed to be angry at that moment.  Read the Psalms some time and see just how many are laments spewing anger at the unfairness of life.  Pastor Mike addressed this matter at the funeral.

Noisy tears flowed.  The dam broke.  Every time I looked at her face and remembered, the tears flowed.  In an earlier post, I mentioned that I used to count how many times I had cried in my adult life.  The first time was after I got the phone call that my Dad had died.  I was 42 years old.  Until last January, I had not yet run out of fingers on one hand to count the times.  I have stopped counting and will never do so again.

I guess there was some part of me that still thought it was a sign of weakness for a man to cry.  I knew before and I know still more certainly now that crying, actually letting the pain in far enough to feel it, is an act of courage that is demanded if wholeness and healing will come.  Running away from it or pretending it isn’t there or encrusting it in some sort protective casing is hardly the path to strength of character and the ability to endure whatever comes.

There was an interesting coincidence at our Spiritual Formation group this morning.  The lesson in our discussion booklet for this morning was entirely devoted to the need to let go, to die, before we can rise to new life.  The last of the four discussion questions printed at the end of the readings was, “What role does the reality of death and the deaths of those you love play in your life?”  Talk about timing.

Today was a busy Wednesday, as they often have been for some reason.  It started with the Spiritual Formation Group on the deck.  While that was going on Landscaper Sheila was doing her final maintenance of the landscaping she put in this spring.  She will return in the fall to do some clean up and prepare it for winter.  I am on my own for the rest of the summer.  Those plantings are in great jeopardy!

In the mid-morning, Dave came over to get a couple of death certificates and obtain the signatures needed on a variety of forms for the financial issues following a death.  Then Kristie came over to do the monthly house cleaning.  Now the house is not only empty but empty and clean.

I did some overdue posting in the computer check register while she cleaned.  It will take a while to get my bearings in that arena.  Everything seems to be on course.  I have configured the online emails from the Caregiving Spouses of those with Lewy Body Dementia so that I have to go to the web site to read them.  As a result, the hours I have spent checking emails have pretty much been eliminated.  I just can’t read those emails at the moment.  It takes me right back to something from which I need a break for now.

I had leftovers from the funeral dinner for lunch and dinner.  Next I will start on all the containers that Lisa put in the freezer when food was coming in faster than we could eat it. It should be many weeks before it is necessary for me to exercise my culinary skills.

I decided it would be best to get out of the house for a while, so I made a quick run to pick up a couple of things.  One is a zippered cover for a pillow.  No amount of soaking in Oxy Clean or spraying with Spray and Wash is able to get the stains out.  Mary Ann was taking Plavix and Aspirin to thin her blood because of her stroke.  Often her gums or nose would bleed a little during the night.  The pillow is certainly clean, and now it looks that way also.

The house is becoming very neat and orderly and boring.  I still hope to at least get my office, which is a complete shambles, cleaned up.  That happening would be right up there with the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes.  Actually, I suppose my problem is that I have the twelve baskets of leftovers and nowhere to put them.

Here are the ideas that I have seen so far for the title of a new blog to replace this one: newlifeemerging.com; calltocontemplation.com; buildingnewlife.com; next chapter; life after retirement; thecontinuinglife.com; my journey continues; life’s journey continues; a new role begins; continuing life’s pathway; making new memories — remembering the old; progressive pathways; pathways of personal progression; day by day; heading home; homeward bound; faith journal; moving on; stepping stones (to healing).

By the way, whatever it is, it needs to be in the .com format and checked with a site like godaddy.com to see if it is available or already in use.

Well, this day has come to an end.  As I mentioned to Son Micah, the challenge is to manage the pause and stop button on the video running in my mind of Mary Ann’s most difficult days including the last one, so that there will be minimal flooding from the broken dam.  Today was better.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

Lisa and the girls left about an hour ago.  What now?  There are plenty of things that need to be done.  That is not the issue.  There are thank you’s to be written. That will be very therapeutic for me.  The list of minor and major tasks is long.  At the moment I am doing a lot of easy, little things here at the house.

…It is now just me.  Schendel Pest Control Tom just found a huge nest outside the sun room and dispatched the ants.  There are still a few inside the house, but they are feasting on Tero, and if all goes well will be gone soon.

Sun Room contractor Jerry just called to begin work, hopefully, on putting the shade up on the deck.  I guess I am not going to be alone here today after all.  Tom and Jerry will have been over. Who knew?

I am experiencing what I have heard about from others hundreds of times.  It is hard concentrate.  It is hard to muster the stamina to do anything that takes any thought.   Getting out of the house to run errands sounds okay, but there are so many things that need to be done, running errands all day I suspect would get very frustrating.  I would be anxious to get back to the things that need to be done.

By the way, I am not (at least at the moment) whining about my situation.  I am just describing it.  There will, I am sure, be plenty of whining going on soon enough.

There was a large stack of cards in the mail again today, along with a packet from Thrivent (our church sponsored financial organization).  There was in that packet a CD of some songs that actually turned out to be helpful while I opened cards.  This is a time when simple truths, ones with which we get bored in good times or that slide into the back corner of our awareness, become very powerful.

Jerry needed help holding up the other end when he put up the shade on the deck.   That was a great distraction.  He is a talker too.  As soon as the sweat dries, I will begin running some errands.

…The errands included taking a death certificate to the bank.  All that needed to be done was get it into the records there.  I took back to her the tools that Occupational Therapist Karen had given Mary Ann and trained her to use, so that Karen could give them to other patients.  I stopped by the florist, Flowers by Bill, to thank him for doing such a wonderful job of arranging very fresh flowers that have lasted well.  He is the one who would provide much more than $10 worth of flowers when I came by to get them for Mary Ann.  I told him that I may be coming in on occasion to do the same, this time to enjoy myself and then remember.  I dropped glasses off at our eye doctor’s office for the Lion’s Club.  Looking at two of the four pairs was a frightening reminder of Mary Ann’s battle.  They were so scratched from falling on her face that the lenses were no longer usable.  We had had to replace them.

I guess I said it last night, but today it has been painfully clear that remembering her with so many abilities stolen from her is almost too much to bear.  When I think back to the challenges I had as a Caregiver, I can certainly remember the times I reached the limit of my ability to cope, but I remember with no feelings of distress. I don’t feel in any way sorry that I had to do the things that were required.  I would do it again without hesitation.  I have been trying to keep them out of my mind, the images of her sitting in that chair unable to do almost anything, trying to get up, falling, struggling to turn in bed, hating when I had to feed her.  My emotions are too raw to continue this train of thought.

The shade is now up on the back deck.  If the sun is out in the morning, the Spiritual Formation Group will get to try it out.  If rain comes, we can now sit inside the house in full view of the waterfall, listening to the rain on the speaker that brings in the outdoor sounds.  Since I am now alone here, there is no one to disturb.  Damn, I hate this!

Again, I am all right, given the circumstances.  It is very appropriate that I hate this and that my emotions are sometimes raw.  I would be in trouble if I didn’t recognize my feelings and allow them to see the light of day.  It is from that process that new life begins to emerge.  I also have moments of feeling the freedom that I have now that there are no longer the constant demands.  I am grateful that Mary Ann is whole again.  I would not want her back just so that I could feel better.  I just miss her.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

Someone came to the door yesterday afternoon asking if I knew where the next door neighbors had gone on their trip.  I didn’t know they were gone.  Then he explained what he had just found.  The back door was standing open and there were a dozen or so beer cans on the back patio.  The cans were unopened.

He explained that he had painted the cement patio on Friday and was checking to be sure that it was dry and to see if it needed a second coat.  The neighbors had been on a short trip to Texas.  Just days before their sump pump had stopped workings during a heavy rain storm.  Their basement was flooded.  For three days the cleaners were working, even one day while they were gone.

Today I found out that the thieves took the cash and jewelry.  They probably left in a hurry when the case of beer they decided to take apparently broke open on the patio as they were leaving.  The patio is no more than 25 feet from my bedroom window.  I heard nothing.  It is certainly unnerving.

It was death certificate day.  I picked them up at the funeral home.  We hardly need a piece of paper with a County Seal on it to tell us what has happened.  They will now be used to trigger a variety of transactions, most of which have no tangible impact other than keeping records straight on some computers somewhere.  There was not much available in the way of insurance since she was uninsurable due to the Parkinson’s Diagnosis twenty three years ago.  All the follow up tasks after a death at least have the side effect of keeping a person busy.

Today’s outing included taking Mary Ann’s clothing to the Rescue Mission thrift store. It needed to be done, but it was hard to do.  There was a sinking feeling as we helped unload them.  Other than a number of her well-worn favorites, the cookbooks went to the Friends of the Library to be sold in the annual book sale.  Mary Ann loved the library.  One of the professions that would have been satisfying to her was Librarian.  She loved old book stores, especially one in the Brookside area of Kansas City, Missouri.

On the way, I picked up from the repair shop the watch that my Mom had taken me out to buy near the end of my Senior Year in high school.   It is a Girard Perregaux for which she paid $85 in 1961.  The jeweler said that if a comparable could be found now it would be closer to$1500. It has a self-winding weight in it.  Still works. I don’t really care about the value.  It is not for sale.  It is for Son Micah to have.  I wear the gold watch my Dad received many decades ago when he retired.  It actually is of comparable value.  I guess old can be good sometimes.  That is good to hear.

Talking about “old,” I am now in contact with a classmate from the Second Grade, Miss Miller’s class.  That was a memorable year.  I got sick after eating a piece of peach pie.  Before it was over, my Dad plunked me down on the examination table at the doctor’s office and declared that I had appendicitis.  Dad had lost a 5 year old son to peritonitis on Christmas Eve, and almost lost another son when his appendix burst on the operating table.   He was not about to lose another son.  (The very oldest boy their first child had died shortly after birth.)  Sure enough, I ended up on the operating table having my inflamed appendix removed later that same day.

While in the hospital recuperating, it was discovered that I had Rheumatic Fever.  I missed the second half of the Second Grade year (four months).  Miss Miller spent the summer going over the school work I had missed so that I could go on to the next grade.  That diagnosis was a dominant part of my life until I graduated from high school.

On the way back from our errands, we made the promised stop at G’s for some frozen custard in memory of Grandma.  Not only were the treats as good as expected, one of my favorite young people from the congregation dished it up for us.  She is actually sort of annoying, she is a very good athlete, very smart, very pretty but not snooty about it, committed to helping others and making a difference for good, and she is a hopeless smart-aleck — all of that and sweet and caring too.  Talk about annoying.  She even admitted to reading this blog sometimes.  You know who you are!  Even after I became a Geezer I found myself enjoying the bits of contact I had with Youth in the congregation.  I spent the first 18 years of my ministry in service especially to Youth.

Someone just moved in two houses away.  She came over to introduce herself to a couple of us talking outside.  Soon there were four of us, two who had lost spouses two years ago.  As we were talking I soon realized that for the last many years, I would not have been able to stay and talk, but would have rushed into the house to check on Mary Ann.  It will be hard to get used to this new reality.

Today we stopped by church to get the list of gifts given to Faith in memory of Mary Ann.  I was surprised at how many gifts had come in.  I have started thinking about how what comes in should be used.  It would please Mary Ann very much to be able to provide that tangible evidence of appreciation of all the years of caring for her by so many Volunteers from Faith.

Early tomorrow is the time that Lisa and the girls leave on their way back home to Kentucky.  It is hard to imagine getting through these events without Lisa and Micah’s help and support.  Like it or not, tomorrow will be the first day by myself in the house.  It is a new reality — can’t go back.  Right now I am running on adrenalin. The crash has to come.  When it does, I will get through it.  The two who lost their spouses two years ago were emphatic about what is the hardest thing, the loneliness. No one can fix that, even by trying to keep the surviving spouse busy.  We just have to deal with it and survive it.

For now, the odiferous ants have arrived.  It is an annual invasion.  The Tero is out and they are gathering, eating it and, hopefully, taking it to the nest to kill more. Pest Controller Tom will be by tomorrow to do some more serious work on them.  Hopefully they will soon leave the premises. I am certainly not interested in their company, even if I do get lonely.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

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