Our travels took us first to Greenville, South Carolina when Lisa moved there, then met Denis and they married.  Needless to say, those trips were taken on a plane.  When they moved to Louisville, Kentucky, we could drive there.  It was at least ten hours for us to make the trip, but we could do it.  There was Interstate from within blocks of our house here to within blocks of their house there.  By that time we had dealt with the life-threatening pneumonia after the plane trip to Tucson, so we gave up on traveling by air. 

Then something remarkable happened that shortened the ten hour trip to three minutes.  It went something like this: Denis said to Lisa, “Why don’t we move to Topeka to help out your parents for a couple of years until your Dad retires.”  I don’t know if those were the exact words, but that was the gist of it.  Lisa called.   Mary Ann was ready for them to come.  I wanted them to be sure not to disrupt their lives and careers without thinking it through carefully.  Our goal in raising our children was that they have the best life possible.  They thought about it and did it.  It was their choice to make.  What a gift it was to us. 

Within weeks, Lisa, Denis, Abigail and Ashlyn were in our downstairs, heading out regularly to look at houses.  They found one three minutes away.   Denis looked for work locally, while continuing to work for his employer in Louisville, traveling some, doing much of his work at the computer.   Denis did so well from here in Kansas that his boss wondered if he shouldn’t move here.  The job continued all two years. 

During that time Lisa and the girls came to the house before I left for work two days of the week.  She took over scheduling the weekday Volunteers for the other days.  She and the girls would take Mary Ann to their house until late afternoon when I joined the family for supper at their home.  After supper, I took Mary Ann back to our house, where often there was another Volunteer who had  been scheduled by Mary for the time I was at an evening meeting.  Of course, there were many other times that Mary Ann would stay with Lisa and the girls or they would come to the house.   Between Mary, who scheduled evenings and weekends (weddings, retreats), Edie who scheduled Sunday mornings (after an early shift by a paid home companion from an agency), Jeanne who came on Thursdays, and Lisa dealing with daytimes, I was able to continue to fulfill my responsibilities as the Senior Pastor of a large and very active congregation.  Lisa’s presence in town, with help from Jeanne and Mary, even allowed me to once or twice a year to have a three day overnight retreat at St. Francis of the Woods Spiritual Renewal Center in Northern Oklahoma. 

Son Micah, Becky and Chloe had moved from three hours away to one hour away not many years before this.   He came over, especially when there was a major Saturday commitment that took me from the house.  During those two years, Mary Ann had the joy of all her Children and Grandchildren nearby.  She spent much time with Lisa and the girls because of my work schedule.  Lisa would often include her in craft activities and food preparation.  Even with all the limitations, Mary Ann had a good quality of life for most of her years. 

Needless to say, it was a sad day when around the time of my retirement, Denis, Lisa and the girls moved back to the Louisville.  The agreement at Denis’s work had been for the time away to be two years only.  Denis also has a huge family (he is the youngest of ten children) who are all clustered very near Louisville.   Lisa, Denis and the girls have a wonderful community of support there. 

We returned to making trips to Louisville for as long as we could travel.  After a while the stairs in their house were too much for Mary Ann to handle, so the last time we visited, we stayed in an extended stay motel.  That worked well.  The last trip there was less than a year ago.  I will say more about that and some other travels in the next posts on this blog site.   

 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.

Advertisements

That January, Mary Ann could simply no longer care for herself.  I didn’t know what to do.  I needed to work to support us (60-70 hours per week as a Pastor).  We couldn’t afford that many hours of paid help.  It would cost more than my salary. The options simply weren’t there.

Then Margaret came to the rescue.  Margaret was (still is) the Parish Nurse at the congregation I was then serving.  She just started phoning people and before I knew it, there were Volunteers from the church staying with Mary Ann when I was away from the house at work.

After it became clear that she could not do the scheduling task and still continue her work as Parish Nurse, Carol stepped in.  For over six years, Carol scheduled Volunteers for weekdays while I was at work, evenings while I attended meetings and did Counseling, Friday evenings and Saturdays for weddings and retreats, Sunday mornings (I had paid help for the early morning hours), even emergency Calls when there was a serious illness or a death.  At one point there were at least 65 different Volunteers.  Some days had as many as five different people filling two or three hour slots.  I have never figured out how one person could manage all that.  I have nominated Carol for Sainthood.

By February, we had gotten back to KU Med Center, the Parkinson’s Clinic. They had transitioned to a new Neurologist, Dr. Pahwa.  He was able to put together a new regimen of meds that allowed Mary Ann to return to a significantly higher level of functionality.  The bathroom needs and the falling would still not allow her to stay by herself for any length of time.

After a year or so, we entered the two years from Hell.  Mary Ann had often complained of heartburn, since she was taking so many pills (I think 30-40).  At least that is what I thought.  It has always been hard for me to accept that I didn’t pick up sooner on the possibility that it might have been more than heartburn.

On June 30 of 2003, Mary Ann was admitted to the hospital through Emergency with a case of Congestive Heart Failure that came within a hair’s breadth of putting her on a Ventilator.  It was discovered that she had had a number of silent heart attacks.  Two of the three main arteries on her heart were completely blocked.  The surgeon was able to stent a branch of one of the arteries, but that was all.  She had another MI (heart attack) while in the hospital.

Mary Ann always moved into a hospital psychosis when hospitalized, hallucinations, agitation, inability to sleep, trying to get out of bed, pulling at tubes.  I stayed all night every night since the Parkinson’s meds were so complex, the various shift changes made it necessary for me to track what was going on.  The staff needed my help to manage her reactions, day and night.  I had to be there when the various doctors came to check on her or report the results of the endless tests and procedures.

By the end of those eight days, after an entire night of Mary Ann repeating “help me” over and over again, for the second time in my adult life, I broke down in tears.  Gratefully, Son Micah was there to hold me.  When she was released and came home, it was one of the lowest times in our life together.  Everywhere I turned to come up with a solution to how we could go on came up empty — except for Carol and the Volunteers.  They are the only reason I was able to continue in the ministry and we were able to survive.

Almost exactly one month later, she was back in the hospital with another MI and another unsuccessful attempt and getting through one of the blockages.  It was a shorter stay.  She came home again.

For a while after that she was doing better.  We returned to a reasonable quality of life.  It would take more than a little heart trouble to stop Mary Ann.  After a year and a half we even risked going on a week long trip by plane from Kansas to Tucson, Arizona for a retreat for older adults.  We had decided that we were not going to just sit at home and feel sorry for ourselves.  We chose to live as fully as possible given the circumstances.

I still blame the air quality on the plane.  Mary Ann was fine when we left the Kansas City airport but had some congestion when we arrived in Tucson.  By then we were using a wheelchair most of the time.  We joined in the activities, got to visit a wildlife center outside of Tucson.  As the week wore on, she was having some labored breathing.  It was March 10 of 2005. I called an ambulance to take her to the nearest hospital.  On the way, the dyskinetic movements that come with the Parkinson’s medicine were so bad that the tech in the back with her could not keep an IV in her arm.  Mary Ann was flailing around and almost flying off the gurney.

They sedated her when we got to the Emergency Room.  Then they took an X-ray.  When the ER doctor returned he said that all he could see what white where her lungs were supposed to be.  By that time she was completely unresponsive.  When I asked if I should call our children to fly into Tucson, he said yes.  The ER nurse confirmed that — so I did.  I will never forget the feelings I had as I sat alone in that ER room, knowing no one there, having been told she might not survive the night.  Mary Ann had been taken for some other test.  I am now living what I feared that night.

The Kids came, Lisa with baby Ashlyn in tow.  Mary Ann was so agitated that even with me there, they provided a hospital sitter to be in the room also.  Four days later, Mary Ann and I were on a plane home.  She had bounced back from that flirtation with death.

Within one day of a month later, the Ambulance came to out house in Kansas to take her to the hospital again.  She had had a stroke. It was April 9 of 2005. At first her speech was gone and her right arm was virtually useless.  It was not a bleed or a large clot, but a cluster stroke, plaque from her carotid artery broken into tiny pieces, lodged in a cluster in one part of her brain.  With a few weeks in the hospital, rehab, followed by outpatient therapy, she regained almost everything.  She was left with some spatial issues that reduced the control of her right hand making feeding herself more of an issue.

Mary Ann refused to give up.  We continued to have a reasonably good quality of existence in spite of the limitations.  The Volunteers and Mary Ann’s strength of will, kept our life on course.  Also by that time I had come to know a great deal about the diseases that had assaulted her and the medications used to treat them.  I was able to make helpful recommendations to the doctors and monitor her condition daily.  I think my advocacy for her with the medical professionals helped the quality of her life, until finally in the last weeks, nothing I did could stop the inevitable.

Before that inevitable day two months ago came, there was more of life to be lived.  That will come next.

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.

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!

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.

I am not sure that I have sat down for more than a few minutes at a time since Mary Ann died.  (It is still so hard to say that.)  I realize that it is a way to hold the pain at bay.  The pain is still fresh and raw, so working constantly takes my mind off it.

We have gotten mountains of things done.  We have made it through all the clothes.  Those are ready for disposition.  We have been through all the drawers in her dresser.  I have no explanation for this, but yesterday we missed two of the drawers.  We thought we were done, but we still had two more to go through today.  The contents were very difficult, especially the jewelry.  There were many cheap digital watches.  We kept getting new ones in hopes that we would find one she would wear and could read.  There were countless scarves.

When Son Micah came this afternoon, he mentioned the pantry.  I was able to shed about 60% of what was in there and give it to the Kids.   I found another stash of crafts downstairs.  Chloe will get that.  Micah will take the hangers (a huge bag).

Then came some rearranging of furniture.  My chest of drawers ended up in the closet, since there are not very many clothes left in there.  The table by her chair with the computer screen that constantly showed pictures of the Grandchildren is now downstairs and the computer moved to a corner in the living room.

The house is not dramatically changed, but enough so that things won’t completely revolve around the empty chair.  I can’t avoid the reality that she is gone.  I need to embrace that reality.  That realization will create wave after wave of feelings triggered by things I have yet to discover as well as some of which I am very much aware.

The medical equipment will remain in the garage for at least another week. Tonight’s threatening rain storm changed the plan of putting it all in the open bed on Micah’s truck.  Hopefully that will leave the garage by next weekend.  That is the current plan.

Daughter Lisa will stay and help some tomorrow, perhaps staying until Tuesday morning.  We have lots of things to take to various places.  The death certificates should be ready by tomorrow afternoon.  They need to be sent to various people to get wheels turning on changing accounts designations.  Plans need to be put into place to try to reduce household expenditures by the amount of her Social Security.  The practical matters keep a focus of attention and energy during these first days.

This morning was the first Sunday worship service I have attended sincer Mary Ann’s departure.  It was the first time that I have sat in the pew at the mid-morning service since I retired two years ago.  I wasn’t sure how it would feel.  It actually went very well, in comparison to how it might have gone.  I felt very much at home and surrounded with people who had become almost family over the last fourteen years.  There were lots of hugs and words of concern and support.  All shared the assurance that Mary Ann is secure in the presence of the Lord.

A number of folks have, of course, served as Volunteers at our home over the years.  They know the ins and outs of what we have been through.  A number of folks have been reading these posts and through them have come to have an intimate knowledge of our journey, especially the last few weeks.  It felt good to talk with so many people and experience how many there are supporting our family.

One development I wish had come before Mary Ann died.  A choice of her estranged Brother had hurt her deeply, separating him and his family from us.  I was able to make a connection on Facebook to fulfill my promise to Mary Ann that the message of her forgiveness be relayed to him.  The response has helped reconnect his Wife, Mary Ann’s Sister-in-Law, and his Son, Mary Ann’s Nephew, with me.  I feel a relief on her behalf that there has been some healing at least with the family.  The interactions seem to enhance the sense of peace she has won.

The day I will come into the house with no one else here is approaching very quickly.  I have not sat down since her death to keep the pain at a manageable level. I hope I can continue that defense mechanism until I get some more cleaning done — my office, the downstairs office area now holding all my outdated financial records. I doubt it will last long enough to get the storage area cleaned up.

The plans that are beginning to emerge will include contact with others, not just constant solitude. That the return to church this morning went all right is a good sign.  There is still plenty of serious grieving yet to do. I do not intend to run away from it.  It will be the key to my survival and ultimate good health.

I plan to collect and list the suggested addresses for a blog with a new theme as this new life begins.  Please continue to make suggestions as they come to mind.

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.

I realize that Quilty is not a word, but in our house it is.  I suppose it should be referred to as a quilted jacket.  We called it the Quilty Jacket.  She wore it as often as the weather would allow in the last few years.  Then there are her Poo pants — as in Winnie, not poop.  They are pajama bottoms so worn, with numerous holes that one good tug would probably pull them apart in any number of places.

When I pulled the jacket out of the closet, I knew I could not part with it.  I can’t count how many times I helped her on with that jacket as we headed out the door.  The rest of the clothing is in plastic bags destined for the thrift store or the Rescue Mission.  It has been a very emotional day, at least on the inside.  Once, I sighed loudly while standing in an almost empty closet and from the bedroom came, “Are you okay?”  This had to be hard on Daughter Lisa too.  I would not have wanted to do it without her.

The challenge was not just the emotional part of it but the challenge of deciding what to do with what.  As others who have been in my position will confirm, decisions are very difficult to make.  The simplest task can seem overwhelming.

There were dresser drawers to clean out.  We finally found her underwear!  The funeral home asked for undergarments with the dress we were to bring over for them as they prepared her.  In her sock and underclothes drawer, we finally found a pair that she had never worn nor would she have done so.  I vaguely remembered getting them out of that drawer and putting them away when she switched to disposables a couple of years ago.  She had a huge number of socks in the drawer, resulting in the need for room.  Her socks were a signature item.  There were varied colors and themes, holiday socks, seasonal socks, polka-dots, animals.  We found the underwear in a plastic bag hanging from a hanger buried in between other hanging clothing.

I knew it would be and it is very hard to look in that closet.  I have spread out the few things I have on both sides to create the illusion that it is full.  It is not working. Actually, I decided to get rid of all things in the closet that no longer fit or are too badly worn to wear any longer.  Getting rid of my clothes was easy.  All I had to do was look at the neck size on the shirts to determine that I could no longer wear them.  Who knew that a neck could grow in later years.  It is an odd genetic quirk, having nothing to do with eating habits and the lack of exercise.  The waists on pairs of pants had shrunk.  Closets shrink clothes.  It is a known fact.  It is sort of like Radon, only not dangerous to people — unless, of course, you try too hard to button one of the shirts and strangle yourself.

I suspect that Monday some time will be the first encounter with the house all to myself, the beginning of whatever will come in life next.  The Kids are doing exactly what is needed and when.  They cannot do for me what I need to do to make it through this.  I cannot do for them what they need to do to get through this.  We can love and support one another, doing what is in our power to do.

I will get out the quilty jacket and remember and, I suspect, do some crying.  Tears do not come easily to me, but it will be important to allow that release when the need comes.  I have decided to get the box of letters Mary Ann saved from forty-eight years ago.  I have not looked at them since I wrote them.  I am sure I will be embarrassed by them.  I was so much in love with her that, if I remember correctly, I even wrote sappy poetry on occasion.  I am surprised she didn’t run away screaming after reading them.

I made an observation to Lisa today contrasting the time of caring for Mary Ann, especially the last months, with the time we are in now.  Oddly, it seems harder to think now about what we went through than it was to go through it.  Even when we were in the thick of the worst of it, I just had to do stuff.  Doing things gave me the feeling that I could make a difference of some sort.  Even if what I did seemed to have little effect, at least I had something I could do.  Now, I have the images of what we went through.  They seem more horrifying when thinking about them than they seemed when I was doing them.  When I was doing stuff, it was certainly hard, sometimes very messy, but I was just doing whatever needed to be done.

Grieving is hard work, harder than caregiving.  There is nothing more I can do for her.  I can only be sad for myself that she is not here.  I certainly do not need to be sad for her now that she is free from the illness.  I can hurt for what she went through, but I cannot change it.  My job now is to figure out what I can do.  I can live the life that I am being given.  I can make plans and do things that will honor her memory, care for my family, and become the most fulfilled and healthy person I can be with God’s help and the resources available to me.  I have absolutely no idea what those plans will emerge and where they will take me.  Whatever they are, they will have to take into account a household income that was diminished by about 40% when I retired, and another 20% now.  With a little creativity and a willingness to live simply, the plans will emerge.

I continue to welcome suggestions for a new blog address that will reflect what my life is about as the next months and years unfold.

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.

What Mary Ann left behind in terms of physical matter is nothing without her.  Today”s Committal service was another simple reminder that she is not here any longer in terms of having a living physical presence.  It seems as if from the very moment she left, my gut already found acceptance that her departure is a fact.  We were privileged and pained to share those last moments with her when finally release came. That was convincing enough.

There is nothing that can be said that can communicate the sadness I feel.  My sadness is no more or less than anyone else’s who feels sadness.  Comparing one person’s to another is of no value.  My sadness is mine.  Lisa’s is hers.  Micah’s is his.  Denis, Becky, the girls’ feelings are theirs.  All I can say is there is a depth to this sadness that is beyond anything I would wish on anyone.  Those of you who have lost someone you love are likely to have a sense of the nature of that sadness.

Again, I will be all right.  In fact, I am all right in that I am experiencing exactly what is needed at this moment to allow survival.  If I tried to stuff the feelings, it would hurt rather than help.  I have a right to these feelings.  How can there be love if there is no possibility of sadness or pain on account of it.

Niece Diana and Al left this afternoon to return to Northern Illinois, where she, my Sister Gayle, and Joy, one of Mary Ann’s three best friends, will plan a gathering for a bit of worship, some remembering and some food, probably some time in July.

Shortly thereafter, Son Micah and Becky along with Granddaughter Chloe returned to their home in the Kansas City area.  Unfortunately, the Jeep they were driving all but broke down with noises threatening to call the trip to a halt at any moment.  Transmission issues are suspected.  Micah was planning to come back tomorrow with the truck to remove the larger pieces of equipment we used to battle the consequences of the Parkinson’s.  Add to that the problem created by water from the last storm invading their basement.  Becky had made a quick trip back to do some cleanup, but time and hot weather has given the mold a chance to really make its presence known.  Adding insult to injury is not even adequate to describe what they are going through.

Sunday afternoon, Son-in-Law Denis will leave for a work-related trip.  The Kids are consciously being measured in the process of leaving me here by myself.  I have a list of things for Denis and Lisa to do in the next day or two.  Assuming transportation issues work themselves out, Micah will be back also for a while.  It will help to get things in order here.  Lisa and Becky have been going through the clothes.  They pulled out Mary Ann’s favorite T-shirts to make throws out of them for the girls.  We will get Mary Ann’s clothes to appropriate places where others can benefit from them.

When I talk about things like that, the words sound very matter-of-fact.  Behind them are all the emotions you might guess would be felt as her things leave the house. I recognize that I can’t keep her.  That is settled.  Dipping my toe into the cold water of being without her a little bit at a time would only multiply the pain and extend it endlessly.

What I want to do now is remember.  Watching the online Tribute Video prepared by the funeral home (penwellgabeltopeka.com) is a very moving experience for me.  When I see Mary Ann sitting on the fender of the 1958 Chevy Impala, she takes my breath away.  I remember hardly being able to believe that she was going out with me.  I see the smile in those pictures that was rarely seen in her last years.  I want to remember the laughter and silliness, the arguments, the great times and the times staying married was very hard work. Forty-four years of marriage does not happen by accident.  Storybook romances are for storybooks and movies and popular songs.  I was crazy in love with her, but we irritated the hell out of each other at times.  The promises we made to one another in front of that Altar were absolutely serious.  They meant something.  Keeping our promises to one another emerged from our love and gave it nourishment so that it could grow.

As soon as the Kids have done what they need to do to help themselves and me take some steps forward in the transition, I will have time to do some grieving that I need to do by myself.

Last night did not include the sleep I had hoped it would since the very unpleasant esophageal spasms decided to spend the night and morning with me.  That problem emerges periodically and without warning or explanation as to why it comes at any particular moment in time.  After that was done, the day went well, given it is the day that we laid to rest the remains of my beloved wife.

After the committal, Son Micah treated us to a meal at Olive Garden.  John and Cynthia brought over a hot pot roast, potatoes and carrots along with side dishes and dessert for supper.  What a treat that was.  We are really getting spoiled in that regard.  Legendary cookie maker Lori left on our front steps two large containers of chocolate chip cookies, one batch without nuts for the kids.  Linda came by with a box of ice cream bars for the little ones (and the big ones) along with bags of homemade very good tasting chocolate chip cookies (we checked) in containers ready for the freezer.

Even receiving gifts of great food and wonderful desserts, have I told you yet how much I don’t like this?

I have been thinking more about whether or not to continue writing posts.  I don’t know yet for sure what I will do, but I think the need to write, if only to maintain my own equilibrium, will continue.  I have ceased to be a caregiver.  Other than reflecting on the years with Mary Ann, which I will continue to do for a time, I am thinking of starting a blog with a new address, still on WordPress if possible.  I am looking for a new address or url. Since I am starting a new life pretty much from scratch, any suggestions for a name to replace “thecaregivercalling.com would be welcomed.