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Posts Tagged ‘grief’

Dale’s celebration of life was Sunday. Once the ashes have been distributed, this will be the last of the rites associated with his dying to complete, at least for us. What a wonderful tribute it was to a man who believed life was all about love and service. All the time and care he dolled out liberally to those around him was really evident in the standing room only crowd, as well as the multitude of faces popping up on the Zoom screen. We, his family, spoke first, then people lined up on both sides of the room to say a word or two to honor Dale. It was at the Elk’s Lodge, so two huge elk busts presided over the front of the room. I kept picturing Dale straddling one of their sets of massive antlers taking it all in.

Going through this process again reminded me how important it is to be present in the day, even the moment you are in. As I’ve said often, life can change in an instant. A right turn instead of a left, a connection you missed at the airport, a spot you didn’t notice on your leg. Life, as they say, is capricious. Those of us who have been in the trenches more often, develop stronger armor I believe. When you are faced with adversity and struggle, through it you will most likely add a little more support to your arsenal and know better how to get through the maze the next time you are faced with it.

Looking in front of me, I see a lot of blank pages yet to be written on. Behind me, the pages are filled with pictures, words, smudges where tears have fallen, lipstick stains from kisses, and hearts and smiles. What to write on the pages not yet written on remains to be seen. I have been pro-active with building a foundation for my new life over the past week. Yesterday I went to the gym, my mind yelling and screaming the whole time “Turn back before it’s too late. Run save yourself”. In spite of the dire warnings being issued by my internal monitors, I pushed open the door and went in to the reception area. The Manager of Sales, a lovely young woman by the name of Seasons, guided me around the facility. As I’ve said, for me the smell of sweat and machine grease is not an incentive to pick up a free weight and jump into the fray. Walking or swimming are my exercises of choice, but actual rigorous workouts in a gym make me want to get on my pony and ride. Seasons took me through a labyrinth of fitness rooms with coed groups grunting and groaning to music or on convoluted looking machines of torture. We ended our tour at the pool area which was perfectly suited to what I had in mind. Yay. On the way out, she took me into the dressing room and locker room area. A lady wearing nothing but her smile was bent in half by the showers, her generously cut behind facing our direction tying her shoes. Hello? OMG. Some things you simply can’t unsee. Now, the logic of tying one’s shoes when naked and wearing no pants defies logic, but really OMG. In spite of the trauma of that moment, I signed up for a year. I’m going to enlist the help of a personal trainer for the first month, so I don’t repeat the pattern of my last two gym experiences and show up on three occasions then spend the rest of my year in physical therapy. Step number one of my rebuilding of Susie project, done and done. Dale would be proud of me. He knew how much I hated the thought of doing this, but encouraged me to do it to keep me vital as I lope into old age. Note here, I never saw him taking a tour. Just sayin’.

Next, I located a grief group in my area which begins the first of January and added my name to the registration list. I have a lovely group I’ve been going to since Rick passed away but they are virtual, and I prefer to attend in person. I will still go to them but not as often, but they are now my friends and I like to keep up with them. Second layer of bricks down, with step number two checked off my list.

Once the tree is tucked away again until 2022, I’ll begin looking for a part-time job. I’m giving myself a little breathing space over the holidays to get situated in my new life. It feels like I’m wearing somebody else’s shoes right now. I can’t get comfortable.

Someone asked me the other day how I feel. Interesting question that oddly comes up often. People don’t ask how I’m doing, but rather seem to want to know how I feel. Perhaps it’s because seeing someone close to them lose someone dear to them, has them looking around at the chickens in their yard. I’m not sure. After searching for an answer to actually describe how I am feeling, I came up with this. Imagine the person you love dearly and share your life with walking out the door and never coming back in again. You will never touch them again, see their face, exchange another word, eat another meal, watch another movie, or create another memory. That, perfectly describes how I feel. This eases, of course, as the days pass. I know this because the process is not unfamiliar to me. However, in the beginning that feeling of unease and unfamiliarity hangs over you like a heavy cloak. I was watching Dancing With the Stars the other night. Amanda Koots is one of the contestants. You may remember her husband, Broadway star Nick Cordero, died of COVID in 2020. Dedicating a dance to him, she said afterwards “When you’re grieving, you feel so alone”. Really true. You could have three hundred people in a room and be unable to locate the one face you are looking for. So, a lesson on the grieving process you perhaps didn’t need today.

On a lighter note, I am moving forward. It is okay to laugh, and feel peace, and have a moment of pure joy. Grieving does not mean you are on your knees in gut wrenching misery 24 hours a day. It is more of waves of sadness and loss that sweep over you and then recede.

So, I feel progress slowly but surely. Dale’s nephew gifted me a weighted blanket that “gives you a hug” when you place it over you. How sweet is that? He left me many angels to take care of me so I am most grateful for that.

Thanksgiving is coming up. Looking forward to digging into some yard bird with my family and friends. Life continues to ebb and flow.

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Today I could really see through a clear lens, how distracted I am at the moment. The indicators of this lack of concentration became obvious early on in the day. For some reason, I seem to have accumulated a plethora of uncooked vegetables in the refrigerator. Though food isn’t high on my priority list right now, I hate to waste it. Particularly, with what they’re charging for everything with the supply chain issues at the grocery store. Also, my mother and grandmother drilled me well on the dire situation in China with all the starving children there when I was young and wouldn’t eat my Brussels sprouts. However, the truth is there are people who don’t have something to put on their plate right here in the good old U S of A. Knowing this to be a fact, there’s something terribly selfish to me about tossing food out in the trash. My ex husband grew up in a poor family in backwoods Arkansas. Their finances improved greatly when he was a teen, but his mother really scraped the bottom of the barrel to put food on the table when he was grade school. Often, with nothing much else to give him, she would give him beans and biscuits in his lunch. Kids can be really miserable when they smell vulnerable prey. If there is anything different about you, be it clothing, accent, looks, hair color, or in this case food choice, they pounce on you like a rat on a piece of ripe cheddar. At the noon break, he was teased regularly about what was in his lunch box. Where most kids had peanut butter and jelly or bologna and cheese and a bag of chips, David might have sorghum on rice or rabbit stew. Sometimes he went without eating to avoid scrutiny and his mom said he regularly got off the bus after school sporting a black eye or bruises on his hands from defending himself from bullies. Some days he would ask her to give him two biscuits in his lunch bag. She never knew why. Later he was to tell her, he would eat one and then go over to the trash can and toss the other one to prove to his tormentors his family had enough food to waste. There are so many children in the U.S. without enough food to eat, it is sad to me to casually throw something out because you don’t make good use of what you have. Just my opinion, but it’s a strong one.

At any rate, surveying my bounty and thinking Peter Rabbit would be right at home in my vegetable bin, I took out the bags and cleaned and trimmed my veggies. The cauliflower and broccoli could be steamed together. The rest of the vegetables I decided would work perfectly in a vegetable soup. I have to pay attention to my eating while going through this time of mourning. When you are being a caregiver, quite often self care gets puts on the back burner. Meals get skipped, or something is hurriedly consumed while standing at the counter. Then, after the person being cared for passes away, you enter a grief period where you really don’t want to eat. A double edged sword of sorts. Blessed with my mom’s rapid fire metabolism, it won’t take long for the pounds to begin to melt off if I don’t pay attention. I looked at a photo taken of me not long after Rick had passed away. I’d gotten so thin the only thing visible indicating I was in the picture were my big feet.

Being in the kitchen is cathartic for me. Standing there peeling and chopping it almost felt like a normal day in the life of. Settling the steaming tray in the bottom of my pan, I dumped the cauliflower and broccoli in and secured the lid. Turning on the burner, I went off to take a shower and get ready for the rest of my day. This would’ve been excellent except for the fact I forgot I’d left the vegetables cooking on the stove five seconds after exiting the kitchen. This is not easy to ignore, as both vegetables emit an odor when cooking I liken to elephant gas (not that I’ve ever actually experienced this phenomenon firsthand) to remind you they’re on the stove. Somehow, I managed to circumvent the signs, and pretty soon the smoke alarms loudly reminded me of my oversight. Darn. Aside from the cat losing a life or two, I managed to ruin a relatively new pan and reduce my veggies to a black gelatinous blob in the what was left of the bottom. Sigh.

Beyond the humanitarian side of food waste, it costs a lot to eat these days. In an effort to defray the flow of cash moving steadily out of my bank account, I have begun to watch for coupons. This is something I used to do routinely, but sort of phased myself out of over the last twenty years. The other day I was in the pharmacy picking up some toiletries. I pulled my cart up behind the only other shopper in line standing at the only checkstand with it’s light on. In the “baby basket” as I call it, the woman had what looked to be a wedding album sitting alongside her purse. Kay. Though her cart was not filled to the brim, there were a generous number of items resting inside the basket. I have learned to relax into those situations. Getting all impatient and wound up, at least I have found, doesn’t make the line move forward any faster. Unloading her purchases on the conveyor belt, the woman opened her book. Now I was not being nosy, but I could clearly see it was bulging with plastic covered pages lined with all manner of coupons. Well maybe a little nosy. This woman, apparently, had created the Bible of all coupon books and as I stood there she went through what felt to me to be every single one. By the time she was done, I had meditated three times and begun doing Tai Chi in the aisle. I believe this is called “extreme couponing” and I am here to tell you I don’t have either the time or the patience to pursue such an endeavor, but God bless her for doing it. While I’m still on the subject of the pharmacy, why is it one pharmacy in particular (if you’ve been there you’ll know which one) insists on rewarding your patronage by giving you a receipt long enough to write a legal brief on the back of it. If you walked into the Amazonian jungle and dragged this receipt behind you to leave a trail to follow you wouldn’t run out of paper until you hit Columbia. Aren’t we supposed to be saving trees? I realize these are all store coupons printed on the receipt but in my experience every time I’ve tried to use one of them it had either expired or couldn’t be used for whatever item I was buying. I’m just sayin.

Once I had put out the fire both literally and figuratively in my kitchen and disposed of he charred remains, I went outside to pick up all the twigs strewn around my yard from the last storm and put the trash cans by the curb. While standing by the bin, my neighbor wandered over to ask if Dale had passed. Telling her he had, though we speak frequently over the fence, I suddenly struggled to remember this woman’s name. I knew it had something to do with the TV show Bewitched. I set up little reminders in my tired brain to trigger a response for names. I am terrible at remembering them. Sometimes I have to look at the name embroidered in my underwear to be able to write a check. A light went off. “Tabitha” that’s it. Proud I had conjured (pardon the pun) up the correct name, I applied it liberally during our conversation. Before leaving, she turned and said, “Oh, and Susie, my name is Sabrina not Tabitha”. Drat the luck. Close but no cigar. At least I didn’t call her Darrin.

I’m trying hard to deal with the emptiness in the house. It hits me every time I leave to do something away from home and then come back into the front door. Dale was such a large presence in my world, it is hard to fill up the empty spaces, so I don’t even try for now. Easy to laugh, he was always already chuckling before telling a joke, and his hearty guffaws could be heard at the other end of the house when he was talking on the phone to one of his friends about something that greatly amused him. Boo, the Queen of Cats, though a sparkling conversationalist on most days, really hasn’t exhibited much of a sense of humor.

Feeling a bit antsy after cremating my innocent veggies, I decided to take myself to the store to get some more of the same and start the process again. Damn the torpedoes and all that. This time, I would cook them with my eye on the clock and the stove. I bought a few extra groceries while there, you never get exactly what’s on your list, and pushed my cart out into the parking lot. Pushing the trunk release on my remote, nothing happened. Really? Now the remote and/or the car is not working. WHAT IS GOING ON!!!!!! I pushed it again, and then again. Why do we do that? It is obviously not working. Perhaps it’s our mind way of coping with the situation. I gave the door handle a jiggle. Nothing. Suddenly a man came up behind me. Fine, now I’m being accosted in the parking lot. “Excuse me”, he said politely. (I thought he was going to offer to help). “Yes”, says I? “You’re trying to get into my car”. “What”? Looking in the window I realized I did not leave a gym bag in the back seat nor did I purchase the Starbucks coffee sitting in the cup holder. “Oh”. Insert red face here. Quickly I apologized for the mistake and located my car two rows over. Hello?

After that I just came home. I entertained the thought of going in the closet with the bottle of Gray Goose and some fiery Cheetos but decided to tough it out and cook my vegetables instead. This time without nearly setting the house on fire. Another day worked through and I’m still here. Hugs from me.

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I promised myself to imbue a little light into my next post. This is me doing exactly that. I made it. I made it through Halloween, and not only made it through my birthday, but I pulled a rabbit out of the hat and probably enjoyed the most heart warming birthday day I’ve ever had. Who knew? Yesterday, I added another candle to the cake. Pretty soon, I’m going to need to add another cake to support the candles. At any rate, I had no expectations of anything special heading my way when I opened my eyes in the morning. I had plans for lunch and shopping, but the rest of the day I was to manage by myself. Keeping busy is my way of coping. However, you cannot keep too busy as to avoid being in touch with your feelings or go through the process of grieving, or you will not do your work and complete the process. The morning was filled with catching up on paperwork and pulling together some graphic designs for a local charity I’ve been working with for about eight years. The phone began ringing about 8:00 and I am here to tell you that device never stopped until my head hit the pillow last night. What lovely pops of bright sunny colors on a day destined to be filled with hues of purples and greys. Texts arrived with lovely warm messages of support and love, people posted on my social media pages, and as I said the phone earned it’s keep for the full time I was awake. You don’t know, unless you are the receiver of it, how very important that kind of contact is to a person feeling especially fragile and vulnerable. If they could bottle that, therapists would have to hang up their shingles.

My son and his family gifted me an hour and half massage at a local spa. I have never had a massage, or let me clarify, I have never paid to go to a facility to receive one. My first reaction when reading the gift certificate was “hmmmm”. This keeps coming up in my life of late. When Dale’s daughter and her husband were here they both made appointments to get some “body work done”, as they put it. When I said casually I had never been to a massage therapist they seemed shocked. What? I never had a pedicure until I was over forty. Apparently I am not a high maintenance girl. Once I did have a pedicure, I have routinely gotten them since. I think before the actual experience I hesitated because I felt sorry for people who were tasked with washing other people’s feet. I’ve seen mine, and even I don’t like to wash them. Recently I had to go to the podiatrist for what they call a planters wart. I apologized before removing my socks, to which after seeing my feet, the doctor replied “Your feet are great. You should see the feet that I do ever day.” “Really. My feet are great”? This is Rick’s fault. He liked to tease me. For some reason he targeted my feet early on in our relationship, referring to them as UGHS. He used to tell me to cover them up, I was scaring small children. Who’s the child, I ask you?

The big gun holidays are looming on the horizon. Not sure if my brain is wired at the moment for all the chaos associated with shopping, crowds, decorations, parties, etc. No matter what, I always put up my Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving. Was I confined to a hospital bed with tubes attached to 50% of my body, I would figure out how to do this remotely. As ritualistic as I am about the date they go up, they also have to come down the day after Christmas. Decorating is a happy and time consuming process I look forward to every holiday season. I love the first twinkle of lights on the tree, and watching as the pile of wrapped presents grows beneath it’s decorated boughs. I used to be somewhat of a fresh tree snob. I admit it. Never could understand why anyone would go artificial. Over the years, my stringent holding on to one view over another has eased considerably. These days I find myself a rather mellow being who puts less importance in having to do something my way or the highway, and am wide open to many points of view. That being said, my artificial tree is residing in a zippered plastic bag in my shed waiting to be gloriously adorned yet another year. Yay.

Today I am heading out for a walk and lunch with a friend. We’re going to walk downtown and browse through the shops. I am looking forward to getting out in the lovely fall weather and stretching my legs. I have been in the house quite a bit over the past year and feeling a little guilty pleasure at the thought of being outside in the fresh air. When you are the “survivor” there is a lot of guilt to go around. I try not to dip my ladle in that pot too often. It can can be habit forming. Though intellectually I know it is not my “fault” I am still here, there is part of me still feeling guilty for being so. When grieving it is hard not to feel guilty if you laugh at a joke, or enjoy the scenery, or sit down to a delicious meal without your partner, friend, spouse, parent, being there to enjoy it with you. I would consider this a very natural reaction. I had a lovely day with my friend yesterday, first at lunch and then dropping a dime or two at Home Goods. This does not mean I don’t miss Dale with all my heart, or am not feeling the tremendous loss of his presence. We go on, and that is the way we are structured. Those of us participating in this dimension are like flotsum caught up in the waves. We bob and weave with the currents and move along as the days move forward on the calendar. If you stop and do nothing but allow yourself to be consumed by grief and loss, there is always the danger you will remain firmly rooted in the spot where you are standing. That, is not healthy for anyone. I know when my time is here I hope my loved ones celebrate my passing with jokes and silly stories. That they sorely miss my presence in their lives, but go on to enjoy full and rich lives that I will always be a small part of. This does not mean I don’t allow the tears to flow when they brim at the ridges of my eyes, or feel the my stomach pinch when the memories begin to stream across my mind. There are times when the loneliness washes over me chilling me like a rush of cold frigid air and then recedes. This is all part of our life process, and death and change are right up there with living in what we have to deal with.

So for today I will take my melancholy mood for a walk in the crisp air and allow myself to be thankful for all I have, all I have had, and all I will have. Have a blessed and full day. Remember to tell those you love how important they are to you every chance you get. Dale used to tell me, “I will never apologize for telling you often how much I love you”, and he did tell me often. Those sweet words and all the lovely verbal gifts he gave me are tucked away in my mind to be pulled out as needed on my journey.

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Once again Halloween has rolled around on the calendar. Friday night I went to town with Dale’s daughter to have a goodbye for now dinner, as she was returning the following morning to her home in Los Angeles. For the past month she and I have worked as a team to take care of Dale’s end of days, providing us with a sort of forever bond of comradeship which I will treasure. Yesterday we said our goodbyes and I went to spend the night with my daughter and her family sort of a pre-birthday celebration. At some point after a loved one dies, you have to face your empty house.This morning I did just that. Opening the door, the rooms seemed full of shadows and quiet spots. Light will once again fill the corners and the days will seem less heavy and long, but for today I am feeling quiet and like my well has run low and it is hard to draw from it. Perfect Halloween mood, yes? Dank and dark. Sorry about that.

Halloween, being the eve of the day I whooshed into the world, has always held a special spot in my heart. Being somewhat of a large kid, dressing up is something I have enjoyed since I came to understand that was what the celebration is all about. Over the years, I have arrived on the scene as so many different characters. One year I was a fried egg, with my date accompanying me as bacon. Another year I was eve, with a serpent wrapped around my arm. At one time, I actually had a chest which held all my different costumes, wigs, and accessories. These days, I don’t attend many costume parties, but imagine I might step up to the plate again should an invitation show up in the mail next October. My first husband and I kept an actual wooden coffin in our storage shed. Sounds macabre now, but at the time we thought it a great Halloween prop. He lined it with visqueen each year and it was filled with ice to keep soft drinks and beer chilled when it was party time. Always I had several skeletal hands reaching up through the ice with a little fake blood to add to the ambience of the experience. One year, I actually purchased a brain from the local butcher. We suspended the organ in a glass bowl in lightly tinted water and put a back light on it. Even I was creeped out by that one.

Looking back, there were many fun parties, many dress ups for work days, and loads of memories with my children and theirs to make Halloween still feel special to me. Tonight, I imagine the turnout will be substantial. Kids and parents have been locked up due to the virus for several years, and my guess is they will be out en masse. Looking forward to seeing all the decorated faces at my front door. Friday night when we went to dinner downtown it seemed as if the entire population of our small community had shown up for the occasion. Street vendors lined both sides of the street, huge metal trash cans were ablaze to keep hands warm when the sun went down, country music could be heard in the distance, and kids and adults alike passed by disguised as cinderella or the incredible hulk. After we’d eaten, we strolled through the crowds. One vendor was completely lit up with well, things that light up. I bought a pair of pink kitty ears that blinked in three colors and at different speeds. I left them for our littlest member when visiting my daughter’s yesterday for a pre-birthday celebration. In spite of Dale’s recent passing, I had fun and found myself smiling and moving to the music when we stopped to listen to the band. Sometimes when someone passes away, the survivors feel guilty when they laugh or experience a joyous moment. I know in my heart Dale would never want me to be so miserable I could not smile or laugh. One of the things he said he liked best about me was my happy nature. I’m sure he would not be pleased to find me hovering in the corner dissolved in tears all day. Not that there haven’t been tears, nor that there won’t be more. Grief is something you move through not work around. Sometimes it feels overwhelming, other times manageable, and at other times the sadness lingers in the background playing softly rather than up front with the band.

I will survive, because that is what I do. As the days pass the pain will ease and I will step back into the life going on around me and create something new and as yet unknown for me to experience. Happy Halloween. See you tomorrow another year older.

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Friday I said goodbye to my partner and love, Dale, after he lost his long and courageous battle with lung cancer. As much as he wanted to stay in this realm and continue the lovely life we had begun building together, his body couldn’t keep that commitment and needed to rest. His cheerful spirit remains in all of us who knew him, and his loving soul has gone on to where good souls go when they leave the earthly plane. I am left behind to wonder what might have been, and memorialize his passing. To say I shall miss him, covers so little ground in describing the sadness I feel he will not be walking next to me as I come to the crossroads of the next turn in the path in what seems like a most convoluted journey. My mind keeps asking why I am the one to accompany people exiting this world, but remain here myself. There aren’t really any answers expected, but the question floats about in my subconscious asking why, and then why again.

I remind myself when the sorrow drops like a heavy blanket around my shoulders, I am lucky to have been well loved by these two men in my life. Rick, who passed away three years ago after twenty years together, and now Dale with two. In my earlier years I tried on many partnerships, but I didn’t always choose my partners wisely. Thankfully, some of the earlier relationships taught me enough about what I didn’t want in a relationship to provide guidance when stepping into new partnerships as I got older. Were these two men perfect? Was I? Hardly. Life is not perfect, despite advertisers attempts to convince us otherwise. People are not perfect, and thus relationships cannot possibly be perfect. If someone tells me they exist in a perfect pairing, I give them a wide berth. They be crazy.

Though not perfect, they were healthy. There was give and take on both sides, lots of love, much laughter, generosity, some tears, occasional misunderstandings, and for a pinch of spice, some hearty disagreements. All thrown in the pot, this still produced good relationships. Someone said the other day, “you’ll move on and find someone else”? People need to THINK, as I have said so often, before allowing their lips to form words. You do not replace a person in the manner you would a worn out couch, by simply replacing it. You have to slog through the difficult process of grieving their exit from your world (in the physical sense only) and capture your memories to carry in your heart as you proceed on your way alone. There is no guideline for grief, no timeline you must follow. Grieving is a very personal and individual endeavor carried on in private (usually) by those left behind.

My birthday is Monday. This is really not a time I wish to celebrate but a friend of mine suggested we go to lunch and help support some of the local businesses by dropping a little money in their tills. Why not? Dale’s daughter will be going home over the weekend and Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, and I will once again be the only two beings on the premises. This could make for the perfect storm for a day of abject self pity, so I decided since I had a choice in the matter I would prefer to go shopping instead. When relating this story to my cousin, she stopped me at the part about not wanting to dip into self pity. She said she wondered why we aren’t permitted the indulgence of allowing ourselves to really dive deep into our feelings, rather than being expected to immediately dust ourselves off after a huge loss, and get right back in the game. I have to agree with her. Americans really do not like to speak of death. I’ve discussed this before. Grief groups are not readily available for many people struggling through the rough waters alone, and people are uncomfortable to enter into a discussion with someone recently experiencing the loss of a loved one. Truth is, from my experience, people want to talk about them. It helps in the healing process. I know for me if I didn’t have the steady stream of support my dear friends and loved ones provide, a stranger might be talking me of the ledge about now.

Life must go on, and normal things sometimes bring solace. Taking inventory of my cupboards I got dressed and headed to the store. I bought a large bag of Halloween candy. Intuition tells me this year might produce a good turnout. When I got to the checkstand I took out an equity loan to pay the bill. Everything is soooooo pricey these days. I understand chicken is going way up as well. Fowl was my go to meat. Drat the luck. I’m clipping coupons and trying to conserve where I can. My usual cat litter, Boo is picky, was not on any of the shelves I visited. Supply chain strikes again. I guess I should have stocked up, but who knew cat litter wasn’t made here in the U.S. Is anything these days, one wonders?

Flowers and cards have been arriving. I can’t put them on any accessible surface (cat accessible that would be) because Boo has a flower fetish. If she sees one, she eats it. As many blooms and plants can make felines sick or worse, I have to place them in awkward places when an arrangement arrives or I’ll come out the following morning to a collection of stems. She doesn’t differentiate between artificial or real either. The other day I found small fronds of a recently purchased fake plant in the litter box. That sort of says it all.

Today is a tricky day. I feel sad and then okay, then okay, followed up by profoundly sad. Mostly I am just tired, which is a sort of side effect. My limbs feel like they weigh about five hundred pounds apiece and lifting my feet up to propel me from one room to the next is a decided effort. This too, like all things, will pass. There is sunshine awaiting me in the future, but sometimes the moment seems overshadowed by clouds and dank.

I miss you my dear Dale. For you the pain is over. For those of us left here to grieve you, it is just beginning. Now you know what lies beyond the human experience as we know it. Send me a cryptic note if you get a chance. Sending you a bag of smiles and endless giggles in case you need them.

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It’s been a week this week, I have to say. Yesterday morning my IPhone froze up. For over an hour I followed instructions to unfreeze the damnable device producing no change whatsoever in the screen. I can’t be without a phone at the moment, and this one is relatively new. Finally, totally frustrated, I got in the car and drove the twenty or so minutes to the nearest dealer to have them take a look at it. I walked in the door, explained the situation to the clerk at the front desk, handed my device to a kid who looked to be in middle school, and with the flick of one thumb and two fingers “voila” the phone released the screen. Really? The gods are angry.

At least it is at last September. The days are marching forward in a steady rythm towards fall. I cannot tell you how ready I am for autumn, and all that season promises this year. I already have a few fall touches sprinkled about the house by way of a welcome mat for my favorite season. There is a bit of melancholy attached to fall creeping up so quickly. Before long all the beautiful colors decorating the landscape, the pumpkin lattes, and artistically carved jack-o-lanterns grinning on people’s stoops will have come and gone. I am feeling this way as I approach the end of this difficult year, I believe, because I have become weary of saying goodbye.

This has been a stressful couple of years, I have to say. Dale and I have spent a lot of time together the last year and a half, partly due to Covid and partly to the fact he has lung cancer. Though he doesn’t let his prognosis overrun him, with oxygen equipment all around and medicine containers, you can’t help but notice the elephant in the room every day when you wake up. When you think about sharing company with someone dealing with a terminal illness, several adjectives probably immediately come to mind….. depressing, sad, exhausting. Surprisingly there are many other adjectives of a positive nature that apply as well…..tender, compassionate, warm. Don’t misunderstand me, for I don’t want to misrepresent the experience, it can be all the darker adjectives and a bag of chips on some days. However, there is another, perhaps lighter side to it, people don’t often talk about. Along with all the deep emotions involved in losing a loved one, there is also the gift the person dying gives to the people they ask to share their last journey. The sweet gift of allowing someone you love to accompany you on your final days on this plateau. At the beginning of your travels with someone facing such a challenge, you will walk side by side. As the disease progresses, however, you will reach a crossroad. When at the fork in the road, you will continue on to wherever your destiny is to lead you, and the person transitioning will stay on their path to complete the final lap of their trip alone. Dying is an integral part of life. If we looked at death more directly instead of being afraid to say the word out loud or speak of it, perhaps we would be able to approach it with more easily with grace and dignity. Let’s face it, thus far none of us have gotten a hall pass to avoid it, so perhaps it would be better to accept, even embrace it.

Though the situation Dale is currently dealing with tends to pervade our lives, it’s amazing how resilient the human spirit can be. We still find plenty of time to catch a favorite movie, sit outside under the umbrella in the yard and watch the grass grow, and now that we can, spend time with our vaccinated friends and family. I say that not as an arrow directed at the hearts of those who still choose not to get the vaccine, but because Dale is definitely compromised when it comes to health issues. Being around someone who possibly could transmit the virus to him would be unwise. The beginning of the week we had a friend stop by to spend a couple of hours. She texted me not long after she’d left to tell me driving home from her shopping trip, she could see a huge plume of smoke billowing up behind the hills near where we live. As we were speaking, I began to hear planes flying overhead and sirens in the distance. Oh-oh. Sure enough, a fire was brewing and neighborhoods in our general area were being evacuated situated closer to the origin of the blaze. Sometimes it feels like it never rains but it pours. I’d like a rainbow or two thrown in for good measure. I’m just saying. While I was packing up the trunk of the car as a precaution, I thought once again, “the gods really must be angry”.

Maybe there’s some truth to that? It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if our creator or creators, however you believe, aren’t particularly pleased with how we’ve been handling ourselves recently. We’re not exactly behaving like kind, compassionate beings. Turn on the news for an hour or so, to remind yourself how true that statement is.

On the good news side of the page, since I wrote the paragraph about a fire brewing, the blaze, thanks to the continuing efforts of firefighters keeping us safe all over the state, has since been contained. Another “whew” moment for us living here in the north state. No structures or lives lost is always a good days work. Continuing with that positive note, I woke up in the middle of the night night before last to the sweet song of rain drumming on the roof. Wow. It has been so long since I’ve heard that, I almost didn’t recognize the sound. Got up the following morning and took a long walk just to grab a lungful of the sweet fresh air outside my window. There really is nothing to compare with the smell of the earth after it has been soaked with a good dose of rain.

This morning, I actually have the windows open in the house. A lovely cross breeze is flowing in through the screens. Between the smoke and my allergies, I haven’t been able to open them in a while. PG&E will undoubtedly be sending us a thank you letter for keeping them afloat with our energy consumption this summer. Yesterday marked the twentieth anniversary of 9/11. Seems as though it was so much more recent than that. For most of us, I’m sure what we were doing the exact moment we got the news of the events unfolding on that day has become permanently etched in our memory banks. I know for me it has. I was at work, standing in the conference room with a large group of co-workers standing in front of the TV. We watched in disbelief as one unreal image after another appeared on the screen. No one spoke really, other than an occasional “oh my, God” or “oh no”. When the realization of what had just happened on U.S. soil sank in, most of us filtered out the doors and went home for the day. There was no point in trying to work with those images fresh in our minds. Driving down the freeway I remember tears sliding down my cheeks. So many lives were instantly changed in those moments. My daughter-in-law, who’s birthday falls on September 11th, said that her birthday was changed forever for her with all the memories attached to it after the Twin Towers fell. I’m sad to say we lost her as well recently due to an unfortunate accident. So, I remembered her as well, and am thankful for the two beautiful grandchildren she left behind for me to share time with.

It is not an easy planet right now. Not that the earth has ever really rested completely comfortably because, in the end, it is a globe populated with human beings replete with all their foibles and missteps. Perhaps 9/11 is a day to remember how much we have to be thankful for, and be reminded in the end we’re all trying to survive as best we can and not as different from one another as it might sometimes appear.

Have a great day. Remember those who bravely went in to help and never came out, those who were in the buildings that fell, and those amazing passengers who brought down the second plane before it could reach the intended target. Bless them all and bless us as we move forward. We are left behind as caretakers of this glorious planet and I believe we need to step up and do a far better job.

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Sleep is not a happy place for me these days for whatever reason. I suppose I could blame this on the pandemic. Why not? Everything these days seems to be blamed on the virus. If I do sleep, my dreams, if I’m lucky enough to achieve that level of deep sleep, are plagued with crazy scenarios and angst filled situations. Last night I was at a doctor’s appointment. There were two men in white coats attending to me, and neither of them were happy with my person. The individual I identified with as being the head cheese, if you will, was an insipid little man who kept rolling his eyes at me when I made a statement as if I was a ridiculous person who had never said a word worthy of paying any attention to. Hmmmm. What, one might ask, is this dream trying to tell me? I put my purse down on the chair next to me and a team of cleaning people rushed into the examining room, whisked up the offending purse, plopped it in my lap, and proceeded to de-lice the entire area around where I was sitting. Thank you? The doctor kept reading aloud out of my chart in almost a whisper. Since I am not a lip reader, I kept saying I couldn’t hear him, triggering another round of eye rolling in both men. Fine. Finally, I determined he was saying I was very ill. According to his version of the story he’d told me this last visit and I hadn’t paid attention. Huh. As I found this a little off putting at 3 a.m., I woke myself up. Lying under the sheets now feeling totally unsettled, I padded into the kitchen and pushed “brew” on the coffee pot. Coffee makes everything better, or at least it does for me. There is something so satisfying in taking that first sip off of your morning cup of freshly brewed beans. It’s like that first bite of an In ‘n Out cheeseburger. That first sip, or that first bite, always seems the most satisfying of the lot.

Love is sort of that way as well, don’t you think? In the beginning so new, so fresh, so full of promise. That golden glow when a couple is first discovering each other. The honeymoon period before there are shared experiences of piles of dirty laundry, overdue bills, hours spent walking the floor with a crying baby, nights hung over a toilet after eating bad Chinese. Just two people totally wrapped up in one another. If we started at the other end of the spectrum when we first met and worked our way back to the beginning most likely there wouldn’t be as many babies to walk the floor with in the middle of the night.

I come to this avenue of thought because Prince Phillip passed away. He and Queen Elizabeth were married for 73 years. I always wonder what the secret is to the extreme longevity of some relationships. I’m sure part of it, probably a large chunk, is compromise, patience, and a certain amount of me time. Now in their case, I would also suppose their union did not suffer breaches from the usual make or break moments we commoners do. The only breeches in their lives covered their behinds while galloping along well manicured polo fields. One of the top reasons couples fight is money, and in their case I feel I can say safely they weren’t sweating their next mortgage payment on Buckingham Palace. Still, whether your coffers are well padded or not, some natural leaks occur in the dam in all marriages, I should think after years and years of waking up to the same person on the pillow next to you. The lives of royals would be totally unique, of course. Queen Elizabeth would not be wiling away her days trying out a new dish soap for grease control, or sewing curtains for the spare room. One could only imagine what life might look like beyond the palace walls when the cameras weren’t rolling or the servants not present in one of the many common rooms. The Queen said he was her rock. As the women in my family were wont to say, “lovely”. Sometimes I got more of a slippery slope of pebbles and loose gravel feel from the men in my life, but that’s for another blog another day.

After all those years losing a spouse would be like using a part of yourself I would imagine. So many shared experiences and memories would have been created together they must feel like they’d lost half of their whole. My kids dad died at thirty-three. I remember at the time thinking, no matter where I went in the world I would never see his face again. Death is such a final note, you have to lean in on your faith in whatever you believe once that door is shut to make have the end of the song make sense. Faith, for each of us is a very personal thing. I try never to ask anyone to walk my walk nor do I opt to walk theirs when it comes to the hereafter so I shall leave it at that.

After Rick died, a friend gifted me with an “Angel Reading”. Basically, an angel reading is a visit with a psychic who tunes into the guides and angels surrounding you. I am very open to all ways of thinking when it comes to this, largely because no one up to this point has come up with the definitive answer to what actually occurs. That being said, I am willing to look at all options lying on the table. I do know for sure after he passed away there were signs everywhere he was still in the neighborhood. Several months after he was gone, a realtor friend of mine took me to look at this wonderful little house for sale in a neighboring town. At the time I was toying with the idea of buying rather than renting, before deciding renting offered me less restrictions. In one room of the house, the owner had decorated the bed and shelves with pillows and pictures with handwritten messages scrawled across them. My friend noticed even before I did, every one was either something Rick regularly said to me and several contained a nickname he used for me “little one”. Both of us just stood there in that room for the longest time amazed. It was as if he had written me a love note. I’ll never forget it. Truly I almost put an offer in on the house because of it. Another odd occurrence during that meeting was the “angel reader” was she mentioned Rick came and sat on the end of our bed. This gave me goosebumps. They began at my toenails and worked their way up to the top of my skull. As I have said ad nauseum, I am very neat. When I make a bed, that bed gets made. A military sergeant could stop by and I bet I’d pass inspection. I was a motel maid for a year in my misspent youth, and I after making twenty beds a day got pretty efficient at it. But, I digress. Anyhow, each day I would make the bed, no wrinkles, no bumps. My grandmother made her bed every morning before relieving herself. She told me it was in case she died while on the toilet, and whoever picked her up for in the meat wagon noticed her covers askew. Again, I’m off to the left here. Each day after I made the bed, an hour or so later, or whenever I went in the room next, I would notice at his end of the bed there would be what I would call a perfect “bum print” on the blanket. I can’t explain it, but I assure you for the first month or so it was there like clockwork, and then one day it wasn’t. It never was there again after that day. Go figure. Perhaps he stayed to make sure I was all right before going on to where he had to go. That being the case or not, it makes me to happy to think it was him checking in one last time.

Quite often partners sharing so many years together pass away close to one another. One departs, and the other literally dies of a broken heart. According to the news stories, the Queen has been preparing for the loss of her husband for some time. I thought I was prepared as well. I knew that I would lose Rick months before the actual day he died. But, you are never really prepared for such a catastrophic occurrence in your life, I don’t think. Perhaps knowing it is coming gives you time to plan, but I’m not sure it eases the pain of losing someone you love when it actually occurs. Death is as much a part of life as breathing and a heartbeat, yet we know so little about it. It is not a subject we here in America are comfortable with, so I shall move on to lighter fare.

To veer off the highway on another subject entirely, I have had my vaccinations and am ready to do a little exploring. The new man in my life at the hails originally from Montana. Born with the wind in my sails, I have been fortunate enough to cross the U.S. and Canada numerous times, but Montana is one state I have never stepped foot in and would love to add to my list of those visited. The big sky country, as it is referred to because it is told the sky seems more blue and more vast when in Montana. Sounds lovely (in the summer), and I am looking forward to seeing it. It would not be for me in the winter. Winters there are brutal and I am done with digging myself out of anything other than a huge plate of curly fries. A road trip is my favorite way to travel. Truth be told I’m a poor cruiser. I don’t like being stuck on a huge ship with nowhere to go but above deck or below, with a group of people I’ve never met, and nothing to do but eat. I prefer to have the freedom road travel provides. It’s wonderfully unburdening to be able to stop whenever the mood strikes you or go wherever the wind moves you. Though I do enjoy flying, when in an airplane all you see is the city below as you ascend and another city when you descend. Otherwise, most of the time the view out the window is clouds, clouds, oh, and did I mention clouds? If I’m in the mood to get somewhere fast, flying is the obvious choice, but at the moment there is nothing pressing getting me to get from point A to point B, so I prefer driving along at whatever speed I choose to drive and getting there whenever I do.

Another mode of transportation I enjoy is going by train. When I was four, my mother and I boarded the Trans-Canada train in Montreal and went west all the way to Vancouver before stepping back off. What a wonderful trip that was. Though very young, I can picture myself kneeling on the plush cushions in the Pullman car, face pressed against the window, watching the glorious vistas of the snow capped Rocky Mountains whizzing by.

At any rate, as you might have noticed I’m all over the map today. Wish that were more literal than figurative, but for now, I shall plan my trip and look forward to finally seeing something beyond whatever lies within a twenty-five mile radius of this house even if only in my unsettled dreams.

The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us, and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone. – George Eliot

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Today is Rick’s birthday. The 29th of this month will also mark the day he passed away two years ago. For those of you who have lost a spouse you will understand these special days come with a price. Grief is a process most of us will have to face one time or another in our lives. To me it is similar to sustaining an open wound. In the beginning, you are flayed and raw. Then, as the healing process begins, the pain recedes as each day passes until you are left with a barely perceptible scar. Though others may not be aware it is there, you will still touch and feel it from time to time remembering where you got it.

Life has changed significantly since then for me. In the beginning I was like a newborn fawn. I struggled to my feet on wobbly legs, unsure if I could walk. The human spirit is enduring, and eventually I found my footing and resumed my path in the forest still not sure where I was going, but knowing I would continue my journey. These days I have created a new me of sorts, you don’t remain the same. Grief restructures you, adding dimension in some parts, while removing it in others. As you change, you find new parts of you yet unexplored, strong and resilient parts, while sloughing off those no longer serving you.

There are days when I feel the emptiness, but those are less and less. This does not mean I don’t still feel his loss, for I do. I am simply no longer immobilized by it. If anything, I have learned to embrace it along with the memories and love and pain accompanying it. The loss has assimilated into the whole of me, allowing me to smile when a pleasant memory comes up or laugh when remembering a silly moment we shared.

In a way I am glad he is not here to go through what is going on outside the door of late. To be gravely ill and deal with the pandemic and the fires might have been too much for one plate. I feel for people going through that now, some alone with no one to reach out to. Makes me wish I had a bank full of money. Not that money makes everything better, it does not. If it did, there wouldn’t be so many unhappy people who’s pockets are lined with it, but it does provide an avenue for making things happen.

So today I shall remember Rick as I knew him. He was my Egyptian prince, my friend, my love, who though far from perfect as he would often say, was somehow perfect for me. Rick suffered with a lot of demons, but I saw past them to the person behind them and understood why they were there. With me he was genuine and caring. He was intelligent to a fault, and well studied. Always he brought interesting subjects to the table and taught me much about the structure of the world I missed while sleeping through geography class. We enjoyed nearly twenty years together. It is easy when you lose someone to canonize them. I will not do that. He wouldn’t like it, and neither would I. When I pass, I hope people will remember me as I am, not how they wish I would have been.

Looking back as I have said often, goodbyes have been frequent in my life. Being left behind is often an uphill struggle, but if you keep walking uphill eventually you will rise above the clouds to find blue sky and sunshine. Each day offers something interesting to explore, someone interesting to meet, or somewhere interesting to go. When one door closes, I am here to say eventually another door opens. For me I am too curious a being not to want to find out what lurks behind the next door. Keeping positive with all the negative swirling around our heads of late is definitely a challenge. Some days I feel the anxiety closing in on me. When it does, I lean heavily on my reserve of positive thoughts and uplifting reading material to help buoy my spirits. Even if I don’t always win the battle, at least I can say I put up the good fight.

So here I stand after nearly two years firmly planted on both feet again. I don’t want to waste a minute of my time left on this earth filled with guilt, sadness, anger or regret. Instead, I will try to make the best of my allotted minutes, doing something productive that matters if to no one other than myself. The Grand Canyon still calls my name and the Butterflies in Arizona. I am definitely getting there when the getting is again good. I still have Greece penciled in on my bucket list though the writing gets a little paler with each passing year. Zip lining is in my plans as well for next year. Have a lot to do when this gunky sky lifts and the bug is conquered or at least suppressed so no time to waste. As the indomitable White Rabbit might say:

Before going to bed I always told Rick, “Hasta Manana”, so I’m saying it once again to you Rick on your birthday. The Forty-Niners are playing on Sunday, Ducky, be sure to check in. Have a good one. I love you.

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I am approaching the midway point of the second year since Rick, my significant other of twenty years, passed away from lung cancer. Since the second week I have been regularly attending a grief group. Such lovely people they are, each special in their own way.  Though the cast varies as new people are added, and old ones fade into the distance, the message resonates, “you can do this”. Our facilitator, a lovely woman in her early eighties, lays out a roadmap of what to expect as the months unfurl. Those participants involved the longest prop up the newest ones, providing wisdom they acquired on their journeys and hope for a brighter future. The familiar faces have become more family then friends. Together they provide a bridge to help you make your way to your new life. I highly recommend finding a group such as this should you be faced with a loss. It may take a few tries to find one that suits your particular needs but if you take the time it is well worth the trouble.

The first year, for me at least, passed in a blur. The first weeks even months I dealt with the details one has to tie up when a person passes away.  A sort of protective numbness slips over you during this time deflecting or at least blunting some of the deep soul wrenching pain involved with such a loss. The second year, where I find myself now, our facilitator says can sometimes be the “lonely” year.  The numbness now worn off, the spotlight shines brightly on how life is going to look now that your loved one is not in it. Acceptance often arrives during this phase. Accepting that the person you love is gone in the physical sense and you are left to plot out your future on your own. The third year is when you begin to build on the foundation you’ve begun in the first two years. You cannot circumvent the feelings and bypass the grieving process or whatever you have tucked down deep inside will simply resurface at another time and place. Of all information I have been given during this process this is the most valuable. You must work through the pain to get past it.

Today illuminated this for me quite clearly. My doctor ordered a fasting blood test. Hate these. I tend to roam about in the middle of the night with the owls and spirits. Fasting means waking up to no coffee in my cup and no breakfast forthcoming until the lab is open for business. Needless to say I am not always a good sport about this. Uncharacteristically, as I said I tend to move the things I least like to do to the first of the line, I put this off until the last possible day. Looking up the labs available on the Internet I found one in my network open a 7 a.m. That’s for me. Outside the temps hovered just above freezing. My breath proceeded me down the walkway toward my cold car. Cranking the heater up to broil I wrapped my fingers around the icy steering wheel and headed towards town. The sun was up but had not made it’s full presence known yet, so misty shadows hung about mingling with the remnants of yesterdays winter storm. Several clouds parted allowing a few glimpses of daylight to shine through as I drove along the backroads without many other vehicles for company. “Coffee” my mind chanted along with the ZZTop song playing on the radio. “Yes, yes. I’m working on it.” What a nag my mind can be when it doesn’t get it’s creature comforts.

Reaching my destination I pulled my puffer coat tightly around me and scurried into the warm building. Three other brave souls were ahead of me so I picked up a magazine. As usual the date on the front indicated it had been printed when Eisenhower occupied the oval office. No other reading material in sight other than Field and Stream, I opened to the first page to catch up on what Mamie was up to. Shortly a young woman in a lab coat called my name. Pumping a dollop of disinfectant in my palm, I followed her through the door. That magazine looked like it had seen a lot of love since it came to reside in the waiting room, wanted to be sure I didn’t offer any of it’s germy inhabitants a ride. Coming from a doctor’s family this seems to be permanently ingrained in my brain. Perhaps it’s a good thing.

Poked and bandaged I was in and out in ten minutes. Hopping into my car I noticed a chain restaurant across the street Rick and I used to frequent.  Seemed like another lifetime ago, and I guess in truth it was. We owned the restaurant back then, and lived an hour and a half away from where I am now. Breakfast out before the roosters crowed was always a fun if both of us were up early. For a moment I considered going in and getting a table, then thought better of it. My mind was now screaming at me, “Get me some coffee, and I’m not kidding here. I will punish you”. Still, I slowed down at the driveway and then continued on my way. Not today. Not quite ready yet. Gave myself some prompts for going and getting my blood work done and getting as far as I have with my grief work. When I got home I pushed “brew” on my coffee maker and poured some cereal in a bowl. There’s a learning curve to all this and some days are harder than others. The fact that the hardest ones are now behind me helps me to get through the ones that still show up periodically to tell me I’m not through the mine field yet.

To add to the pot I worry about losing my mother. Time with her has dwindled as the dementia continues to deepen making it less safe to take her out of her environment for long periods of time. I grieve this as well and try to wring as many memories as I can out of each visit to hold me when the visits cease to be. You cannot dwell on death, however. As they say, “life is for the living”. Neither can you avoid it or pretend it isn’t there. As we get older time begins to take on more importance because there is less of it left. The need to do or say what we have not feels more urgent then in younger days.

In a state of gratitude is where I try to find myself. I am blessed in so many ways. Gratitude is something I practice every morning before beginning my day.  You don’t have to look hard to find something to be thankful for. If you can see the computer sitting before you, you can begin there, for some people cannot.

Some things we have no control over such as death, but others we do. Beginning our days on an optimistic note or choosing to look for the dark cloud on the horizon has everything to do with how the day unfolds. I read earlier if you expect only good things, only good things will come your way. Being a bit of a realist I will have to work on this one. I did find it a lovely thought though and a great way to jump start my day. So, I expected the 49ers to win and guess what they did!! As usual they offered up a bit of a nail biter at the end of the fourth quarter, but our boys showed up and that’s all that counts. Rick did not want to leave before the 49ers went to the Super Bowl but he had to go so those of us who loved him shall represent in 2020 when they go against Kansas City, How exciting.

I wanted to share this ridiculously simple dip that my dear friend shared with me. I have taken it twice to football parties over the past month only to have it disappear nearly before I set the bowl on the table. It’s easy as to be embarrassing when asked to share the recipe. With minimum effort and maximum crowd appeal I guarantee you will be a star if you serve it. I tripled the recipe for the last party and was looking at the bottom of the bowl before I got the second bag of tortilla chips open.

Avocado Salsa

2 ripe avocados large diced
1 container Rojos Restaurant Style or Homestyle Salsa (Hot to Mild depending on preference-I use mild)Tortilla chips

About one hour prior to serving, dice avocados in bite sized pieces. Gently fold in salsa. Serve with chips.

Serves 4

 

 

 

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Recently I spent the weekend with a dear friend of mine in the San Jose area. Packing the car it seemed there were an excessive amount of bags for a three day trip. Starting to think I’d have to rent a trailer, I called her jokingly suggesting she add a wing to her house before my arrival to accommodate the load. In my defense we share different tastes, so extra items had been added to my list of usual personal carryalongs. My preference in bread is wheat, she prefers sourdough. Thus, a loaf of wheat bread was tucked in a bag along with various snacks like my Salt and Vinegar Pringles, an absolute necessity for any decent road trip. A couple of honey crisp apples were included for an afternoon pick me up as my pal is not a fan of fruit and I can’t leave home without it. Since she drinks only tea, it became clear a coffee maker would be necessary if I was to provide adequate company. Naturally, if I included the coffee maker I’d need coffee, filters, and creamer. My landlords were peeking through their drapes as I went back and forth from the house to the car most likely wondering if I was moving out. Surely I could have gone three days without my early morning cup of Joe, but as we age the patterns we’ve established during our lives become more firmly etched in our personalities and in my case the word coffee is emblazoned across my forehead.

We all have certain indefinable traits stuck to us like a bug to flypaper. If you asked my family to describe me they might choose any number of adjectives (some I can’t use here), but they might also include neat. Piles of papers stacked around, or layers of unaddressed dust make me twitchy. Most likely this trait was passed down from my mother, and will be one I’ll carry though to the end. Mum is neat to the point of obsessive. When in the hospital for her fractured hip, dementia or no dementia, she still sat in the bed and folded everything she could get her hands on from bed pads to extra paper towels and placed them neatly in her drawers. That need for tidiness surpassed all the misfiring pistons in her memory center because it is part of the core of her being.

Over the past year with only Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, and I in residence I have probably begun to establish a sort of loose schedule of my own. At around 5:30 you could lay some safe money on finding me seated on my couch with the cat stretched out beside me, cup of decaf in hand, watching David Muir detail what is happening in the world. I usually put a plate in front of me around 6:00 and begin getting ready for bed around 9:00. Not really set in my ways yet but setting the stage for what could be described as that at some juncture further on down the road.

Several of my single friends, both single for many years, tell me they are so set in their ways they cannot imagine anymore having someone else under their roof. I can not only imagine it, but hope the universe chooses to direct my life towards another relationship when the time is ready.  I enjoy sharing my life with someone and waking up in the morning to a loving face over coffee. I just do, but that is me. Each of us plots our own course (to whatever control we have). It has only been a year and a half since Rick passed. For now, I am definitely not ready to share space with anyone new on anything other than a casual basis.

Companions come in many forms. Some people get roommates, others like myself enjoy a furry friend to hang with, and perhaps some people find contentment looking at a tank filled with fish. I do wish our pets had a longer time on earth, but the plan didn’t include that and I don’t know where to find the suggestion box. Earlier a friend called to tell me his old dog had passed away. Feeling his pain, as I have some experience saying goodbye to beloved animals, I did my best to provide something by way of comfort. Love comes with a price no matter who the love is bestowed upon. Another friend told me recently she didn’t want any more animals because losing them is too painful. I feel differently about this. For me they give us so much of themselves and provide such comfort I think as hard as it is to let them go I will always choose to have them near for whatever time I am allotted. My animals have often been with me well into their senior years. I feel blessed for that. Kitty, the oldest of my many felines, was twenty-one when I had to have her put down. Over the years she traveled all across country with my ex-husband and I. Settling herself in the back window of the car she took turns sleeping or sitting watching as the states passed by beyond the glass. When she needed out she let us know with a distinct meow and we would pull over to allow her to do what she needed to do. I always say a little bit of Kitty has been left behind in nearly every state in the U.S. Truly she was a seasoned and excellent traveler and I will always treasure those crazy road trips with her and my Shih Zsu, Sushi, who said goodbye at seventeen. Lifelong companions, my heart likes to think of the two of them walking along together wherever wonderful animals go and I’m always thankful for them gracing my life for the time they were here.Even though in the physical sense people or animals no longer populate our lives, their “beings” and lingering presence always remain close by. This, at least for me, provides much peace.

While down in the Bay Area I grabbed the opportunity to visit an old friend diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. This was a very personal visit for me because it was Rick’s diagnosis as well, and Ruth, my friend, is a dear and lovely human being. Last I saw her she was a robust healthy lady who avidly pursued a tennis ball every weekend with her tennis club and sang in the community choir. Always Ruth struggled with her weight but I’d been forewarned the disease had reduced her to a much smaller version of herself. In my grief group they stress putting on your game face when visiting someone who is terminally ill. The person you know rests inside the shell but sometimes the disease can redraw your image of them. Certainly in Ruth’s case the bone thin woman who answered the door looked little like the friend I remembered. Sitting with her for several hours I forgot completely about the physical change rather being amazed at her upbeat attitude and the light that shone on her skin and in her beautiful blue eyes. We shared memories and pictures before it was time to go. Hugging her as I was going out the door my body was instantly covered with goosebumps head to toe. Pulling back she felt it too. “Someone is here”, she said softly. The heightened energy sort of hung in the air between us. Perhaps one of our friends already gone ahead had returned to take her hand to guide her to next adventure? Who knows? Certainly not I, but I would like to think it so.

With life coming in and going out I try to be in the present. Embracing this concept is sometimes a struggle for me. Naturally, I believe our minds drift to past mistakes, or wander into the misty unknowns of what is in store for us tomorrow or next week. Since the past will remain unchanged and the future is yet to be written, it would seem the only logical course would be to make the most of the moment you are presently inhabiting.

My thoughts on this gray day in Northern California. Make it a good one.

 

 

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