Dreary, Dark, and Windy

Closeup of wild turkey in newly fallen snow

Today I postponed my daily walk a bit to catch a few extra degrees of warmth. The temperature didn’t matter though, the wind was blowing hard with gusts of fifty miles per hour. If it was at may back I was literally being pushed along faster than my legs would move. On the return, I got my workout. Several times the breeze stopped me dead in my tracks. Combine that with an uphill climb and the workout was intense. In either direction the breeze carried away any heat that the workout was providing and I was under dressed for it.

This after noon I added some more decoration to the house for Christmas. I am stopped at this point having broken my promise never to decorate again. As sorrowful as I want to be I force myself to see only the joy that Christmas brings. The tree, the lights, the colorful ornaments all add brightness to the dreary November days. Historically, in Illinois, November and December have the least amount of life sustaining sunshine in the year. So, why not brighten it up a bit?

I will post photos of my decorations once I figure out how to do it using a smart phone. (A smart phone operated by a  dumb operator who is beyond the tech-savy required to survive the conveniences.)

Have a very blessed and happy Thanksgiving holiday with family, friends, or with yourself, what ever the situation presents.

Raging Hormones and Crying Eyes

I finished my KETO lunch and am spending too much time clicking aimlessly from page to page on the internet allowing my God given minutes to be wasted. The last page I stopped on was a blog “Behind the White Coat.” The blogger, a doctor, wrote a heart tearing piece about his father who had Alzheimer’s dementia. Reading it opened a new door to my own grief of losing my sweetheart Peggy. In three days she will have passed five months, but I still think about her daily as I do my first wife Barbara who is now gone sixteen years. Grief is a strange emotion that strikes when you least expect it, and can turn a great sunny day into a dreary grey one.

Reading the Doc’s blog post got me to thinking about how grief affected me after Barb died. At her wake a widowed cousin whispered into my ear “don’t be foolish like I was and seek out a grief support group asap, I waited three years.” Grief made me do strange things, and to forstall the emotion I loaded myself with as much activity as was possible. I found a grief support group right in my own church and went to the September meeting. It was one month after Barb died. The group leader led each attendee in discussion. “Tell us about your loss,” she would ask?  The grieving widow would spend as much time as she needed to tell her story. I was the only man in the group of about ten ladies. Their ages ranged from fifty to eighty, I was sixty-five. We sat in a circle on couches and lounge chairs in a pleasant setting. Immediately opposite me sat a beautiful black haired beauty with penetrating blue eyes that met my own and clicked a button in my head that said, this girl is going to be my wife. Maybe it was because my hormones were raging during that time that I would immediately think of marriage when my wife of forty-two years was barely cool in her grave, but that is exactly what happened.

When it was my turn to talk, I could not utter a single word, I was so overcome by emotion. My eyes welled up in tears and my voice choked. I just waved to the moderator and with a crackly voice said “I can’t.”

Later, I told the story of my breakdown to a friend. What really impressed me was that some of these widows lost their husbands five years earlier. I expressed my concern about the efficacy of a support group that kept people coming back with grief for five years. That’s not what I had in mind, and she asked me why I would continue to return to such a group. I never told her about how my eyes zeroed in on the azure blue eyes of an amazing woman who had a huge effect on me. Of course I attended every month if only to continue to see the raven haired beauty with the penetrating eyes. By December, I was able to speak to people, but I still could not tell my story about Barb. That night as we cleared the tables of the cookies and refreshments I hung around until everyone was gone except Peggy. I knew her story because she was able to relate it to the group. She met her husband when she was fourteen. They married when she was seventeen, just before he left for basic training. She moved with him to his base near Columbia, South Carolina and stayed in a rooming house until he was transferred to the Okeefenokee Swamp for bivouac training. She came home and lived with her parents untill he was discharged. After basic, his orders were to go to Korea. A serious mistake during a dental check caused him to miss the boat. His chart was switched with someone else’s and the dentist never checked before he began to pull Ron’s teeth. The man whose teeth were supposed to be pulled caught the boat to Korea, Peggy’s husband got new dentures and spent the rest of his tour in Germany. I helped Peggy carry a heavy bag of books and goodies out to her car. We talked in the parking lot until both of us were frozen. I asked her If I could write to her from Arizona because I was leaving within a couple of weeks to spend the winter. She said yes it would be alright.

I went to Arizona to leave my tears there. During Barb’s wake and funeral I could not shed a single tear. In Arizona one of my daily routines was to walk to the library and write in my journal. I wrote the story of Barb’s heart attack and the following two year ordeal. It turned into a tale about our life together. There were days when the pages were soaked and the ink ran the page, but I got it out. I never reread the story until about a month ago. I found the journal while cleaning and trashing stuff from my house.

I was about a month  from returning, when I finally wrote a letter to Peg. Letter writing became an after lunch routine. I cooked lunch by recipes three times a week and on those days I also wrote letters to friends. The letter was properly headed with my address and the date, but I also included my Arizona phone number. A week later I received a call from Peg.

Two years went by when I finally asked her to marry me. She responded yes without hesitation, and that sealed our deal. Now, I find myself recalling the many great times we had together. I want those memories burned into my brain to wash out the memories of her final four years of regression. She finally reached the point where she forgot how to breath. I missed her very last breath by only a few minutes. I wanted to be holding her hand when it happened, but that wasn’t to be.

All Hallows Eve = Halloween

This year Halloween was truly different from all of my halloween’s (81), it snowed. It was our very first killing frost, and the snow measured a couple of inches. The temperature registered at twenty-three degrees Fahrenheit. Our weather man cited that the last time we had snow and cold of this magnitude was ninety-five years ago. No wonder I can’t remember it being this cold!

I was prepared for the kids, but they didn’t come. Well, a few hearty souls did show up. They looked funny wearing super hero costumes covered by their snow suits. The door bell rang just five times between 4:30 and 7:00 p.m. Now what do I do with all the left over candy? I am on a Keto diet, and candy in the same house is forbidden. Rats!

Halloween kicks off a three day celebration at my church. The next day is November first and is All Saints Day, a holy day of obligation. November second is All Souls Day, and November third is for all the still living souls.

This morning I attended a special mass commemorating all the people from our parish that died during the last twelve months. There are 83 people listed, my wife Peggy is one of them. Right after this mass were two funerals that didn’t make it in time to be on this year’s program, and another one next Monday. Death doesn’t seem to care about holidays or scheduled events it just happens.

Sinfully, I scanned the congregation to see if there were any notable widows that I would want to hit on. I didn’t see anyone worth developing a relationship with. I’m really bad aren’t I? Here I sit, my wife not yet cold in her grave, and I’m looking over the field. I loved both of my wives, and still do, but both of them broke the contract (til death do us part) when they took their last breath. Life is for living, and I do grieve, but I also want to move forward without wasting a single second of my God given gift. I also don’t want to be judged at the pearly gates for wasting the life I was granted. I would rather be criticized for doing something even if it is wrong rather than not doing anything.

After wife-one died I attended a support group dealing in grief. That is where I first laid eyes on Peggy and it was an instant connection. We married two years later. We enjoyed ten great years together before she was beset with Alzheimer’s dementia. The next four years were not so great, but God gave her to me to care for in sickness and in health, and that is what I did. I miss her terribly, but at the end I prayed that God take her to stop her misery, He did.

The aloneness I experience now that she is gone is unbearable at times, and I have to do something physical to get my mind off of being by my miserable self. Sometimes, I will wash my dirty clothes, other times I will call someone just to hear a voice. Lately, I have taken to watching movies. On Demand has become my most viewed channel on television. I find that becoming engrossed in a good story puts me into a better frame of mind. By the time I cook my supper, eat, and wash the dishes, there is just enough time for one or two movies before nodding off to sleep. If Its too late to start another movie I’ll get ready for bed and read a book until it is time for sleep.

Last evening’s diversion was to use my jacuzzi tub, a pleasure I haven’t experienced for many years. I went out earlier in the day to buy some bath salts and bought a bottle of Dr. Teal’s Foaming Pink Himalayan Bath Salts and Oil. The idea of soaking in something like that was intriguing. The instructions said to use a generous amount. I didn’t measure but I poured at least a cup full of the stuff into the water. I didn’t just want some therapy, I wanted deep deep therapeutic benefits.  By the time the water level in the tub reached the jets the foam was at the rim of the tub. I stepped into the water and my foot slipped on the bottom. It took some effort to haul my thirty pound over weight hulk into the tub without injuring my self. I hadn’t counted on Dr. Teal’s oil component to be so slippery. I could barely sit up without sliding on my back. I finally braced myself across the width of the tub with my back against one side and my feet against the other. I gingerly reached over to the side and pressed the “on” button to energize the water jets. All holy hell broke loose as the massaging water whipped up a frenzy of bubbles which now bloomed over the rim and reached the window sill. My head was barely out of the bubbly cloud. The only way I knew how to keep the bubbles from filling the entire room was to keep pushing them into the water.

Before I turned on the water I set my phone to alarm me after a half hour passed. By the time it rang, I had enough therapeutic relief and was ready to exit the tub. That is when the therapeutic workout began. Trying to maneuver the mass of my body on oil slick smooth plastic became a nightmare. One false move and I would slip below the bubble line and sink under the water, and I don’t breathe too well under water. My legs were impossible to move out of the wedge I had myself in, and twisting my upper body only seemed to make the wedge work better. In the mean time, my phone kept on alarming. In my mind I was deciding how many handholds I will have to install all around the tub to make it senior friendly. I used the faucet spout as a handle and finally maneuvered my way out of the wedge position. Finally I reached the switch to shut the water jets off, and to stop the bubble machine. These were not Lawrence Welk cutesy bubbles bu rather more like a volcanic eruption.  On my knees now, I inched my way to the edge of the tub. God it was slippery. I made it, and threw my body onto the rim with both arms over the edge. Somehow I rolled onto my back against the rim with my  arms still hanging on for dear life. Slippery foam covered me from head to toe. I reached for a towel on the floor and was able to wipe off some of the oil from the edge of the tub, and this gave me enough friction to hike my ass up into a sitting position. The next therapeutic exercise involved Yoga. I lifted one leg high enough to make the edge of the tub, and with some exertion I managed to straddle the tub. My leg was covered in oily foam and I maneuvered the towel with my toe to bring it where I could step on it. I pictured myself standing on a slippery tile floor with one leg, and the other in the slippery tub, and me doing a split landing on my most sensitive body part.

I made it out and shut off the alarm. The exit took a full fifteen minutes. On my next therapeutic adventure I will begin by dispensing Dr. Teal’s Foaming Pink Himalayan Bath Salts and Oil in quarter teaspoon increments, or maybe an eyedropper would be smarter. I jumped into the shower to rinse the foam and oil off. When I was dry I reached into the tub and pulled the drain plug. This morning there was still some foam left in the tub.

You know what? The therapeutic jacuzzi soak took my mind off missing Peg.

 

 

A Man Thing

For the last two years I have told people that when Peg dies, and I’m still alive, the first thing I must do is sell this house. Well. Peg died. I’m quickly relearning the difficulty of emptying a house of clutter and unsightly unnecessary junk.  When we moved in here thirteen short years ago the house was empty. I had just sold my old house and everything I owned to start a new life. Peg didn’t follow suit. She insisted on keeping her old house, and did. It wasn’t until four years ago after dementia had taken her memory did I have a chance to finally sell her place. Of course the house was still loaded with her stuff. Keeping her stuff out of our new house was the only way we could live in a modern looking minimalist home. Slowly, the stuff crept into the modern. I ran out of spaces to put things. Our closets were jammed, the space under beds was filled with boxes, the garage was full, even the trunk of her car and the backseat had stuff in it. Of course all the while this creep occurred I was busy in my workshop making dust, and buying more lumber to make my Intarsia pieces. Not to mention a couple of new machines too.

Peg had an attachment to her stuff. She loved clothes and remained the same size all her life, old clothes fit her as well as new. The result was that she had a tremendous inventory of clothes. I tell people that at age eighty-five she still had her prom dress. I promised her that I would not throw anything away or dispose of it in any way without her permission. She never granted me permission. She always said her daughter and grand daughters would use her clothes. Wrong. They have taken a few articles as mementos but the fashions of a forty or sixty something are different than that of an eighty something. After four weeks of sorting, searching, boxing, bagging, and hauling clothes the master bedroom closet is finally finished. When I saw the empty closet for the first time it dawned on me that I have just disposed of my wife. Emptyness overwhelmed me. The finality of her dying had hit home. I had to stop and sit down, I almost cried.

I am donating most of the things to three different organizations: Saint Vincent dePaul Society, NU 2 U, and Neat Repeats. All of them are resale shops that support battered women, poor families, and single parent families. They are happy to see me coming.

The journey on this new adventure will take another eight weeks as I move from room to room purging the unnecessary things from life. The goal is to end up with a house that is ready to show for sale. I’m still not sure what the next step will be, but I trust God will show me the way. I may just pack the Death Star with camping gear and head for Alaska. After Barb died sixteen years ago, I packed the car and went to Arizona for three months. It was there that I finally cried for her. It’s a man thing not to cry.

Five Stars Squared

I just finished reading a delightful book which I thought would bring me back to grief. I read all the reviews and picked up the story line ahead of  time to realize the main character loses his wife to cancer. I hate stories about men who lose wives to anything disease. That is how I lost my first wife and am now losing my second. The idea of awakening grief within my body made me cringe. Yet, after beginning to read I fell in love with this story. Yes there was grief, love, suspense, and excitement, all of the elements of fiction that make a story interesting. The most unlikely character is the dog. The central character’s dog Enzo tells the story from beginning to end. The ending is sad but beautiful. You will not go wrong reading The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein.

Five stars squared.

How Not To Solve a Problem


Most people who are problem solvers, or in business know that you spend your effort on things that are relevant. As an engineer, I was taught the Pareto principle which simple states that 80% of the benefit comes from 20% of the effort. I used this rule on every problem I could. When you have limited resources like engineers, salespeople, and machinists why try to solve every stinking problem at the same time? The first thing I thought of when I spotted the list above is the Pareto Principle. Using the Pareto method I can tell you that more lives would be saved if we attack heart disease or cancer first. Seven million people die from cancer worldwide. That is more than all the lives lost due to the problems in the entire list below it. I guess liberals cannot do math nor figure out that the number of lives lost to shootings is minimal when compared to heart disease and cancer.  We have all lost someone due to heart disease and cancer, yet few of us has lost someone because of a shooting. I don’t mean to disrespect any person’s life with my comments, but facts are facts.

The only time we came close to losing that many lives due to violence over disease was in WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam. So why are people so outraged by mass shootings? I have no clue, but it is a waste of energy to try to solve the problem when there are so many other pressing problems to solve first.

I’m thinking that the horror of mass death is too great because most of the people killed were young and vibrant, and filled with life. They had families and goals to reach. Well, how about the 1,960 kids who die from cancer every year? Dying a slow death from cancer is a lot more horrifying for the person than dying in an instant from a bullet.

Death brings out emotions within us when we hear about them, especially when they are senseless. So why spend untold amounts of money on writing laws that we will forget about within a month? We should instead spend some money on the grieving people who are outraged by these acts because they are in mental anguish. Having experienced grief myself I feel for the loved ones who survive. It is they who will suffer from grief for years, and you know what? Banning guns will not solve their problems. Chicago is a fine example of how useless gun bans are. More people are killed in a Chicago weekend by guns than were killed in Las Vegas. People who want guns get them and use them to kill regardless of the laws on the books. I read a news article this week that in London where guns are banned, and there is a ten-year prison sentence if you are caught with one, that gun crime is on the rise. In the meantime, people are still being killed by knives, hatchets, and rocks. Where are the bans on these items?

Wild and Crazy Adventure

Over the course of my bicycling life which began at age ten I have read a number of books dealing with bicycle adventures. Most were accounts of cross-country journeys. One was about Thomas Stevens the first man to circle the globe on a high wheeler bicycle. Another chronicles Jon Haldeman’s effort in the Race Across America. There were several other’s too. Then there were some movies like American Flyer which kicked off Kevin Costner’s career as a movie actor. The most notable bicycle film is Breaking Away which featured Dennis Quaid as a teenager. All of them offered me hours of wonderful entertainment and motivated me to do crazy things on a bicycle. That is as crazy a thing as I could do. Read my post on Nova Scotia titled My Side of the Story, and you will see just what I consider to be a wild and crazy adventure.

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Early this week I used my usual process to find a book in library: walk in, head for the new-book racks, scan the titles and covers, pick up the first thing that strikes your fancy. This time it was a book called This Road I Ride, by Juliana Buhring. The spark that lit the fire of desire to read the story was the image of  bicycle wheel on the cover. That is it, my super simple system to find worthy books to read. I was not disappointed, and I was right. The story is a bicycle adventure.

Juliana_Buhring.jpg

What fascinated me about  This Road I Ride was the story leading up to the ultimate adventure which was a bike ride around the world. Juliana is the product of a religious sect called The Children of God. Something of a hippie free love movement, the sect raised the children by sending them to foster care parents within the sect in all parts of the world. By the time Juliana was four years old she began a journey living in thirty countries all around Asia, Africa, and Europe. She ultimately left the group to be on her own.

Her decision to circumnavigate the world was the result of losing her true love to a crocodile while he led a kayaking group down the Congo river. She wanted to do something to memorialize his memory that was equal to his way of life and his personal philosophy. This book will someday become a movie.

What Buhring did in two hundred and twenty-four pages was to tell her early life story, how she met and fell for her love Hendrik, set her goal to become a Guiness Book record to bike around the world, describe the ride, express  her psychological and philosophical leanings, emote her physical and mental stress, and do it in a way that keeps the reader wanting to hear more. She described how traveling into the wind was more difficult than pumping up a hill in such beautiful detail that it reminded me of too many times when I thought I would much rather climb a hill than push into the wind. A hill ends, but the wind usually doesn’t. Her book is short of a miracle.

If you are into stories about people who lead fascinating lives, this one is a must.

 

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