Day 72-SIP-Funk

What a beautiful day it is today! The sun is shining brightly, it is warm, and the birds are singing cheerfully. My mood however is down. Why? How the heck do I know? If I did I might do something about it. Depression, when it occurs is a strong phenomenon. I get this way occasionally, and I hate it. It is only eleven o’clock in the morning and I have already taken a thirty minute nap. Somehow my drowsiness is connected with the sadness. It could be that the 29th of the month is Peg’s death date. She has been gone for eleven months now, but I still feel her presence and wish she could be here with me. Of course I want her here like she was before she went into dementia.

She spent her time in hell on this earth. Seven years of declining memory, four years of lost voice, three years of lost mobility, and finally the end. The lost voice part had to be hell by itself. When a woman who loves to talk can no longer do so she must be existing in silent agony. She spent hours staring out of front window looking and waiting, but for what? I often wondered what was going on in her mind. What were her thoughts? What did she feel?

On gorgeous days like today, I wheeled her out to the deck and down the ramp to the patio, and we sat together next to the pond watching the fish and the birds. I talked to her by retelling our experiences while we were traveling. She never responded in any way, not a smirk, not a grin, not a smile, not a wink, not anything. Eventually, when I spotted a mosquito on her I wheeled her back into the house. She never complained that I did.

Grief is a strange thing. Until I wrote the words above about the 29th being her death date, it never occurred to me that I am feeling punk because of grief. At least it is something to blame my crappy attitude on. In the past, I used exercise to get me out of the funk, and today, I will do the same. Hopefully it will be the cure.

Today is also the first official day that our businesses in town are opening under strict rules. Cafe’s and restaurants are open for outside eating. Those that had patios have it easy, those that don’t are scrambling to put a few tables and chairs out in front of their places. Even the town is working to block off one street to open more outdoor seating space for their customers. Hair salons and barber shops are also open with some strict guidelines, like by appointment only, no waiting inside, masks for stylists and customers, and disinfecting clean ups every half hour.

I have been watching the numbers of COVID cases in our zip code and until this week it has been flat, but yesterday confirmed cases jumped to 124 from 75, is it coincidence, anomaly, or fact? On days like today when I am in a funk, I really don’t give a damn about being careful. I might be better off as a statistic. I really don’t mean that, but it is the way I feel. By tomorrow this feeling will pass, and I’ll want to make my time on this earth worth talking about. I will want a straight pass through the pearly gates without any questions asked.

Day 70-SIP-Movies

Thank God for streaming. If it weren’t for movies on demand I would have gone nuts during the past seventy days. In fact, I would have gone mad after Peg’s death if it were not for films. It all began when my financial advisor a forty something person asked me if I ever used Amazon Prime, On Demand, or Netflix and I responded huh? He walked me through the steps I would take on my remote and I went to work. It was a new adventure for me since I am not that adventurous anymore, not that I ever was a thrill seeker. However, I must admit that I have done a lot f things many of my friends wouldn’t even think about doing.

I love to keep logs, and always have. I love reviewing my journals and remembering bike rides I took, or projects I worked on. After Peg died people would ask me how I was spending my time. I would answer I watch movies, and read books. “Which movie,” they would respond and even though I could tell you the entire plot and all the characters if you asked me for the title, I couldn’t remember, nor can I remember the names of the actors unless they are from the fifties. So, I began to keep a log of movie titles. Then people would say, “gosh, I never heard of that one, when was it made?” From that point on I began keeping the year a movie was made also. I have seen so many stories that now when I look at the list, I have to strain to remember a single character. When I finally connect with one the story gradually comes back to me.

When I was a kid we got a bonus when the theater offered a double feature. We saw coming attractions, two cartoons, a newsreel, and two full length films for the price of one. Now I watch as much as I can bear in the comfort of my home without commercials.

Since Peg’s departure I have logged 180 films. Now I’m wondering what I did on the days when I didn’t watch a movie. I know I was hooked on Homeland for all eight seasons with thirteen episodes in each that leaves me with 81 days when I didn’t watch a film. I guess I still watch regular tv once in awhile.

Thankfully, the films are all rated. I never watch one that has less than a fifty rating, there is at least one actor that I recognize, and the title is a magnet. None of what I have watched is a stupid comic book hero or an action movie filled with car crashes, and the like. The stories I look for have to be about real people who suffer all the ills of living. I guess one could call that drama. I tend to also like romantic comedy.

Below, I have included the list of my movies. I recommend about forty percent of them as excellent stories and another forty percent as good stories, and about twenty percent as don’t waste your time. Which is which I can not say, I don’t remember them all. Usually, if I can’t remember the story line of a film it is because I thought it a waste of my time. How many of these films have you seen?

Movies:
Love By The Book
Lucky in Love
Mail Order Bride
Abduction
Angry Angel
For Better or for Worse
How To Fall in Love
Love Blossoms
Love by the Book
My Boyfriends Dogs
Site Unseen
Angels In The Endzone
Letters to Juliet
Blue Streak
Cluny Brown 1946
Early Summer 1951
The Bank Job ****
Fun With Dick and Jane
American Gangster
An Affair to Remember*****
The A Team
Intern
In the Line of Fire
The Bridge On the River Kwai*****
Cowboys and Aliens
At War With the Army
Magnum Force
Like Cats and Dogs
The Heist****
Echo
12 Dates to Christmas***
Edge of the Garden
An Old Fashioned Christmas
An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving
A Belle for Christmas
A Christmas Too Many
Love the Coopers
Christmas Caper
Pizza My Heart
The Gambler, The Girl and The Gunslinger
Freshman Father
Cancel Christmas
Christmas Cupid
The National Tree
So You Said Yes
Holiday Joy
Smart Cookies
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2*****
A Christmas Story
Goodnight for Justice
Goodnight for Justice the Measure of a Man
Goodnight for Justice Queen
Miracle on Christmas Lake****
The Wizard of Oz
A Christmas Carol
That Music Teacher****
Call Me Klaus
This Christmas
McFarland USA*****
St. Vincent*****
Hannah’s Law
The Family
Snow
Snow 2
The Holiday
Jack and Jill
The Family Man
Focus
The Giver
The Wild Girl
You Can Count on Me
The Next Three Days
Wanderlust
This Is Where I Leave You
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Central Intelligence
The Case for Christmas
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
Deliveryman
No Attached
Inside Man
Hostage
Aloha
Blue plane
Beauty and the Beast
Dead Man Down
Never go back
Burnt
Green fingers
Broke Back Mountain
Being Rose
All Saints
The Devil’s Own
Boundaries
An Unfinished Life
Nobody’s Fool
The Time of Their Lives
How Do You Know
Solitary Man
Banger Sisters****
White Boy Rick****
The Missing
Whatever Works
Where the Rivers Flow North
The Wife*****
Last Cab To Darwin*****
Malena
Ruby Gentry
Secrets of the Summer House
The Savages
Midnight in Paris****
Celeste and Jesse Forever
Pride and Prejudice
The Grey
The Bourne Ultimatum*****
In the Line of Fire
Heavens Gate
Loopers
Excalibur
The Bog Lebowski****
Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day****
Still Alice
Mud
Australia*****
The Man From Snowy River
Boyz n the Hood
Primary Colors
My Best Friends Wedding
American Made
Bohemian Rhapsody*****
A Star Is Born****
Days of Heaven
Heaven
Marley and Me*****
The Italian Job*****
Midnight Run
Get Out
Thelma and Louise*****
Logan
The Grace of Jake
Web of Dreams
Safe House
Secondhand Lions
Pleasantville
Elena
King and I*****
The House
A Dogs Way Home*****
The Kingdom
A Bag of Marbles*****
Eye In the Sky
The Sugarland Express
Living Out Loud
The Help
Adaptation
House Boat(1958)****
No Way Out(1988)
Blue Jasmine(2013)
Election(1999)
Bad Education(2019)
A Dog’s Journey(2019)*****
The Goldfinch(2019)*****
Invisible Life(2019)
Private Lives of Pippa Lee(2009)****
Tater Tot & Patton(2019)*****
The Orchard(2018)***
Definitely Maybe(2008)
Our Idiot Brother(2011)****
Hotel Artemis(2018)****
Queen of Hearts(1989)*****
The Visitor(2008)
At Eternity’s Gate(2018)*****
Brad’s Status(2017)****
Daisy Winters(2019)****
Cas &Dylan(2015)****
Hide Away(2011)*****

DAY 67b-SIP- Give Me A Sign

During my bereavement support group meetings where I met Peg, one of the grieving widows suggested that we should ask our dead partners to send a sign. The sign can be anything a soft wind across your cheek, a butterfly landing near you. It was this lady’s way of dealing with her grief. I liked the idea and often asked Barb for a sign. Anything I’d say, just to let me know you are doing well. Days would pass, or even weeks and months without a single thing I could interpret as a sign. One day, I was walking on the bike path. It was the middle of the day, and sunny. I felt a presence next to me. It was the strangest thing to feel something so close to you yet not hear it. I turned my head ever so slowly to see a full grown deer walking alongside me just behind my head. I walk this path almost daily, I ride my bike on the path almost daily yet I have never seen a deer near the path. That day, not only did was there a deer on the path it was walking side by side with me. I couldn’t take it any longer even though we had only been together for a few seconds, I had to talk to it. As soon as I did, the deer startled and ran on ahead of me for about twenty yards then skittered off into the woods.

What I haven’t said yet is that my wife Barbara loved deer. She collected statues of deer. Her collection consisted of three hundred porcelain, paper mâché, made in Japan, made in China, made in USA collectible deer statues, most about the size of a salt shaker, and some were salt shakers. There is no question in my mind that this was a sign from Barb, I made a connection.

Last month I started asking Peggy to send me a sign. What the heck maybe it’ll work again. Since then there hasn’t been a single event that I would place in the class of being a sign.

Last evening I had just settled down to watch a movie, and found one titled “Brad’s Status” starring Ben Stiller. The story has him thinking that out of all his college clique he is the only one that is not famous, rich, or successful. The story is more than that, however and I liked it.

I clicked on the start button when a sudden every loud noise happened within a few feet from me. Startled I nearly jumped out of my skin with freight when a second loud bang happened within a microsecond of the first. I jumped up to learn the source of this mini explosion. There in front of me just behind the loveseat lay a framed picture with broken glass all over the floor. Th picture is one of Peg’s and my favorites by Ted DiGrazia of running wild horses. I hung it above the bar separating our dining room from the sun room. It was set high and had fallen seven feet, first bouncing off the marble counter immediately below and then to the floor. It took out my orchid plant on the way down. The first thing that popped into my mind was what happened, then the SIGN came to mind. Was this a sign from Peg?

A Sign From Peg, The Horses Galloped Off the Wall
Mustangs Free To Run At Last

I started to think of all the horse possibilities within our family. She has a son, whose wife and daughter are horse owners and horse lovers. I have a daughter-in-law who also has horses. Did something happen to one of these families? I wanted to call them on the spot to learn if all was well with them, but fought off the urge. If they had something happen they will let me know, in the meantime I’ll just categorize this as a sign from Peg, I connected once more.

Day 67-SIP-Best Day Yet

Clearly this is by far the best day of 2020 from a weather standpoint. The sun is shining, the temperature is approaching 80 degrees F, and there is a slight breeze. Because of all the rain last week the high humidity is the only downside. Because of the RH indoors I had to actuate the AC.

My day has been quite normal, only broken by a phone call I made to my step-daughter. She and I have not spoken for several weeks and it was my turn to spend the dime. We had a nice chat, and since then I have not had any human contact other than that which I encountered along the bike path. There was a time, back in the nineteen nineties when I owned the bike path. I couldn’t be out there for more than a few minutes when I met someone I knew or someone who became an acquaintance from our daily passings. Very often they were people from Folks On Spokes bike club. If so, the chat would turn into an ice cream or a pop followed by a side-by-side ride.

After Barb died, I spent hours along the path riding to forget my grief. There was one one lady, a member of FOS whom I have known for many years who became a regular rider by my side. Even though she worked a full time job, she managed to meet and ride with me several times a week. She and I took longer rides along Lake Michigan and she also showed me haunts in her part of town. We began dating off the bikes. She introduced me to Second City an impromptu comedy club known for spawning many famous comedians,  including Bill MurrayGilda RadnerJohn CandyJohn BelushiDan AykroydDel CloseEugene LevyCatherine O’HaraNia VardalosRyan StilesMike MyersSteve CarellTina FeyAmy PoehlerStephen Colbert, and many others. The performance we saw that night included a skit about the Chicago Cubs and their failed attempt to win the World Series because of a questionable foul ball, and a fan interference The cast blamed it on the infamous goat from the Billy Goat tavern.

Second City Comedy Theater

Bike Riding Friends

It wasn’t long before we became more than friends. An evening in front of the TV watching movies turned into what most would euphemistically refer to as an affair. For me, an older man, it was a great time to be hooked up with a woman fifteen years my junior. It all ended when I left town to spend the winter in Arizona. We have not seen nor spoken to each other since that time seventeen years ago. It wasn’t long after I returned from the three month hiatus in Arizona that I met and began courting Peggy.

Peggy and I hit it off because we had a common denominator, we were both widows, she for four years, and me for two. We were both Catholic. She lost her husband just a few weeks short of their fiftieth wedding anniversary, and I lost Barb just shy of our forty-second anniversary. Our politics were the same, she loved to talk, and I loved to listen. I loved going to parties and shows, and she loved being with me even when she didn’t like the program. We both had kids who we learned to love as our own. We spent two years courting before we married and began a new life together. Our marriage ended just three months away from our fourteenth anniversary on June 29, 2019 when she died from Alzheimer’s disease. I call it dying ugly.

Maybe these recollections are part of my grief process and writing about them is cathartic. Hopefully it is. I need the world to reopen to be able to live the life I want to lead. Although I enjoy being an SIP hermit, I can only take it for a short time before I need to associate with people. Actually, the only thing different about my life during SIP and before SIP is the complete isolation without the knowledge that I can go out if I want when I want. Under SIP, I have felt it my responsibility to avoid being a carrier.

I anxiously await next week when Illinois officially goes into Phase Three of reopening. Another side of me keeps whispering into my ear not to rush into society so quickly. The virus is still out there waiting for people my age to pounce on and take out. My experience with polio tells me that I should be very wary of contact. Yes, I will social distance, and I will wear a mask and I will not go near sick people. I did the same thing in 1957, the year I got the polio virus. I stayed away from crowds, I didn’t swim at the beach, I didn’t do swimming pools, but I got the virus anyway. Looking back on it not a single friend or relative that I associated with got the virus, but I did. I am special, and COVID-19 might see me that way too.

Day 65-SIP-Decoration Day

For the past few weeks I ‘ve had a compelling desire to visit my wive’s graves. I said it before and I will say it again today, I don’t see any point in visiting graves, but I did today. At least I can say I did something useful at Barb’s grave. I cleaned her gravestone from the grass that is trying to cover it. While I was there I cleaned my stone as well. At the time, I thought there would never be a reason not to be buried next to her, so I bought my gravestone to match hers. I also thought of it as saving the responsibility from my kids. It took me forty five minutes to complete the job. I stuck an American flag between the stones in honor of Memorial Day, said a final prayer and went to the next grave.

The next graves were that of John T, and Minnie Riley, the parents of my second wife Peggy. They are but a stones throw from Barbara in Holy Sepulcher cemetery while Peggy is nearly thirty miles further southwest. When Peg and I discussed our lives together after we decided to marry, we made special requests to be buried with our first spouses. Looking at things pragmatically, we both knew we would never be married to each other as long as we were to our first spouses, therefore, our forever-life on earth belonged to our first.

I did my thing, first saying a prayer for Peg and then speaking to her directly. When finished I encircled her stone to the other side and did the same for her first husband. I told him to look for me at the gate soon.

Memorial Day always evokes memories from my childhood. It was only a few years after WWII had ended and before Korea started. The country was mourning its losses of husbands, sons, lovers, friends killed in the war. My parents referred to the day as decoration day. It was the time when families went to cemeteries to spend time with their loved ones and to decorate their graves with flowers, wreaths, bouquets. My mother insisted we all go. I don’t think Dad could resist, although I never got the idea that he would. Mom always made him stop at the nursery across the road from the entrance to St. Mary’s Cemetery. She selected a floral pattern for my brother Joe’s grave and then bought the plants to make it.

At Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, where Peggy is buried with her veteran husband, American flags adorn the drive on both sides of the drive leading in. It is very picturesque indeed. I was mildly surprised at the number of people that were there. Most days when I visit her grave I am among only handful of people there. A funeral waited for escort to the burial chapel, and many vets on motorcycles sat on their bikes chatting. All throughout the cemetery between the rows of endless white grave stones were wives, daughters, and grandchildren placing floral bouquets and flags to their loved ones.

Getting into the cemetery on Memorial Day was not easy. Al the cemetery roads were parked with cars and the traffic within was bumper to bumper. Veterans in uniform carrying rifles marched throughout from grave to grave of their comrades lost in war. At the gravesite they would have a ceremony with the color-guard and the rifles giving a salute with volleys of smoky, noisy shots aimed into the sky. Saint Mary’s is a Catholic cemetery so there is a mass for the souls of the departed at 10:00 a.m. in the outdoor grotto. It was always well attended and crowded with standing room only. Not a safe COVID-19 assembly.

Normally, we left home about nine o’clock and we didn’t’t return until after three o’clock, all of us exhausted. Mom and Dad felt better that they had a chance to decorate their firstborn’s grave. Dad had a chance to visit a sister, and all of her kids, and they both visited graves of Hungarian friends from the neighborhood. It was a family oriented day, and I learned to despise it.

My wife Barbare was brought up to revere her dead relatives, She was just as paranoid about visiting graves as my mother. Maybe that is why they got along so well. Barb went to the cemetery often to clean graves and visit with her grandparents, aunts and uncles. She knew I disliked the process, so normally she did graves during the week with the kids. She had her own car, so transportation was never an issue. On the other hand, Peggy’s family was the opposite. Once a person was buried that was the end of the road for visitation except for major events. She and I only visited her husband’s grave a few times, and I only took her to see Barb’s gave once or twice. Each time we wound up looking her parent’s graves which she hadn’t visited for years.

I wonder what will happen to my grave once I am gone. Who will revere my grave enough to visit, and to clean, and to place flowers upon the stone?

On the drive home, I thought it is time for me to visit my parent’s, brother, grandfather, aunts, and graves and clean them up. The last time I did that it was because my young grandson Joey asked me to help him with his genealogy by visiting graves. He was about seven when that happened he is twenty-two now, and working. I’ll ask him if he is interested, if not, I’ll ask my brother if he can break out of his long-term-care house to go with me.

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