Saturday, October 11, 2008

Happy Birthday Wherever You Are

My Dearest Love,

It's been a while since I wrote, I know. That does not mean that you are not in my thoughts. I miss you every day and often wish for your counsel and advice. Where you still here, I would have placed your birthday card on your pillow once you had vacated that warm place beneath the covers. Later there would be presents and perhaps a special dinner or some other activity of your choice. Today, I will make do with this letter and hold you close to my heart.

You would be happy with how your children have grown. Your son is almost as tall as me now and is beginning to show a shadow on his upper lip with small, curly hairs sprouting from the tip of his chin.

Your daughter is off to college and appears to be loving it. She usually only communicates with me when she needs a bill paid, but we got together a couple of weekends ago at a family wedding and she seemed to sincerely miss us. She says she's not crazy about going to class, but loves doing the homework. She really seems to dig the educational part of this. She's also loving the community from what I can tell. She's joining a sorority to fill the hole left when she said good-bye to her posse from high school. I will get to hear more next weekend when she will come back for a couple of days visit with friends in the Cities.

To spend the time with her, I will have to abandon your son while I am down south. This does not happen often enough to suit him. He loves it when I leave because then he gets the one bed in our temporary apartment. When I am with him, he has to bunk on the fold-out couch which is a never ending source of complaint (as is almost everything else about our living situation). So I am not too worried about leaving him on his own for a few days.

I don't know if you have been paying any attention to what's been going on back here on this little mud ball. If you have, I am sure you are appalled and what has happened to the financial markets, the housing market, and the national political cartoon that is masquerading as an electoral campaign. You might also be appalled at what I have set off to undertake, though when I originally set this particular ball rolling, the future did not look quite so catastrophic. I can't imagine a worse time to try and sell one house while embarking on an unexpectedly massive remaking of another.

There have been so many nights where I have lain awake wishing you were here to help me through this morass. Perhaps you would just box my ears instead and I have to admit that it would be understandable. I would gladly endure the most extreme punishment if only you could be here to administer it.

Well, enough of that kind of thinking. It's your birthday and I plan on spending it out in the woods with my brother doing a little bird hunting. The weather sucks for that activity, but it is a chance to catch up with that side of the family. We will probably stay overnight with my cousin at his place up the Shore. You son will blissfully sleep on a regular mattress tonight.

Tomorrow, I will spend some time investing sweat equity in the remodeling project as I undertake the cleaning of the apartment kitchen prior to the re-installation of the appliances. The boy and I hope to move into that space in about a week where he will be able to have his own room and a real bed for the rest of the remodeling duration. It's still a small space, but an improvement over our current situation.

I hope that this finds you on you travels. We miss you and send you all of our best birthday wishes.

Your love,


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Two Years

My Dearest Love,

It was two years ago today that you left. Seems like forever. Seems like yesterday. You have a particularly beautiful day here for your two-year deathday. I would like to think you had something to do with the arrangement.

The amphibians are singing for you. The red-winged blackbirds are pouring liquid metal music out of their beaks. There are distant sounds of lawn-mowers and voices heard as folks go about their mid-day sunday duties.

Your daughter is done with high school. You would be very proud of what she has accomplished. She won a four-year scholarship from a local community group. She has been honored by her school in recognition of her spirit and leadership. She now has to prepare for a 10-day trip to the east coast to participate in a national conference on current affairs.

Your son is growing like a weed and is becoming ever more handsome. Both he and I are eagerly awaiting his final grades to see if he will be able to drive over the summer. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Life is a bit more exciting than I would like with all of these transitions. I am particularly anxious about the move north and all that entails. There are many times each day where I wonder if you would approve. You, of course, have other things to deal with, so I muddle along as best I can.

I have seen a bit of your sisters lately. I continue to hope that time will help heal the division that exists now. I don't have any bad wishes toward them. Trust is still something that is weak or missing, but we will see what the future holds.

I hope that all is well with you where ever you are. Down here, there are those who will visit your tree, sit on the old bench there, perhaps leave some red carnations for the enjoyment of the birds and beasts who call that place home.

With all of my love.

Your husband.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Traces of You

My Dearest Love,

Almost two years after you left on your journey, I am still coming across little bits of you. Today I was cleaning out the closet in the guest room in preparation for a pickup by the Lupus Society. As I was pulling coats and jackets out of the closet, laying them out on the bed for photography, and folding them away in plastic bags ready to be picked up, I came across a little treasure trove of you.

I know that I must check all of the pockets of your clothes to collect the pieces of tissue paper you hoarded away there. I was not disappointed in my quest either, but in addition to the wadded up kleenix in one of your jackets, I found two of your inimitable lists that you could not live without.

They were shopping lists for the mundane necessities of our lives - milk, bread, eggs, TP, and so on. There are no dates on the lists, nothing to tell me where we were living or what store you were intending to buy the goods at. It might have been B.C. because on one of the lists, in the lower right hand corner, there were some menu items that never would have flown with the larvae. Things like "lentil burgers," and "pheasant soup."

There was another clue in the same pocket as the lists. It was a deposit slip from a bank and it WAS dated - August 31, 1987. We had been married one year and two weeks and were living in the slums in that lower duplex with the cockroaches and the crazy neighbors. Either that or we had just moved across the river to the quieter town and lived in that shotgun apartment with the crazy neighbors. I can't remember anymore when we made that shift.

I am always surprised at how emotional I get when things like this happen. Two years now and finding something like these little scraps of paper takes me back twenty years when our lives were so very different. I will have more of these moments as this summer progresses, as I slowly pack up the house in the woods and move things bit by bit up north to the place where I grew up on the shores of the great inland sea.

I will touch everything that you and I and our two children have made a part of our lives. Things squirreled away from our last move and never unpacked. All of the things put in the kids "save" boxes such as drawings from their earliest days of school. Just now, I came across two boxes up on the shelf in the guest bedroom closet, tucked away far over in the corner where they were hard to reach. The first one I wiggled down was still taped from our move to this house seven years ago. It said "baby things" on the outside.

When I slit the sealing tape and took off the lid, there was the little knit hat that our son wore home from the hospital. There was one hand knit bootie. There were several hand knit baby blankets. I stood there feeling quite helpless. How was I supposed to deal with this? This was so outside of my experience and comfort zone. I stood, staring at this box of baby memories for several minutes trying to decide whether they should go in the give away pile or not. I know there are many babies out there who need lovingly made blankets, but somehow, I could not make that separation. Without trying to go deeper into my self analysis, I put the treasures back into the box and carefully placed them back up on the shelf where they will be when I move them next to go with us in our next life.

This is the first time I have moved without you since we met all those lifetimes ago. I miss you.

Saturday, May 03, 2008


My Dearest Love,

It has been twenty-three months since you left on your mysterious voyage. We miss your presence greatly - me especially as I am embarking on a path in life that calls out for your wisdom and expertise. I am learning in my halting way, but I will never be as adept as you in these areas.

Sometimes I think you sit above me watching and yelling at me and throwing ghost fruit when I do something particularly bone-headed. Since I can't hear you, I wear an imaginary bracelet that says "WWCD" just like those cheesy ones you see everywhere announcing someone's pledge to support a cause or declare a religious stance. But mine is invisible so it is only I who know that I ask myself what would you do.

I asked myself that late last night. I was in one of those parental hot spots where a mistake could have unforeseen consequences that would ripple forward in time. I needed you last night.

Two days ago, our daughter injured herself when she made a bad landing on a practice vault. She came home on crutches, unable to put weight on her right knee. Yesterday, she stayed home from school after fainting in the shower. Fortunately, no further damage was done in that incident, but later I took her to the doctor who then sent us on for an MRI. The results were as bleak as the weather - gray, sodden, and forlorn.

She tore her ACL completely apart. She partially tore her meniscus. She also seriously strained her medial collateral ligament. She will require surgery and a long recovery time that will cap her senior year in high school. When I gave her the news outside the MRI place she just crumpled and cried while I held her in the rain. She hurt in every way possible. Her track season is over.

Yesterday afternoon was pretty sad. I did what I could to raise her spirits, but visions of being wheeled across the stage for graduation and sitting on the sidelines in her prom dress while every one else marches in the Grand Parade just drained the spirit out of her. She spent most of that time in bed, alone in her misery.

I made her get up for dinner which turned out pretty well. She announced that her boyfriend, her prom date, was coming over after dinner. Because of the events of the last few days (me needing to drive her car on Thursday due to the incontinence of the White Whale and then the pole vaulting injury) he was thwarted in all of his intricate plans to deliver his prom invitation to K. Therefore, he was coming over and doing the old fashioned way - face to face.

He came bearing gifts. There were the balloons, flowers, and a rubber chicken that shot an egg out of its bottom when you squeezed it. That was a little obscene if you ask me.

I graciously retired to my bedroom so that they could talk in private. And talk they did. About the time I was ready to lock up the house and go to bed, I found them in her room on the lower level. They were both lying down on her bed. I suggested that it was time to go now and left. Kate hobbled out after me to plead for an extension.

She said that he didn't have to get back home until 1 AM on weekend nights and couldn't he please just stay a while. I told her that I didn't feel comfortable with both of them laying in bed together. She looked at me with one of those "what? you don't trust me?" expressions and then told me that even if they wanted to do something, she was incapable due to her injury.

It had been a bad day for sure and I didn't want to add to it, so I turned away and went back to my room. About midnight I made another foray downstairs. Our son was asleep with his door closed. I turned toward K's room. It was dark, but they were not asleep. I stood there listening to the unmistakable sound of a young woman on her way to an orgasm.

Shit. Now what?

I stood there with all kinds of crazy thoughts running through my head. In the end, I decided to quietly go back up to my bedroom and do my thinking there. Listening in was just too damn weird.

In my room, I tried to logically sort through my options and come to some kind of plan. As I lay there in the dark, I ran through a lot of scenarios - many of them totally insane. At 1 AM, I heard K clomping through the upper level on her crutches, turning out lights as she went. I was still struggling with my conundrum and listening to the rain when sleep over took me.

This morning, I resumed my pondering. I decided that number one, K is now of legal age and needs to make her own decisions. Number two, she has a prescription for birth control pills with my approval. Number three, if she is going to take a lover, I would rather have them here, safe, than sneaking away for a quicky in the back seat of a car or a slimy motel. Number four, it is me who is uncomfortable with this. K, when she rose this morning was happy and chipper. I have to deal with this discomfort because it is mine.

And on that "happy" note, K informed me that the swelling in her knee had gone down significantly overnight and she had a greater range of motion in her limb and could even put weight on it without pain. This change gave her hope and let her think that it may be possible to walk on her own steam on graduation night and to walk in the prom's Grand March even if she could not dance.

So today, we have a brand new girl (or should I say woman?). As for me, I am still wondering if I made the right decisions last night. I wished you were there to help. Oh well, it's done now. Maybe you were there all along.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


My Dearest Love,

I have been thinking of you a lot lately. Today, of course, is Easter - one of your favorite holidays, though not always because of the traditional family gathering. I don't go anymore because of the rift, but K and J go to see their cousins mostly. So, today it is just me and the Wonder Dawg lazing around the house.

The Dawg is acting a little hesitant since she has been home here less than 24 hours after spending more that a week with her foster family in the old neighborhood while the kids and I were in Mexico for K's senior spring break trip. More on that in a sec, but first some sad news.

Kay was diagnosed with severe acute leukemia about two months ago and just got home from a six-week stay in the hospital. She and Dick and I visited for about an hour yesterday when I went over to pick up Sophie. She looks very thin and was wearing one of those baldness bonnets that we saw so many of down at the U transplant clinic. Our conversation was a good one with no false optimism found in so many interactions between a person with cancer and a well meaning, but healthily ignorant friend. All three of us were victims and survivors of one form of cancer or another. They were the second family I have known where both parents were hit (after ourselves).

As we were wrapping our visit up, Dick gave me a heads up. He had gotten a call from Winky (remember our old neighbor?) who told him that her son had been diagnosed with lymphoma. He gave her my name and phone number. He didn't know what kind of lymphoma, but he wanted to let me know that he had done that. Too many people are getting sick.

Did I tell you that Lee had prostate cancer? Last summer he went through a radical robotic resection of his entire prostate. His recovery was prolonged and very painful. Thankfully, he is now much better and living much in his old style. Sex is no longer and option, but with Lee that never seemed like one of his higher priorities anyway. I went out to visit him this winter for Ski Camp for the first time in about three years. He was as energetic as ever. I myself however, seemed to fatigue easily and found myself retiring early most days.

Now, to Mexico. This trip was organized by the mother of one of K's friends. K's close posse of nine girls, their parents, and assorted siblings, making up a party of about 30 people flew into Cancun, Mexico, hopped on a coach for an hour's drive south and spent a week at a huge all-inclusive resort complex. This was a much different trip than the one you and I did fourteen years ago on the Pacific coast. The place we stayed at must have had over four thousand rooms and suites spread across four different hotel complexes. Each hotel had its own atmosphere and set of amenities. The wristband you received at check in bestowed upon you a caste system of accessibility. Since we were staying in the swankiest hotel, we had access to all other hotels, bars, restaurants, etc. There was only one level higher and that cost an additional $35 US per night.

Not like the little casa we shared in the landscaped gardens off of the playa to the west. Here we could walk up to any bar and come away with whatever we wanted. When hungry, go to any beach front grill and select from a bountiful buffet or order something custom from the grill. Feel like hitting a few golf balls - no problem. Kayaking, snorkeling, shuffleboard - the same. Just give them your room number and a quick glance at the color of your wristband and you were set. Of course, having unlimited access to booze without having to cough up cash for each drink had predictable effects upon the hoards of high school seniors and college types that made up a significant percentage of the guests at this particular resort. I saw more than one young person being led from the carnage by a couple of slightly less impaired friends.

I am happy to report that I had no actual eye witness experiences of that kind of thing with our two teenagers, though I was led to understand that they both crossed the sobriety line a couple of times. Apparently the older fed the younger a shot of tequila a time or two.

My days were spent by and large in a prone position, wrapped in the comfortable embrace of a beach hammock under a protective awning. I had no desire to repeat the el rojo experience I went through with you on our last visit to Mexico. So, I staked my ground early and defended it over the week, attended by my trusty books and lubricated by the occasional Bacardi pina colada whipped up by my friend Angel at the Coco Bar which was mere steps to my rear (as was the bathrooms and the towel service).

In front of me spread the beach walk and then on the other side of a low stone wall, the beach itself, extending for about a mile to my right and perhaps a quarter mile to my left. The foot traffic was very entertaining and I missed your acerbic comments which fit so well with mine on the occasions where we were treated to a constant show of human flesh in all its various forms. From my stand point, the high percentage of youth clothed in practically nothing at all kept me from making constant progress in my readings, but even so, I went through two and a half novels while entertaining myself in other passive visual sports, laying in my gently swaying lounge hammock.

One of K's hopes about this trip was that I would get to know the parents of her friends better. I did that even though I found myself staying apart from the group most of the day. This was mostly because many of them, like their daughters, wanted to lay in the sun and there was not an abundance of shade on the beach. Another reason was that they were all couples who had known each other for some time so there was a lot of shared background between them that shaded their conversations with the kind of verbal shorthand that acquaintance permits. I simply felt like an outsider and preferred the company of my books and covetous lechery under my sun awning.

It's not like I was anti-social or anything and the other parents didn't seem to take offense. Whenever the group decided to go eat lunch, someone would come by and invite me along and I would happily go. We also met up for evening cocktails prior to dinner and we shared tables at all of the meals including breakfast if we happened to find each other. I did get to know the other parents better (some more so that others), but I still have trouble with names. Kate gets frustrated with my swiss-cheese memory, but I have long since stopped beating myself up for it. Kay and I had a nice little discussion yesterday about chemo-brain and what it can do for (or against) you.

Anyway, we had fun in Mexico. One thing struck me though. About on the fourth day, I asked K if she was having a good time because she looked a little somber. She surprized me by saying she missed being home. She said that this laying around in the sun all day was all very well and fine for her friends, but she was bored with it. So she was really pumped to leave our little beach heaven and fly home where we landed to heavy overcast and four inches of wet slushy snow. The southern suburbs got as much as ten or twelve inches out of the storm that passed through in the hours preceding our arrival. For the past 24 hours it has continued to snow on and off. Needless to say, our septic system did not thaw out while we were gone.

Now it is Sunday and I am lazing around putting off doing the things I know I should do. One of those things is to try to read through a bunch of legalize having to do with the money I have to borrow to renovate my mother's house up north. Having to do this without your council scares me to death. I question myself all the time about the rightness of this path. I miss your wisdom and guidance. I am afraid of all of the jargon and the small print. I don't want to be one of those people that I read about in all of the papers who sign a legal document and then get caught by some clause they didn't see or understand. I will muddle through this, but it is nerve wracking. If you get this, please stop by while I am sleeping and review all of these documents and let me know if it is OK to proceed. That would help a lot. If you can't do this, then no recriminations when we do get together later. I'm doing the best I can.

Enough of this now. I have to get out from under the covers, take a shower, walk the dog, and then write out a few bills. I love you still, every day.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

This Band of Gold

My Dearest Love,

Do you remember that song, the one by Greg Brown where he sings of "This Band of Gold?" I have thought about it a lot recently. Today especially.

When I was down at the Mayo earlier in the week for my biopsies, they were very concerned about the wedding rings. They make everyone who goes into surgery take them off. I explained that I had not been able to get mine off in over fifteen years because my fingers had grown fat ans sassy. We tried. Their secret ingredient was Windex as a lubricant. Try as I might though, I couldn't get mine to go. They said that I would have to go down "as is" and that the surgical team would decide whether to cut if off or not.

That was a sobering thought. So, since I have been home, I have decided to make another assault on the "everest" of rings. So this morning, I got out the Windex and started squirting and twisting. It took me several minutes and some not so polite words, but I finally forced the ring over a very complaining knuckle. It will not go back on that finger again.

I have placed it with your two rings in the secret puzzle box I brought home for you from one of my business trips. There they will remain, together until someone sets them free. That will be after I am gone.

With all my love,


Wednesday, February 20, 2008


My Dearest Love,

It has been a while since I last sent you one of these. You will be happy to know your children continue to grow and amaze all around them. Your son turned 15 last month and has grown several inches over the past nine moons. He has his learner's permit for driving, but I won't let him get behind the wheel until he gets his grades up. He is tall and lanky. All arms, legs, and hair that hangs down in his eyes and which he uses to great effectiveness when he wants to irritate me. He has the shadow of a mustache on his upper lip and a few scattered dark hairs growing out of his chin. I hardly know what to make of him these days.

Your daughter turns 18 this Saturday and has become quite the young woman. She is full of imponderable thoughts and worries about the future. She is looking forward to her last season of track which will be starting up soon. College looms out in the foggy future beyond that. She stands on the verge of adulthood and I can hardly stand it. Our relationship has grown closer over the past year or so and I will miss her terribly when she goes off on her own.

As for me, I am embarking on a number of ventures with unknown outcomes. As I write this, I am at the Mayo Clinic - a place that I am sure you would loath to visit again. I am looking at participating in some Phase II trials that are going on down here and need to get some baseline testing done to see which trial might be best for me. Today I got poked and bled, scanned and visualized. Later this afternoon I will meet with the oncologist associated with the studies and a surgeon who will extract some needed flesh for the pathology lab to drool over. My only concern is the drive home tomorrow. I am on my own this trip and may need an angel to watch over me. Just thought I would mention it in case you were free and looking for something to do.

I went off in search of food after clearing the CT-scan process and checking into my hotel room. Do you remember the warren of tunnels that criss-cross under the Mayo? Well, I walked and walked, and zigged and zagged, trying to keep my sense of direction true. Then, like a prairie dog, I popped my head out and found myself right where I wanted to be. I was patting myself on the back so enthusiastically that I nearly dislocated a shoulder.

After lunch, I decided to try to find a bookstore, but to travel above ground this time. After meandering hither and yon for a good fifteen minutes, watching the lemming-like behavior of the skyway lunch crowd, I stumbled upon a Barnes and Nobels store and spend a happy half hour looking for something to entertain myself with later tonight. As I checked out and was paying for the book, the clerk asked for my telephone number to look up our membership. I gave it to her and as she punched it in, she got a strange and far away look in her eyes. She said your last name and as I was about to respond that I had tried to get that changed on the B&N account before, she turned and looked at me saying, "I used to work with your wife at the L____, S_____, & D______ firm." Small world we live in.

Now I am passing the time waiting for my afternoon appointment and writing to you. It's a clear, sunny, bitterly cold day outside the window - the last blast for the winter they are saying. I don't know if that is true, but I am ready for some warmer weather. Our septic system froze you know. Yep, the pipe from the tank to the drain field. I had to have the tanks pumped out last week to get the alarm to shut off. I am hoping that we can make it to spring thaw before we need to pump again. Even so, it was cheaper to pump a couple or three times than to get a crew in, thaw the ground, dig down to the pipe, cut it and try to thaw it from there with steam. Anyway, I am looking for warmer weather.

Well, I had better quit jamming up the ether with this chatter. I hope this finds you wherever you are. If you see my father floating around up there, say hi to him for me and tell him that the church was full to overflowing at his memorial service. A lot of old friends came to see him off and wish him the best.

As always, I send my love and that of our children. We all miss you (Sophie too).