I love to visit this place, where we dispersed Wife’s ashes. It is across the county road from my old place, where I moved when I was 15-years old, finished high school, helped dad with the farm, and where Wife, I, and our two older children lived while I was working on my master’s degree.
I still believe this is a happy place for Wife’s ashes. It is a place that is meaningful to her, her family, and to me. That makes it right, at least to my mind.
The Girl and I approach our fifth anniversary. I remember driving over the hill to be introduced (it is an arranged relationship) and to determine our compatibility. Young Son went along with me, just in case she would accompany us home.
It was the beginning of the most difficult time of my life, but for other reasons. That is documented elsewhere. The important part of the story is that our relationship continues to develop as we know each other better.
It was great fun around the first of the year when old friends, JW and Dee (J.W. Margrave Photography), accepted my request for a photoshoot. I am always the one behind the camera, so it was great experience to be on the other side for a change. JW and Dee are great fun to work with. They are very professional and skilled at what they do. We had fun wandering around the Texas Tech campus on a very cold, gray day.
But it was certainly worth braving the cold. This is one of my favorite images, ever.
For some reason, the pair of sculptures I saw at the Denver Art Center seem appropriate for this rumination. They remind me of Wife and me.
Three years ago, Wife died. What more can be said about such a watershed event? What can I do to honor her memory than to remember her most days and then set aside a few minutes on her big days to reflect on her life and our shared lives?
I’ll tell you what I can do — I can live. I’m not going to be that other man in the grief group (I went a couple of times and then quit) who was stuck in his loss. He could not get traction to process his grief, to live it, to let it permeate his soul with the shearing pain of that loss, and then to release that energy as his wife would want.
I watched him. I felt his pain, not just my own. I shielded myself from his pain as it was too much to take on the pain of another man’s loss when so close to my own. I thought “He needs help he cannot get here,” as I walked away from that first group session. I thought “He has to get his feet under him, do the work, process his grief, and honor his wife’s memory if he’s going to move forward.”
Then I reflected on my own internal journey, my own internal work. I was much farther down the path of my grief than the other man. No, it was not a race and there is no winner; there is no better man when dealing with this life-changing event. There is just the grief and the work. There is a necessity to do this work or that pain will kill the spirit.
I returned once more to see if the grief group held anything for me. I learned that I was already far down the process of my grief and decided that spending time with my few friends (those that hung with me) would be far better for me than spending witm with the other grievers. So, that’s what I did.
My gut told me to run away… to just get on the bike or in the 4Runner and go walkabout for a while. My aching spirit wanted the outdoors, the open road, and time away from shared places to process what happened. I wanted to be the Ghost Rider (see Neil Peart’s book) and let the clean air and open road purge some of the pain from me.
But, I didn’t. I did the responsible thing and kept after my obligations. I continued my inner work and did what I could for my employer.
That all changed last March. I was released from my engagement. So, I sold the house, rid myself of a bunch of things (still have too much), put the remaining things in storage, and left. One thing I learned is that my gut was right — I should spend time outdoors and on the road. These are healing places for me and I made up for my original decision these last few months by spending time with loved ones here and there across the country.
And, this is how I honor Wife. I spend time with loved ones and on the road.
I sense, though, that this time is ending. My walkabout is coming to a close, or at the very least is going to change. What that will be is not yet clear. It will be, though, when the time is right. My direction is to remain in the moment, for that is all we ever have. I will remember Wife on all our special days, and most others. I’ll review the images of us together, doing things that we enjoyed, our family pictures, and just remembering. I will continue to honor Wife this way. It feels right. It also feels right to leave the pain behind (mostly) and celebrate the happy times we loved.
I dream of her often. I remember her often. I miss her all the time.
How better to spend the beginning of the New Year than with a long walk with my Girl and then a visit with an old friend? After my morning regimen, I decided I really wanted a long walk. The last few days have been frustrating with the residual snow and the resulting ice. It’s cold enough at night to refreeze the previous day’s snowmelt, so the streets are treacherous and there is no place to walk. Most of the walks are still snow and ice covered. Higinbotham was great, but there is still a lot of snow and so my pace is too slow for me to get credit for my exercise. (I permit this one bit of obsessive-compulsive behavior.)
So, this morning I decided to drive to the Tech campus and see if I could get enough clear paths to get in a good walk. The Girl and I drove over there and campus was essentially deserted. We parked in the Engineering Key, which brought back many memories. I put the Girl’s training collar on her, got her out of my rig, and gave her a chance to sniff around while I collected my few things.
After policing her poo, we took off. We walked the Engineering Key, then turned west and walked along the back part of campus over to one of the new buildings. Tech has a lot of new buildings. Then we turned south along Indiana and walked to the housing area. We headed east along 18th Street and then closed the loop to the Engineering Key. All told, we got about 2-3/4 miles in and made a good pace. The Girl had plenty of chances to run out after a bird and then be called back into heel again.
I have to tighten up her training a bit. It seems she’s forgotten some of her service work. With all of my friends around, she’s confused about who she can greet and when. She’s so social that she wants to interact. She’s also a bit impulsive. So, we have some work to do and I’m up for it. I love working with her.
On the way back to the motel, a friend sent a text message that he’d be at the studio if I was up for a visit. So, we drove home, got a bite, I showered (needed it), and we drove over the Amusement Park Studio and visited with my friend while he worked on a mix. It’s fun watching him work. I love watching someone work when they know what they’re doing. There is beauty in skill. The more skill, the more beauty I see. While he worked, I snagged a few captures with my iPhone.
Now it’s my turn to do some work. I have things on my list yet that I want to get done. I have only a few days before I head west again. I’m ready to be on the road, but I need to complete some tasks too. So, I’d better get focused.
I believe this year will be better than last. I’m looking for my Best Year Ever and am willing to work for it. There’s lots of uncertainty in front of me. But, my concept for last year was Embrace Uncertainty. It appears that concept is still active this year. It’s good.
My youngest sister was born the day after Christmas. She would have been 56-years old today. Like the rest of my nuclear family, she is gone.
She made a lot of poor choices over the years and that lead to quite a bit of distance between us. But I still loved her and when she was in a good place she was a lot of fun to be around. I miss you Sis. Happy Birthday!
Over the last few years, I gradually collected all of the Winter’s Solstice recordings produced by Windham Hills Records, which is now owned by Sony. I play these collections of songs from Windham Hills artists during the holiday season, along with some other favorite music that celebrates the season.
When I snagged a copy of Winter’s Solstice VI, I discovered the track Yesterday’s Rain written and recorded by W.G. “Snuffy” Walden, a guitarist and composer of much skill. I was immediately drawn into the deep romantic vibe of this song.
When Wife died, this song somehow became deeply linked with my loss. I feel it every time I play this song. But, along with that deep sense of loss, of longing for what is now gone, there is also joy. There is joy in what we shared all those years. There is joy in remembering the season during which we celebrate the Christ’s birth. There is joy in remembering how Wife loved this season, loved finding the right gift (to the point of being obsessive-compulsive about it), and how she loved playing the Santa Claus role, even after all the kids had grown far past that myth.
It didn’t matter. We all loved her enthusiasm and excitement. It’s a good thing. The memories are good, if poignant. The song is an absolute gem.
While in Rolla, I visited Mom/Dad’s plots at the local cemetery. My intent is to have a plaque placed to memorialize Wife at the foot of Mom’s plot. So, we looked around while I was there, talked a bit, and I got the contact information needed to make the call.
After they left, the Girl and I kicked around the cemetery a bit more, me hoping to find a geocache (and to just spend some time outdoors without it raining). There was no geocache, but the Girl and I had fun spending outside time together anyway.
I elected to drive out to Pilot Knob to pay Dad’s gravesite a visit. Although he died in 1995, I still talk to him and wish I had some of his insight and wisdom to draw on. I know he’d tell me to make up my own mind, but he had a way of asking questions and telling stories that provided some of the perspective I always seem to lack.
It’s beautiful little cemetery, tidy, well-kept, peaceful. I saw that my stepmom is still alive. I wandered around there for a bit, talking to my Dad and thinking back on the time we spent together. Those few days before he died are especially poignant. I remember standing on the front porch of his house, watching a thundershower and listening to the lightning — safe a dry… until the wind shifted and blew the rain in on us. Then we scattered back into the house to keep dry. I’m still laughing although it was 20-years ago.
On the way out I noticed the geometry of the entry to the little church. It needed a capture, so I made one.
The geocache across U.S. 63 was not to be found. The Girl and I had a nice hike anyway, at least unti she was spooked by shotgun fire across the way. She needed to coaxing to hop into the 4Runner when we left.
I spent a few more days with Mom/Dad there in Rolla. Thanksgiving celebration was wonderful and I’m honored to have spent it with the family.
I left Monday and stopped in Willard to visit my grandmother. She recently entered a nursing home there and I wanted to see her. She just turned 100-years old and that’s old by any measure. That she was in a nursing facility was not good news. As I expected, she’s not doing well and I think she’s ready to die and be released of her struggle. I can’t blame her for that and she greeted me with the same smile and grace that she’s always had, just weaker and tired. She went back to sleep as I spoke to her.
I wandered down through Arkansas the last couple of days, spending a lot of my time on State Highway 23. I collected a couple of geocaches, a few images, and spent a lot of time remembering. Nana will be gone soon. Three years ago Wife was struggling with her radiation therapy and this time of year is always an emotional challenge for me. I don’t think I’ll ever adjust to Wife being gone.
I know this comes up on this space frequently and sometimes it seems like I’m whining. But this is my reality. The loss of someone this close is not something one just gets over. There are times when the loss is more keenly felt and writing about it here is one way I process my grief.
This morning I dropped into Louisiana to pick up a geocache and collect another state. I drove through the northwest corner of the state, remembering the marshlands that make up most of Louisiana. Then I turned west and worked my way into Texas.
I started the process of procuring a marker for Wife. I’ll have it placed at the foot of her mom’s plot. There will be a permanent marker to remember her. I think it’s the last thing that needs to be done.
It felt good to be in Texas again. I stopped in Gainesville to spend the night. Getting access to the Internet was something of a problem, but it eventually was worked out. I got caught up on everything that needed doing and will soon call it a day. I don’t have a long day tomorrow, but I have been waking really early. Plus the Girl needs Walkies in the morning (as do I) and I don’t want to push it too late or it will be dark by the time I get to Lubbock.
I’m looking forward to seeing some family and friends this trip. I missed a bunch of them the last time I passed through, but those were different circumstances. I don’t have as much time as I’d like for this trip, but at least the time I have is mostly mine.
I have many things I’m thankful for. I spent time this morning remembering those things (including people) and prayed as I drove, thanking God for his kindness, grace, mercy, and for permitting me to have to wonderful people in my life.
On a sleepy Saturday afternoon, the family was puttering around the house, some watching the Longhorns game (snort), others playing, some working. But the Girl elected to nap after our morning walkies.
We were waiting for the last football game for Youngest Grandson. Older Grandson’s last game was Friday night, but given he’s junior varsity he is required to dress but sits on the sideline… unless they need him to stand in as quarterback. So, Older Grandson’s last game for the season was Friday night.
The Girl though, knew nothing of this nor does she care about football. She knows many things, though — play, walkies, hunting, affection, sleep, snuggles, food (both her’s and begged), and a decided state of just being. And for her, curled up on a warm blanket close to her peeps, where I could sit in the chair, stretch out my legs on the Ottoman, and she could feel my touch — these were good good things, good enough for life to be good.
Later we drove over to the venue as the sun set (too early now, it seems). We found our way to the guest seating but missed the rest of the family in the glare of the sun. Older Grandson retrieved us fairly quickly, though, and we joined our family.
Young Grandson played well in the cold Fall air. It was too cold for us, although I brought the Girl’s blanket along. She was cold and so was I, even with a base layer. It was good to see Young Grandson play out his season. He played well although they lost and were second place in their league.
When the game ended, the Girl and I headed for the 4Runner. When I got in and started the engine, I shook uncontrollably. I was too cold and didn’t realize it until I moved. Then I shivered quite a lot until the vehicle warmed. I didn’t warm until I got some hot chow in me.
Today will be more football, I expect. I think I’ll spend some time sorting through my gear currently stowed in the garage. The family vehicles will need to be parked in the garage soon as Winter comes and so does the snow. I have not yet decided whether to winter here to go somewhere else. My sense is that it’s time to move on for a bit. I think they need a break from me.
I’m not a burden. I’m quiet, I demand nothing, I take little space, I leave folks to do their thing, but provide an additional adult when one is needed. I love to shop with Daughter and contribute to the family budget.
But there is always a change in dynamic when another person is involved. The American nuclear family does not generally include the extended family in a closely-integrated structure. The extended family represents a broader, loosely-connected structure that is not generally part of daily life. My thought is that my presence just changes the dynamic a bit. I don’t know that it is a good thing and I do not want to overstay my welcome.
So, I’m thinking maybe it is time to move on for awhile. I’d like to wander down to Missouri to see Wife’s family, then through Texas to see some friends and colleagues, even if the time is not right to develop any new business. The connections themselves would be good enough. Then I might wander back out to Nevada for a spell to see Younger Son and my friends Jimmy and Les.
I’m not sure just yet… I’m just thinking out loud (kinda-sorta) for the moment.
I also have some project work to do and will need to spend some time on that before the end of the year. So I’ll have to land somewhere with Internet capability at least part of the time.
There is also the issue of cold-weather camping. I am not prepared for that (yet). It’s not something I’ve done before and need to check my gear to be sure I can keep us warm if the weather turns colder than I expect. Or maybe I can research cabins along the way so that I have shelter but can cook for myself and keep my costs down.
I’m also still looking for a camper. I’m thinking that a small camper is the way to go for the next year or two while I figure things out. I’m researching converted busses as a longer-term solution to mobile living. But that will take me some time to figure out and so it’s a long-term project.
And there, my friends, is a random rumination, which is what I do.
I made this capture more than ten-years ago. Wife and I were on an outing to the Barnes & Noble in Lubbock — it was still in the strip mall where Circuit City and other stores were magnets — and having a great day. We were sitting near the big windows near the front of the store, looking at books or magazines or what-not. It doesn’t matter. We were together and we were enjoying the time out.
Of course, I had a camera on me. She caught me in the act of capturing her candid portrait. I have another capture from that morning of her entire face. But it was these eyes that captured my photographer’s vision. I also adored her eyes. I’m so glad I have this image in my collection.
Yesterday was her birthday. She would have been 63-years old, had lymphoma not taken her from us.
She died early on a Saturday morning. I know I write about this too often, but it is my reality and it’s my weblog. Saturdays will always be a little hard on me. While everyone else is looking forward to the beginning of their weekend, I have that little reminder in the back of my mind that pokes me now and again to remember that Saturday morning. No, it’s not morbid; it is, though, a reminder of my loss and a part of my history.
So, the weekend was a downer for me. I remember celebrating her birthday, if not with family and friends, then with each other. I used to tease her about being married to an older woman… or about robbing the cradle… or about being a cougar. Sometimes I teased her about all three. Then I’d catch a bit of Hell on my birthday when I “caught up” for a few months.
I am thankful for all those years we had. I wish we’d had more, at least a couple of them. Near the end, that’s all I wished for… a couple more years so we could celebrate life together for just a little longer.
I still weep a bit now and again. The memory of Wife remains close at hand. Some tell me that they’re proud of me for being strong, for doing what I need to do to continue moving forward. Perhaps… More likely I’m just surviving for the moment because I have no idea where the path goes. I don’t know if there is one path before me or a countably infinite number of them. Maybe that doesn’t matter either. Maybe my task is just to put one foot forward. Maybe clarity will come from that.
I don’t know.
What I do know, however, is that I miss Wife and that yesterday was her birthday. Happy Birthday Old Girl! I still miss ya!