Category Archives: marriage

Do I Like Living Alone?

I recently had a friend in a long-standing marriage comment that they wouldn’t mind living alone.  I was surprised.  Their comment had to do with everyone needing space, time alone.  Residing on your own provides that.

When my husband passed away in December 2015 I was thrown into living on my own for the first time in my life.  I went from living with my parents to living with my husband, and we were married 34 years.   I don’t mind living alone.  There are benefits.   My friend’s comment got me thinking, do I like living alone or have I adjusted out of necessity?

When you are married or involved in a co-habitation relationship patterns develop as to who does what.  One person pays the bills, another handles correspondence.  One mows the lawn and snow blows, the other cleans the bathrooms and vacuums.  Cooking involves making foods that both people like and predominately follows the preference of the person cooking.  Decorating incorporates the likes and dislikes of both people.  Each person tolerates things they don’t particularly care for out of consideration for the other.  It is a cooperative living arrangement that also provides companionship and support.   Living Alone

When residing on your own there isn’t anyone there to help carry the load.  You must figure out how to juggle it all on your own.  When like me it is suddenly dropped in your lap it has a definite learning curve.  Sometimes things don’t get done in the time frame you would like.   The benefit is that there is no one is there to interfere with what you want or the schedule you keep.

I can eat dinner when I want, whether it is 6:30 pm, 9:30 pm, or anywhere between.  I can cook what I want the way I want.  I only have to consider my own palate and my own schedule.   If I don’t want the TV on, it isn’t.  If I want the radio blasting at 2:00 am while I clean house, it is.  There is no noise, no one talking as I read my book with my meals.   Pictures on the walls, knickknacks set out, and the arrangement of furniture can all be changed to the way I prefer.   This is a slow, gradual process.  The house is slowly becoming more “me.”  I have made subtle changes that most people probably wouldn’t even notice.   I’m sure they will become more prominent over time.

So that brings me back to my friend’s comment.  Do I like living alone?  Yes and no.  I think living alone has been a good experience for me.  I have learned to do things I  never did in the past.  The basics of life always handled by my husband such as taking a car in for maintenance, handling the banking, trading in my vehicle for a new one, applying for a mortgage modification, meeting with a financial advisor, paying bills, gathering information for yearly taxes, mowing and trimming the lawn, etc. now must be worked into my schedule.

My husband, Ron, handled a lot.  I’ve never even painted a wall or put windshield washer fluid into a vehicle.  He handled it all.  Ironically Ron taught our son and daughter to do house maintenance, yard maintenance, how to use the generator, power washer, electric drills, shop tools, and how to hook up the trailer and pull it.  He just never taught me.  Those were things he took care of and there was no need for me to know how.  Ron took care of me.  That is what he felt his position was and I accepted it for thirty-four years.  Good or bad it is what it is.  Now I move forward.

I think living on my own and learning new things has boosted my self-confidence.  I have to handle things and if I don’t know how I make inquiries to find someone that does.   I have dealt with a plumber, a heating and cooling person, camera repair, computer support, and resolved issues with a hot tub repair. I have ventured into the unknown and survived.

I also think living on my own has been good from an emotional standpoint.  Ron and I were very wrapped up in each other’s lives.  We were happiest when it was just the two of us and we spent probably 90 to 95% of our free time together throughout our entire marriage.  We attended festivals, events, shopped, did photography, traveled, ate meals, watched TV, and so on together.  We had a few things we each did on our own, but the majority was together.

Living Alone 2The reality is most couples are not as completely consumed in each others lives as we were.  They spend more time doing things on their own and socializing with others.  Living alone has allowed me to adjust to doing things on my own.  I am still learning how to involve others in my plans so I am not always a solo act.

I think this adjustment period is important.   If at some time in the future I become involved in a relationship in which the decision is made to reside together I will be better prepared for the reality that most couples do not spend the majority of their free time wrapped up in each other’s life.  It will most likely not be such an all encompassing relationship as I had in my marriage.  I will also know that I am making that decision because it is a person I want to spend time with, not because I am lonely and/or trying to recreate what I had in my past.

So now we are back to where we started.  Do I like living alone?  Yes and no.  It has been and will continue to be a growing experience.  I have adjusted.  I am comfortable and would consider myself happy on a day-to-day basis.  I don’t desire it in the long term.  I hope that in my future I find someone who is interested in residing together and enjoying the benefits of daily companionship.   In the meantime I will make the most of living alone and enjoy it.

 

 

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Filed under assumptions, communication, Coping, decisions, Discoveries, exploration, Family, freindship, friends, friendship, habit, home, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, mind, reality, time, Uncategorized

The Power of Touch

The other night as I lay in bed for hours unable to fall asleep, my mind began circling and the result is the topic of this blog.  The power of touch is necessary to the well-being of the human soul, it can bring comfort, love, relaxation, excitement, security and more.

Touch - the first languageWhen a child is born touch brings it comfort.  You hold it, rock it, feed it.  You do those things when it is happy, you do those things when it is stressed.  The baby learns love thought the power of touch.  To an adult, there is nothing as unique and cozy as a small infant cuddled up against your neck sleeping.

As the infant grows into a toddler and young child touch makes them feel safe, secure, and loved.  They cuddle in your lap, hold your hand when walking in public places, hug you when you are leaving or have arrived, climb into your bed when they awaken at night.  The power of touch is important to the child’s emotional well-being and growth.

As the child becomes a teen their desire for touch moves away from the parents and more toward members of the opposite sex in their own age group.  Teens are often seen showing public displays of affection — hand holding, kissing, hugging, and more as hormones rage.  Touch is powerful.  touch - every day reach out and touch someone

As teens become adults outward public displays of affection calm down, but the need for them does not.  It just becomes more mature, more private.  Human touch provides a sense of security, love, and connection, especially when shared with a spouse or significant other.

Years ago I read that if you are having trouble sleeping you should touch your spouse or significant other.  Something as simple as placing a hand against their body will help you relax and fall asleep.  I found that it worked beautifully.  Although my husband and I quite often slept wrapped up around each other,  he would normally be asleep before I was in bed.  If I was having trouble falling asleep I would reach out and put my hand on him and usually within a few minutes I was able to doze off.  If he sensed me coming into bed he would roll over and cuddle up with me.  If one of us was sick the other would wrap up around the sick one, bringing body warmth and comfort.  Human touch heals and relaxes.

touch - cuddling relieves depressionThat is why I was writing this post in my head as I lay in bed awake a few nights ago.  My husband passed away fifteen months ago.  I couldn’t sleep and I was laying in a lonely bed.   I missed having someone there to cuddle up to, to touch, to help me relax so I could doze off.

It is important as time passes on and things in your life change that you remember to fulfill those things that are necessary to your physical and emotional well-being.  The power of human touch is important.  If it has disappeared from your life revitalize it through whatever means you deem appropriate.   The power of touch heals, empowers, and fulfills the emotional and physical needs to provide an overall sense of well-being.

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Filed under children, communication, Coping, Family, freindship, friends, friendship, grandchildren, home, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, mind, parents, reality

A Year Of Changes

learn-free-to-be-meIf you have been a reader for a while you know that my husband, Ron,  passed away December 7, 2015 and since that time I have been adjusting to living on my own.  In reflecting on myself now, plans for the future and introspection of the past I have learned a few things.

I am capable of living alone, and doing it comfortably.  When I met Ron I was 19 and living at home with my parents.  I got married,  moved in with Ron and had never lived alone.  I originally found the idea of living solo terrifying but had no choice.    What I have learned is that living on my own has its benefits.  I can set the thermostat where I want and it stays there.  I can blast the radio at 2 am if I chose without having to worry about disturbing anyone else.  I can eat what I want when I want and not have to worry about anyone else.  I can re-arrange and hang photos and other artwork on the walls, removing things that were never my choice to begin with and adding new items that appeal to me.   I can move, add,  eliminate or change anything I chose without wondering if another person is going to like the change.

learn-to-be-happy-aloneAlthough I never paid attention to our finances and had no interest in knowing about them, I am perfectly capable of paying bills, applying for mortgage modifications, listing property for sale, and making decisions on financial assets.   I’m not blindly doing what Ron told me to do as he was dying.  I’m evaluating my own circumstances and making a decision that I feel comfortable with.   My goal for the future is to learn how the stock market and investments work, to understand how to diversify and what everything means  so I can make informed choices.  Hopefully  I will get a grasp on this within the next decade.  I’m really walking in uncharted territory here.

I can now run a riding lawn mower, a weed wacker, call a plumber, take vehicles in for routine maintenance, find and hire repair persons for things such as air conditioning. However I have no intention of learning to run the snowblower.  That thing is just too big.  I’ll kill myself shoveling first.  I even look at the Harbor Freight and Tractor Repair sales flyers now in case there is something I need.  Okay, I’ll admit my big purchase this year was two tarps, but we all have to start somewhere.  learn-dance-in-the-rain

One big surprise, I like to cook.  I know that sounds funny after 34 years of marriage, but I thought I didn’t like cooking.  I have been cooking for myself for a year now and I realize  that I like it.  For the majority of our marriage Ron did all the cooking.  Over the years I told people didn’t like doing day-to-day rush home from work an cook a meal, but I liked doing the larger family meals.  I recently said those words to someone but later in the evening it occurred to me that the statement isn’t true.  I don’t mind cooking for myself at all.  I love grilling entire meals in the summer months.  So why the change in my thoughts?

learn-something-newWhat I have discovered is that it wasn’t the cooking I disliked, it was that Ron always had a criticism of some sort and tended to hover, questioning why I did things the way I did, telling me I should do things differently than I did.  Nothing was ever quite good enough, there was always a “why didn’t you…”  Basically, he thought I should cook just  like him.  After a while I tired of the negativity and simply walked away and left it to him.  He cooked, I cleaned up, and it worked.

Since Ron’s passing I have discovered that I enjoy cooking.  I like throwing foods together to see what I like, mixing different combinations.  If they are all watching from above there are three cooks in heaven that are probably surprised at what they see.

I would say Ron is probably shocked at the things I fix; that I enjoy the cooking and especially like grilling.  My Mother-in-Law is probably happy to see me not measuring, just dumping in many instances.  I learned early in my marriage that if you called her for a recipe she didn’t measure, it was  “till it looks right.”  My father was a great cook.  When he saw me go into the basement and gather an assortment of ingredients, throw them into a pot and end up with a soup he was probably going “hell ya, that’s the way to cook.”  One of my greatest memories is when he cleaned out the refrigerator and made “chili” with the leftovers.  How many people have eaten chili with spaghettio’s floating in it?  I have!learn-who-you-are

When it comes to traveling alone I have mixed feelings.  It is nice because if I want to wander around and/or make frequent stops to take pictures I can do that without any complaints.  Ron and I were both photographers and did that all the time, but the average person does not take pleasure in such activities or delays.

On the other hand, traveling alone can be lonely.   If taking in a tourist attraction, such as wandering a museum or park, you are always alone.  No one to talk with, share discoveries with.   You are always eating alone, and so I always dine with a book.  There is no one sharing your hotel room, no one to sleep with. Maybe we shouldn’t go there.  Let’s just leave it at that.

So learning about me happened by learning to live alone.  What a difference a year has made.  The good, the bad, the indifferent.  What have I learned? I had a fantastic marriage.  I will have a fantastic future.  Different than I planned, but that’s okay.  I have made decisions that a year ago I would not have made.  I have made changes in my life that a year ago I would not have made.  Life was different then.  I was different then.  I am happy with my life, and that is all that matters.  Whatever happens, whatever life throws in my direction, I am ready.  Bring it on!

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Up and Back in a Day

This past Saturday was emotional, enlightening, fun, and exhausting all rolled into one.  A couple weeks ago I wrote about my cousin losing her husband after a lengthy battle with cancer in Feeling Their Pain.  The funeral was set and I debated for a week whether or not to go.  I wanted to go, but I have a lot going on and I was juggling the loss of an entire Saturday to travel and attend v. being able to get things accomplished around home.  I didn’t want to later regret not going so I went.

It was a beautiful fall Saturday in Michigan.  The visitation was scheduled for 10:00 am, funeral for 11:00.  I set my alarm for 4:00 am and was on the road at 5:15 am for the four hour drive.  I watched the sunrise through the passenger side of my vehicle as I traveled north on I-75.   A quick fifteen minute stop in West Branch gave me the opportunity to re-fuel the vehicle and myself by way of coffee and pumpkin donuts.  I was in Traverse City at 9:30 am.  death

The funeral was held at the Reynolds Jonkoff Funeral Home in Traverse City, the same place my Grandmother’s funeral was held years ago.  A beautiful, historical home that lends itself to comfort for memorial services.  Photo boards and memorabilia of Charlie’s life were on display, and a slide show of photos played on the screen.  Always smiling, always clowning around and being silly, that was Charlie.

I was greeted by family I rarely see and met some I have never seen.  It is hard to maintain contact with extended family when we all live so far apart.  Facebook is a blessing in that regard for helping people to stay in touch.  Charlie’s widow, Michelle, and I had not seen each other since we were children, but we recognized each other immediately.    It had only been six days since Charlie passed and Michelle was struggling emotionally.  We held each other and cried together, Michelle because the pain was new, me because I was reliving the pain through the memories this setting brought on.  I left her a card in which I enclosed the poem I read at my husband Ron’s burial, If Tomorrow Starts Without Me (see below).

During the ceremony the Obituary of Charlie Jokinen was read.  Charlie grew up in grew up in Bobcaygeon, Ontario and the stories shared by his best friend from childhood were filled with humor; good memories of a wonderful person in his youth.   Michelle’s daughter, Nicole, talked about what a wonderful, accepting person Charlie was when he came into their lives, and how despite his struggles with cancer always attended her sporting events, concerts, and other activities of youth.  I learned that Charlie and my husband, Ron, were very much alike.  Both loved photography, being active, loved life and family, and were always smiling.   It was a wonderful testimonial to a life well lived and a person well liked and loved by all.

Following the ceremony was the procession to the Memorial Gardens where Charlie was laid to rest beside my Uncle Lee and Aunt Jesse Hilts, who were laid to rest beside my maternal grandparents, Ralph and Grace Hilts.  They are all located not far from the graves of my paternal grandparents, uncle and parents.  After a short grave side service during which Michelle lowered Charlie’s ashes into the ground, we proceeded to the Grawn Baptist Church for a luncheon and fellowship with family members and friends.

About 2:30 I hugged Michelle goodbye before getting on the road.  We promised to stay in touch and get together for a weekend.   We now have a common bond not shared by our siblings or other cousins.  I did manage to accidentally announce my departure rather loudly.  As I was walking across the lot to my car I somehow managed to activate my car alarm.  Nothing like a bright red car with the horn blasting and lights flashing to signal the end of a memorial luncheon.  I glanced around, thought I was safe from anyone having witnesses my blunder and got into my car.  Then a grey pickup pulled in next to me, it was my cousin, Iva, and her husband Milt.  I rolled down the window and Milt congratulated me on adding a bit of humor to the end of the day.

I took the more scenic, leisurely route across the state on my way home.  This served two purposes.  It allowed me to enjoy the beautiful northern fall scenery with an occasional stop to take photographs, and the climbing in and out of the car into the cool air helped to keep me awake as I drove.

It was not until I got on US-10, an expressway, that the length of the day made me drowsy.  I know that if I keep busy it helps me to stay awake and the singing and dancing in the car while driving wasn’t doing the trick.   I finally made a stop and picked up a highly nutritious snack at Speedway gas station of a spiced pumpkin cappuccino and a small bag of crunchy Cheetos.  I know, individually they sound yummy but as a combo it sounds horrid.  Remarkably it wasn’t, so go ahead and give it a try sometimes.  It did work in keeping me awake as I stretched that bag of Cheetos all the way to I-69, which marked only an hour more to go on my route.

I arrived home around 7:00 pm.  A tiring day but I am glad I went.  It was good for Michelle to have me there.  It was good for me to be there.

funeral-whentomorrowstartswithoutmepoem

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Filed under cancer, celebration, Coping, death, Family, Illness, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, memoir, travel

Feeling Their Pain

It has been ten months since my husband, Ron, passed away following a fifteen month battle with cancer.  I am doing well, and moving forward in my new life.  I have a cousin…or actually a first cousin once removed if you want to be technical, whose husband has been battling a rare cancer for nine years and is now in the final stages, losing his fight as well.

thankful-for-every-momentI was reading Michelle’s post on Facebook yesterday.  Many notes of sympathy and prayers.  They know her, they know her husband Charlie, they know what a great couple and wonderful marriage they had.  I, on the other hand, have not seen Michelle personally in years.  We were together as children, but not as adults.  We are in contact only by Facebook now.  However, I can truly feel her pain.

As I read her post I could feel the helplessness at watching a man who has lived an active, positive life quickly deteriorate into a person who is lifeless, sick, unable to manage even the simple things in life.   There is no “fix.”  You are moving toward the end and you both know it but don’t really want to say it.  You are losing the person you thought would be there for decades more.   It is an emotional situation like none other you will ever experience.  You aren’t losing a grandparent, parent, sibling, cousin, aunt, uncle, or child.  You are losing a spouse.  It is different and only those who have ever experienced it can understand what a different loss it is.

I typed a reply, relying on my experience.  I had to cut it short.  I was sitting at work and almost started crying because I really can feel what she is going through.  What did I tell her?  Cherish the memories, remind him of those things.  Tell him it was a great marriage.  Tell him you will be okay.  Those are things that will bring him peace as he moves toward the end.

She is going through the hard part.  Then there is the adjustment period following the death.  But as time passes she will be okay.  She will live a new “normal” life without Charlie.  She has a positive attitude and her new life will also be positive and good.  How do I know?  Because that is what I am doing.   I’ve been there.  I can feel her pain.  I know she will persevere and move forward.  That is the type of person she is.

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Swearing at Your Deceased Husband is Okay

It has been seven months since my husband passed away and I am handling it very well, except for those times when I get frustrated and swear at him.  But that’s okay.  Keep in mind if anyone else did it I would probably kill them, at least verbally.  I lived with him for 34 years, I have exclusive rights.

Only someone who has ever lost a spouse can understand the roller coaster of emotions you deal with.  People will say they understand because they have lost a grandparent, parent, aunt, uncle, child, etc.  They may feel sympathy for you, but they can’t understand fully.  Losing a spouse is different.

EPSON MFP image

Ron and I approx. 1980

So why am I swearing at him?  Because it keeps me emotionally on track.  Because it relieves frustration.  Because it helps with mourning at unexpected moments.  Because it is my exclusive right and I sometimes utilize it as an emotionally stabilizing crutch to help me maintain focus.

What am I swearing at him about?  That depends on what I am doing at the time.  As I am riding the lawn mower around our backyard that has numerous things to go around, and then a tremendous amount of edging I have said on numerous occasions “dammit Ron, all I can say is I know you designed this thinking you were going to be taking care of it, not me.”    It helps me to focus on what needs to be done and set goals for getting the yard in order.   It helps me to remember that he never had any intention of me having to handle the yard work.  That was his area.

When I’m going through things he purchased at garage sales, estate sales, or scrapping and I look at the price tags on some of the items I say “dammit Ron, I hope you didn’t pay that price for this.” and “dammit Ron, why did you spend so much money on this stuff.”  I could have used the money more than the stuff, but I know he had a goal in mind of reselling those things in a booth at the Eastern Market (huge farmer’s market in Detroit) or at flea markets and that was his goal.  Everyone needs goals, and he had good intentions before the cancer took them and him.

EPSON MFP image

Ron and I October 2015

I could go on, but I think you get the point.  The biggest one though, is the one that is most important.  You see in addition to a huge accumulation of stuff I need to get rid of, my house is full of Ron…photos he took, photos of him, things that we did, things that we purchased…memories.  So, when something hits me and I’m having an emotional moment, I put my fingers on his chest/body on one of those photos and say “dammit Ron, why did you have to die?”

So now you now why it is okay to swear at your deceased husband.  As his surviving widow  you have the exclusive right to verbalize your frustrations at your new life, at the things you must now tackle, at the emotions that go along with the grieving process, at the frustrations over their death.  It is your exclusive right.  Enjoy it and use it to the fullest.  Your sanity depends on it.

 

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Trying to Juggle but Falling Behind

I have always been a fairly organized person.  Someone who gets involved in clubs and takes on a board position and/or committee chair person.  I commit to things and meet my commitments.  Busy is Better!

Lately I was struggling to get things done, and found some items on my to-do list week after week.  What happened?  Why was I suddenly falling behind, not juggling my life the way I always have?  Then there was that moment, the flip of a switch, the lightbulb came on and I figured it out.

I am no longer juggling just my responsibilities.  I am also juggling those of my deceased husband, plus the additional phone calls and paperwork that have to be done to get everything transferred into my name, his name removed from things, etc.  Then of course there is the learning curve in which everything he did takes me a considerably longer amount of time because I don’t have a full grasp of it yet.  That is improving, but it is a process.

Every process, every learning curve has its bumps in the road.  There are frustrations that come with everything.  The frustration of living in a computer generated world in which computers rule what happens and people follow the computer rather than thinking and using logical, common sense.  The aggravation that is felt when all the appropriate steps have been taken, only to find out the company didn’t do what they should have and so you have to take further steps to correct things.

I applied for a mortgage modification and got approved, but they never told me not to make a payment, so I have made them all, but in the meantime they are holding my payments in “suspense” while they complete the change over and are repeatedly sending me delinquent notices, including by certified mail that I had to go sign for.  When I called I was told those are computer generated notices and I will continue to receive them until they get everything rolled over.  And how long will that take?  Oh, about two more weeks.

I drove over 35 miles to a main cell phone store to switch the account from my husbands to my own name.  I gave them all my information, told them to remove my husband’s phone and two pads he had.  Put the account in my name, leave my daughter on as a manager.  The phone and pad did get removed, but when my daughter called to get assistance with her phone the pass codes I gave them weren’t working.  As it turns out that is because they never made the switch.  They still had the account in my husband’s name, had me as a manger, which I had been before my husband’s death, and removed my daughter as a manager.    Then I had to wait and call back on a weekday, because this I found out on the weekend.  When I called I informed them it was rather incompetent being I had stood in their store with a death certificate and yet they left my husband on as the owner of the account…a dead man has no responsibility to you to pay the bill!  Got that one fixed.

That is only two in a long list of situations that have created chaos in an already chaotic situation.  Then of course there are the regular duties of paying bills, service on motor vehicles, and lawn mowing that my husband always handled.  My daughter commented that she knows she needs to come over and mow my lawn.  I told her instruction on use of the riding lawnmower would allow me to handle the task myself.  Seriously, I have driven boats, jet skis, motorcycle and moped, I should be able to handle a wild and crazy lawnmower!

So, when I got to really thinking it about it I finally realized, the reason I am trying to juggle but falling behind is because I am handling everything that was previously handled by two, and I haven’t gotten the process down yet.  On a positive note, I am improving.  It is a process.

 

 

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Shall We Elope?

Life spins and churns, twists and turns, and in the process dreams are born, moments cherished, and desire becomes reality.  Such is the case with a friend of mine who after spending more than twenty years widowed and single married the man of her dreams.

Wedding wishes, preparation, anticipation, and anxiety all come into play when anyone gets married.  We are used to watching young people plan big, elaborate weddings, and there is excitement in that type of a “production.”   This was different.  It was two adults with children and grandchildren planning a small, simple, elopement with tidbits of details that added to the fun and uniqueness of this blending of their lives.

Planning to have an outdoor wedding in Michigan during the month of April is always gutsy.  They decided they wanted to get married on the covered bridge in Frankenmuth, a popular location that is a unique, small town atmosphere and also a popular tourist destination.  Being that it was two hours from home they needed to search and find a pastor to perform the service.  They checked on use of the covered bridge, booked a motel and made arrangements for early check-in, arranged for a second witness, and made plans for photo locations.

Then a week before the date the couple held their breath when snow crept over the state.  All was not lost.  The day of the wedding was warm and sunny, comfortable for the bride in her sleeveless dress, a bit warm  for the groom in his suit.  A perfect day, perfect weather.

Vicki held to tradition.  The morning of the wedding I received a text message asking if I had something she could borrow.  She had the something old, something new, and something blue.  She wore a bracelet that belonged to me for her something borrowed.    I attended the event and served as witness/matron of honor and photographer.

I met Mark and Vicki at their motel and after Mark dressed and I had taken a couple shots of Vicki helping him with his tie, he left to meet us at the bridge.   I helped Vicki with her dress, we took a few preparation shots, and I was shown a gift she had purchased for her new husband.  It was fun, girly, and relaxing all at the same time.  We arrived on location to find Mark chatting with the pastor and her husband.

 

Photos by Grace Grogan, copyright 2016

 

Vicki had been worried about finding an appropriate dress, but she did and made the purchase.  Then after reflection decided there was nothing wrong with her purchase, but it lacked the pizazz that one wants for their wedding day.  She kept looking and ended up with a lady-like, age appropriate, knock-him-off-his-feet dress.  How do I know, because I was walking with them and Mark looked over at Vicki and said “you look good, you look really good!”  He was right, she did.

Rather than use the bridge, which was dark and cool, for their ceremony they opted to stand near the water overlooking the bridge.  Prior to vows the groom, who is in a band, sang to the bride.  Vows were spoken, rings exchanged, and of course the traditional kiss.   The marriage license was signed, then they posed for a few photographs before we went to lunch.

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Fried Ice Cream Deluxe – Yum!  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2016

When in Frankenmuth the tradition is to go for chicken dinner.  Traditions are made to be broken, and when you have a small elopement instead of a over-the-top wedding, plans can be adjusted on a moments notice.  How many brides and grooms do you know who have their wedding dinner in a tiny Mexican restaurant?  Well I know one, and it was great.  They were even presented with a huge, free fried ice cream because it was their special day.

After lunch we shot a few more photographs and then the happy couple went for a horse-drawn carriage ride around town.  The end of a perfect day leading into a perfect night, and the beginning of a perfect union of marriage.

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Their first adventure as husband and wife. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2016

 

 

 

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My First Easter

It is funny how traditions with couples and/or families develop over years.  What is crucial to one couple is unimportant to another.  Being the  first year without my husband, people anticipate that certain dates may be hard, such as Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day.  However those were “Hallmark” holidays that Ron and I rarely paid attention to, so my first year solo on those dates causes me no emotional stress.

This is my first Easter alone.  The weekend looms ahead of me like some dreaded dark cavern.  Why?  Because that is a weekend Ron and I generally did things.  For years when our kids were growing up we would drive to Belle Isle and visit the Aquarium and Whitcomb Conservatory.   There were years we traveled, years we stayed home.  Generally we were out and about at least one of the two days taking pictures.   Once we had grandchildren we put together Easter baskets for the children and had an egg hunt inside our house.  Easter has always been a fun weekend for us.

This year I have no one to share those things with.  My daughter, her boyfriend and her three children will be over on Sunday for the kids to get their Easter baskets from me, but not until around 7:00 pm because her oldest son is spending the holiday weekend with his father.   I have contemplated driving down to Belle Isle, driving around my area to take photos, or just staying home to clean and organize.  To a certain degree weather and the condition of a sore ankle will play into those decisions.    I don’t feel enthusiastic about any of it.

Building a new life takes adjustment.  It means accepting change.  Maintaining tradition.  Letting tradition go.  Freedom to make changes.  Keeping things the same.  Doing things you’ve always done.  Doing things you never did.    Building a new normal.

As I spend my first Easter alone creating whatever will become a new tradition, a new normal, I hope all of you have a fun-filled weekend doing whatever it is that makes Easter weekend special for you and your loved ones.

HIPPITY HOPPITY HAPPY EASTER DAY!

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Numbness in Life

The new year has begun and I am determined to make it a good one.  I will conquer whatever challenges I encounter and move forward as a widow, a single person, whatever you want to call me.

I appear to others to be adjusted, back to normal.  However there is a numbness in life that I am aware of.  I haven’t quite gotten a grasp on this new normal for me.  That may be due to not having completed the final steps in Ron’s passing yet.

The final steps, I think, will be picking up Ron’s ashes and flag from the cremation society, making the arrangements for and completing his burial, and the Celebration of Life which is scheduled March 6th.  I believe that those steps will bring to a culmination the reality of his passing.

I have started to do some  cleaning out around the house, but not of a personal nature.  I have eliminated foods that Ron ate and I didn’t, rearranged some things to my liking rather than a compromised liking.  However Ron’s wallet still sits on the charging station where he always left it, the collection of his stuff on the master bath counter that I always found irritating when he was alive remain there.  I have not yet unpacked the duffle bag of clothes that I took to hospice for him.  I have not downloaded the pictures from his camera of his last photo shoot.  I still wear my wedding rings every day.    life - where you are headed is bigger than where you have been

Those things, and the fact that our house is a mixture of him and I, leave the feeling that this is all a dream and he will one day return.  Realistically I know that is not true.  Emotionally it is a security blanket.

It has only been one month since Ron passed on December 7, 2015.  In some ways it feels like it just happened, in other ways it seems like it has been ages ago.  That just goes with my feelings of Numbness in Life.

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Reflections at Christmas Time

This year will be different.  Christmas will be eighteen days after my husband, Ron, passed away.  I am still adjusting but overall have my head wrapped around it and am gradually moving forward with what will now be my “new normal” life.

I’m not having a problem, at least not now, with the idea that Ron will not be with us on Christmas day.  That day will play out almost like normal.   Time will tell, and the times when people aren’t here may be more difficult than when I have people here as a distraction.   In the meantime preparations have kept my mind distracted, decorating, wrapping gifts, and planning meals.

What I am finding is it is the little things you hear, or find, that can really hit the emotions.  Two or Three weeks before Ron passed two boxes arrived that said Precious Moments, I am a collector.  Ron told me not to open them, they were for Christmas.  He put them up in our bedroom closet and that is where they sat.  I went to get them and place them under the tree.  I will open them on Christmas Day and see what is in them.  I knew they were there so it was not an emotional situation, at least not until I saw a green plastic bag containing a box on top of them.  I looked inside and Ron had purchased a Christmas ornament while out west that he probably planned to give me at Christmas.  It was hand crafted metal works in the design of a motorcycle.  Ron knew that even now, five years after my accident, I still miss riding.  Discovery of the ornament and the emotional connection of his understanding that I still feel the loss of an activity I enjoyed came through that one Christmas ornament and hit me.

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A motorcycle ornament Ron purchased out west and had hidden with Christmas gifts. 

Little things impact you, and make you wonder why.  I put both pair of Ron’s eyeglasses into their case.  Then I stood there holding the case and had a hard time walking it over and tucking it onto the desk.  Why boxing up his glasses had such an emotional impact one can only wonder, but it did.

Small connections with people or comments they make can take you by surprise.  A a dental appointment last week a couple of the dental hygienists asked how Ron was doing.  One of them,. Patty, got teary eyed when I told her Ron had died.  Patty has been cleaning Ron’s teeth since around 1974 when he got out of the service and his mother told him to schedule a dental appointment because there was a cute new hygienist there.

There are other people I have talked to who when told of Ron’s passing said he used to talk about me all the time, that he was proud of me, that he was always talking about what I did, if I outscored him on photo competitions, and more.  I never knew he did that all the time.  People he had no need to share that with.    Then my mind questions whether I did equally as well for him.  Did I support him as well as he supported me?  I hope so, but the mind still ponders over it.

I am learning to do things I’ve never done, or rarely done in 34 years because Ron always handled them.  I have done the banking, paid bills, called the CPA for advise, and will be meeting the financial adviser for the first time ever.  I have done minor things such as take the trash out, bring in the mail, change a light bulb, and clean out the frig.

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Ornament given to me by Blue Water Hospice after Ron passed.

I know in the future I will encounter additional challenges, things I have never done.  If something breaks down I will have to call a repairman, when the cars need oil changes I will have to schedule appointments and get it taken care of.   I know furnaces need to have their filters changed, but when and how?   I don’t even know how to change the gas tank on our grill.  My “new normal” is a learning experience.  I hope I live up to the challenge.

So as we approach Christmas Day I reflect on the past.  Christmases of the past, New Year’s of the past, trips we have taken, traditions we held.   I will continue to hold those things dear as I forge ahead into building a new, different, life for myself.

 

 

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Going Through the Motions

It has now been ten days since my husband, Ron, passed away.  Life goes on, and while I appear to be functioning on a normal level, I am numb.

I get up, go to work, come home.  The holidays are a distraction.  I have my daughter and her kids coming here on Christmas day and my sister and her family on December 26th.  I had to decorate, at least to a certain degree.   I got my tree up, some decorations out in that room and my kitchen, and called it done.  It wasn’t fun this year.  It was just a process that I did, a duty I performed.

My granddaughter, Alexandria, had her first birthday, and as is our tradition my daughter came over with cake and we had a celebration here at the house.  Except Ron wasn’t here to see Alex turn one.   She will never remember him on her own.  My grandsons are trying to understand death, heaven, what it means when a person is gone from their lives.  Both were extremely close to Ron.  They know something has changed but haven’t quite grasped what it means.

I am trying to do what is normal, what we have always done.  I attended a Christmas potluck at Studio 1219 where we both have our photography, have been members for years and have done a lot of volunteering.  I was fine when I arrived, until I walked into the room where everyone was, all those familiar faces, and had to take a couple deep breaths to get control of my emotions.

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Alexandria’s First Birthday

Tonight I am going to the Christmas party / meeting of the Blue Water Shutterbug Camera Club, another organization Ron and I have both been heavily involved in for the past eleven years.  I am closer to this group of people than to those at the studio.  It is a fun group.  Hopefully I can keep a grasp on myself and get through tonight without a problem.

So I got to work.  I try to remember to do things here at home, such as bring in and open mail, that were always handled by Ron.  I make calls to notify life insurance, pension, and others of his death.  I wrote his obituary.  I prepare for the Celebration of Life that will be held in March.

I go through the motions of life, but inside I feel numb, empty, lonely.  It is a process.  An adjustment.

 

 

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We Turn The Page

Last week I wrote about my husband, Ronald Grogan’s battle with cancer.  We were informed on the 1st of December that the cancer had spread, there was nothing they could do.  We began living the rest of our marriage day-by-day.

Those days were numbered more tightly then I realized.  On Thursday, December 3rd Hospice contacted me and at that point I told them I didn’t need them to do the intake appointment until the following Monday or Tuesday.  By the next day, Friday, Ron’s condition had worsened to the point where I decided to call and have them come out that day to get him set up.

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Ronald and Grace Grogan

The intake appointment was conducted Friday at about 4:00 pm, and we were told that because it is a lot of information to absorb they would send out an on-call nurse Saturday to check on Ron and answer any questions.

Saturday at around 2 pm the visiting nurse arrived.  Ron was very weak, hadn’t eaten anything and said he almost fell when using the restroom early in the morning.  After some discussion Ron made the decision that he should be transferred to the Blue Water Hospice House immediately.

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Ronald and Grace Grogan

I got Ron checked into hospice around 6:00 pm on Saturday, stayed with him until 8:00, and then went home for the night, telling him I would be back on Sunday.  I went home, made phone calls to inform family, and found out that my sister and her husband, my sister-in-law, and my brother-in-law all planned to visit the next day, as did my daughter, her boyfriend and her three children.

Sunday was a busy day with all the visitors coming and going.  As we approached evening and everyone except my sister-in-law had left, the hospice nurse, Holly was chatting with us.  I had made a comment about going home to sleep and stopping in the next morning on my way to work.  I live and work about 3 minutes from the hospice house, so I thought that was reasonable and convenient.

0197 Ron taking photographs-1Holly didn’t question my thought process so much as ask me questions that steered me into making a better decision.  She asked me, in my opinion, on a scale of 1-10 how much I thought Ron’s condition had worsened since I had checked him in 24 hours earlier.  I said about a 6.  Holly then looked at me and asked if I was sure I wanted to go home that night, and was I sure I wanted to be at work, because two minutes could make the difference in being there or not being there when he passed.  I made the decision to stay and my sister-in-law, Cathy, said she would stay with me.

Cathy and I made a quick run out to pick up sandwhichs for dinner and a run to the house for me to grab my glasses so I could remove contacts, then back to the hospice house for the night.

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Aftermath on an implosion – Ron Grogan takes down his camera and tripod as the cloud of dust rolls in. Copyright 2015. Photo by Grace Grogan

I was informed that it is okay for me to get in bed with Ron and sleep with him, they encourage that.  At 8 pm I layed down in the bed with Ron for what I thought was a few minutes.  It turns out I fell asleep and was there for about two hours.  I got back up, but then later that night went back into the bed with him, which is where I slept all night, holding his hand, covering him up when he got cold, listening to his breathing.   At 6:20 am I got up for the day.

Ron was still responsive at that time, but shortly after stopped responding to questions.  Our son called and I held the phone to Ron’s ear while Patrick talked.  Cathy and I made a quick run out to pick up breakfast and lunch. In the early afternoon Cathy went over to the family room to lay down and rest.  My daughter, Caroline and her boyfriend stopped in with just the baby.  The nurse had come in, checked on Ron and said time was getting close.

I was sitting on the bed, holding Ron’s hand, talking to him.  His breaths were getting more distant, but every time Alexandria  made a sound he struggled for another breath.  I told Caroline I thought he was hanging on and wouldn’t let go till Alex was out of the room, so Caroline, Rob and Alexandria left.

Memories - a way of holding onto the things ou loveIt was only minutes.  I told Ron that it was okay, I would be okay.  Ron took two more breaths with a wide space between and was gone.  When I realized he was not going to take any more breaths I hit the nurses call button.  When they heard me crying over the intercom one of them came in and rubbed my back as I lay there crying.  It was so close they tried to catch Caroline in the parking lot but couldn’t.

I don’t know how long I lay there, my guess is about ten minutes before I asked if one of them could go across the hall and advise his sister.  We both called family members to let them know.  The people at hospice left me alone with Ron until I was ready for them to clean him up.  They contacted the National Cremation Society and made arrangements to have his body picked up.

Ron was wheeled out of the Blue Water Hospice with an American flag over his body because he is a Veteran.  He will be buried in the National Cemetery in Holly, Michigan.  We will have a celebration of life for him in March where his photographs will be displayed.

2009So now we turn the page.  It has been only two days since Ron passed.  I am learning how to come home to an empty house.  To move through my days without him here.  I am adjusting, slowly.

 

 

 

 

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Living Day by Day

We all live expecting life to continue as it always has.  We dream, make plans, say we’ll do things tomorrow.  What if tomorrow never comes?  What if you find out your tomorrows are limited?  That is when you begin living day by day, one day at a time.

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Ron approximately 1980

If you have been a reader for a while you may remember when I wrote in January about my husband’s Slippery Surgical Stress where due to a large tumor and cancer he had a transhiatal esophagectomy in which they removed his esophagus then raised his stomach up and attached it where the esophagus once was.  The surgery went well, he had a speedy recovery and it was believed he was cancer free.

Then at Ron’s three month post-op checkup they found cancer in his lung, which they related to the esophagus cancer.  He began a round of chemo, wearing a chemo-pack for 48 hours every two weeks.  After that round they did another scan, the cancer had gotten worse and they changed the type of chemo and he did another round, which he completed on November 19th.

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Life is Like a Camera. Photo by Grace Grogan

Ron had a CT Scan on Monday, November 30th.  The cancer has spread.  Chemo is not working.  Treatment is being stopped.  Ron is down to 99.6 lbs and is unable to eat or drink much.  He is very weak and exhausted all the time.  We inquired as to whether it would be beneficial to have him hospitalized and put on a feeding tube to get nutrition into him.  The answer was devastating.  A feeding tube will not provide him with an increase in energy and will not enhance his quality of life, instead it could deplete it due to potential complications.

So, I took my husband home and we take it day by day.  The oncologist will have hospice contact me.  We plan for his passing.  I pray he makes it through Christmas.   Once we hit Christmas, the next goal is our grandson’s birthday in January.  We will set goals one-by-one.

Emotionally this is very trying.  I have spent more time in tears in the past 48 hours than I have in years.  I feel horrible that he and our son (who is in prison), only have telephone contact or letters for contact during this time.   They are very close and this is hard on both of them.   I feel crushed that our youngest grandchild, who will have her first birthday on the 12th of December, is too young to remember her grandfather.  I worry about my two grandsons, ages 4 and 9 who are very close to him.  I could be a fly on the wall, it is always “where’s Papa?” when they come through the door.

So, this has been a rough year,  but it has also been a good year because when Ron got the diagnosis that his cancer was back he took a positive approach and lived like he was dying.  He took 2-1/2 weeks and drove west to Sante Fe, New Mexico and back, making numerous stops along the way and doing things he had never done…a hot air balloon ride, a glider ride, and more.  The two of us flew to Albuquerque and attended the International Hot Air Balloon Festival.  We drove north and toured the Michigan State Hospital, went up into the UP and visited our son.  Ron walked the Mackinac Bridge on Labor Day, and old tradition of ours.  He drove to Tennessee and checked on property we own there, taking a side trip to Nashville where he had never been.  Ron attended his 45th Class Reunion, we went to a BBQ where he saw some of his old high school friends.  He took pictures, he planned for the future.  He spent this past  year the best he could.

I am trying to maintain as normal a routine as possible.  Friends and family have been supportive.  We have people scheduled to come visit him.    I dread the day he is no longer here.  In some ways it feels lonely already.

I have adopted the motto of my teenage nephew, who a few years ago was battling cancer and facing imminent death.   His motto was “Every Day’s a Bonus.”  I’m borrowing that motto.  Every day that I have Ron here with me is a bonus.

 

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Happy 34th Anniversary

This past Saturday, September 12, 2015, was my husband, Ron, and my 34th Anniversary.  We typically do not celebrate anniversaries or our birthdays, but this year we both had gifts for each other.  Possibly because Ron is currently battling his 3rd round of cancer and you look at things differently.

I had decided while Ron was away on his trip west, which I talked about in When Your Husband Returns, to make him a video of photographs of us as a couple over the past 35 years (from when we met to now).  I gathered the photos into a folder, found the song I wanted to use, “Grow Old Along With Me” sung by Glen Campbell, and began putting together the presentation.

First problem arose when my daughter found me the song I wanted and obtained it as an MP3 on her phone, then emailed it to me.  I couldn’t figure out how to download it, but someone showed me how and that was fine.  Then I put the slideshow together in a PowerPoint presentation, figured out how to convert the MP3 to a WAV file for imbedding into the PowerPoint and then used the drop-down menu to convert to a video.  When I played back the video version it had an echo and played the music twice in an echo format.  Not good!  The PowerPoint played fine, but I wanted to be able to share it with family and friends on Facebook which required a video conversion.

I questioned a friend who does not live near me, and after a series of questions he asked me to email him the file so he could attempt to remove the music file from the video.  Unfortunately he was unable to do that, so I had to download a free video slide show program and re-build the presentation.  I got it re-built in a slightly different version and it played well, I was able to upload it to YouTube and then share on Facebook on the appropriate day.

I next purchased a flash drive, which I saved the original PowerPoint presentation on and placed that into an Anniversary card for Ron.  Then after midnight the night before our anniversary I switched the YouTube version from private to public and shared the link on my Facebook page, tagging Ron, in Happy 34th  Anniversary.    Everyone enjoyed viewing the video, and I have also taken all the photographs and built a Shutterfly book with them, which will be arriving here soon.

Now Ron also had gifts for me this year.  I received a sapphire necklace (my birthstone) and an amethyst bracelet (my favorite color).   We spent the day together visiting an art fair we enjoy attending every year and then going out to dinner.  A great 34th Anniversary.

Sapphire Necklace

Sapphire Necklace

Amethyst Bracelet

Amethyst Bracelet

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Slippery Surgical Stress

Why is it we have had great weather until the day we have to leave home at 4 am to drive over an hour away for my husband, Ron’s, surgery? As if the day wasn’t going to be tiring enough, that was the way it started.

We were told that he would need to be at the hospital at 5:30 am for a 7:30 am surgery. Ron is a morning person, so although I thought we should get a hotel for the night before the surgery, he didn’t think it was a problem getting up at 3 am to be on the road by 4 am for the drive to the hospital. I told him if we were driving at that hour of the morning, he was driving.

Of all weeks for the weather to turn bitter cold and some spots on the roads were definitely slippery. Ron is retired and spends a lot of time driving to various locations to take photographs. I work full time and have only a three minute commute to get to work. Although we used to live in a more populated area, I am no longer used to the heavy traffic driving bumper-to-bumper.

Ron’s surgery was scheduled at University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor. The drive requires traveling on expressways that tend to be very busy. What I couldn’t believe is how many cars are on the expressways at 4:30 am! What the heck time of day do these people start working? Combine that with it being dark outside, the roads slightly slippery at points, and Ron going only 60mph but still passing everyone on the road, I was tense.

I’ve ridden with Ron for 34 years in all kinds of weather.  He does not loose control of the vehicle, but I guess the days of feeling invincible have given way to the fear of what could happen.  It probably didn’t help that prior to getting on the expressway he slid through a stop sign on our cut across, which is a dirt road, to the expressway.  My words when that happened were “don’t go in the ditch on the way to the hospital.”   Then on the expressway as we are passing other vehicles I would periodically ask if it was slippery and he would respond “it’s getting that way.”  Obviously, I just felt the sway of the wheels a bit on the road!   I used to drive fast on the roads when I had a 4 x 4, but we were traveling in a Ford Focus.

Ron did not have any problems maintaining control of the vehicle.  It was the other vehicles that were making me tense.  There were a couple times when a car decided at the last minute to move over in front of us and was driving considerably slower than we were, requiring Ron to break firmly.  A couple times cars weren’t lane changing but for whatever reason decided they needed part of our lane and moved over at us.  We had a semi we were passing that was very close to us on the passenger side, too close for my comfort.   My downfall was I wasn’t chewing gum, which was probably a blessing for Ron.  When I am tense and chew gum I tend to chew in a way that causes the gum to repeatedly crack.  Probably because I wasn’t chewing gum my jaw was hurting because I had apparently been clenching my teeth.  I also had to repeatedly concentrate on relaxing my shoulders and legs, as they would get sore from tension.

View showing esophagectomy procedure in three steps.

View showing esophagectomy procedure in three steps.

We were only 15 minutes late arriving at the surgical center.  If you have ever been to U of M Medical Center you know it is huge.  I have a map in my purse of the buildings so I know the route from where the car is parked to where Ron’s hospital room is.  His surgery went well.  He had a transhiatal esophagectomy in which they removed his esophagus and raised his stomach up and attached it where the esophagus once was, so his stomach now starts in his chest and is like a long tunnel down to his intestines.  He was predicted for a 4-6 hour surgery and was in 5-1/2 hours.  The surgery was on Tuesday and he is doing very well.  The medical staff are very pleased with his progress.  The normal stay after this procedure is seven days, but release is dependent on certain milestones being met.

Needless to say it has been an exhausting week.  I had the hospital make hotel arrangements for me the night of the surgery, and I was very glad I did.  By the time he got through recovery and into a room it was around 4:30-5:00 pm.  I didn’t leave the hospital until 8 pm.  When you have been up since 3 am and at the hospital since 5:45 am, it is a long day, and I still hadn’t had dinner.  It was 10 pm before I was settled into my hotel room for the night.

I am glad the day of slippery surgical stress is behind me and the recovery process is now underway.  I anticipate Ron being released to come home Tuesday or Wednesday and then life should begin to return to a normal routine.

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Caught in a Tornado

It started out as a heavy wind, then the momentum kept building, blowing harder and harder, starting to spin around me.  The power increased steadily until it was overpowering, hitting me with its impact and before I knew it I felt like I was spinning uncontrollably.  I was caught in a vicious tornado, life had thrown too much at me and I was loosing control.

Ultimate Measure of ManBack in July my husband, Ron, began having some trouble swallowing when eating.  By the time we returned home from vacation in August the problem had become much worse.  It was discovered that he had a large tumor in his esophagus and that it was cancerous.    During the time it took for the various tests and consultations with doctors to be done the tumor became worse and his ability to eat went from normal to soft foods only to very thing liquids/broths.  At the beginning of his 5-1/2 weeks of chemotherapy and radiation his esophagus was 90% blocked.  He has lost around 40 lbs and is down to around 131 lbs, very thin.  He finished his chemotherapy last week and today, the 4th of December, was his last radiation treatment.  The treatments have reduced the tumor and four about 1-2 weeks he was able to get some foods down, but the burning from the radiation has now caused that to be extremely painful.  We have to wait about a month for the burning to heal and the poisons from the chemo to leave his body.  In January he will have surgery to remove the esophagus and they will raise his stomach up to replace it.  Once those steps are done and he recovers from the surgery he should be able to resume a normal lifestyle.

If you have been reading my blog for a while you know that my husband and I have been trying to adopt our granddaughters and lost one to adoption already.  We found out on the 17th of November that although we have never received an official denial that another family has been found and she will likely be placed with them in January and adopted in June.  DHS has fought us all the way, and although we have not totally given up, we know that we are not likely to succeed in any attempts we make.  If you are not familiar with what has been going on, you can read about it in Power of Emotion and Attempted Adoption:  An Emotional Whirlwind.

My father has been experiencing health issues for the past year or so, plus struggling emotionally since my mother’s death in 2013.  He recently went into the hospital in a weakened state and with fluid around his lungs.  He was  transferred to a medical rehabilitation facility to regain his strength when a set-back sent him back to the hospital about a week ago.  I spoke with him on the 7th of December and he was uncomfortable, weak, and having difficulty eating/swallowing.  On the 2nd of December, his 75th birthday, he began to fail badly.  They attempted to drain fluid from his lungs and one collapsed, his kidneys were not working properly, and a multitude of other problems existed as well.  Throughout the day he changed floors in the hospital twice as his condition worsened.  By the end of the day he was intubated and not expected to live through the night.Death

The hospital is two hours from where I live.  Ron is weakest in the evenings and has had some dizzy spells and falls so I didn’t want to leave him home overnight.  The emotional impact was hitting me and I was struggling with  everything — the loss of Kiley to adoption, Ron’s condition, and my father’s anticipated death.  I was able to call the hospital and they held the phone to his ear so I could talk to him.  I was surprised when my sister, who lives near him, called the next morning and said she was at the hospital, he was failing very fast but they could maintain him for family to arrive.  I called into work and hit the road.  I was lucky, the roads were clear and very little traffic, I was at the hospital within about 2-1/2 hours from when I received the call.    My father’s skin was cold and clammy to the touch, his vitals were very low, but when I spoke to him I could tell from his facial movements that he could hear me and was able to register what I was telling him.  My sister and I decided to go to the cafeteria for a quick lunch, as her son-in-law and a pastor were expected to arrive and we would then remove life support and switch him to comfort measures only.   When we returned to the room we said a few final words to him.   Once we made the change in his treatment he passed peacefully within about 20 minutes.

children reinvent your worldOne life ends and another begins.  My daughter is pregnant, a high-risk pregnancy and her C-Section is scheduled for December 12th, so 1-1/2 weeks after the death of my father, the birth of another grandchild will take place.    The juggling of life continues as we have to drive her 45 minutes away to the hospital where she will deliver, take care of her other two children while she is at the hospital, and handle getting her and baby back home and to her follow up appointments.

I’m either adjusting to the speed of the tornado or it is loosing momentum.  We are now down to my grandchild’s birth, a family Christmas at our house, my husband’s surgery in January, continuing to monitor what happens with our granddaughter being adopted out to a non-relative rather than us, and my sister and I sorting through and cleaning out our parents’ home and belongings and handling the details of settling their estate.    It only goes to show that Life is a Melting Pot of incidents and activities.

 

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Its been 33 years, well sort of 34

Ron and I shortly after we first met, 1980

Ron and I shortly after we first met, 1980

When do you start counting?  My husband and I celebrate our 33rd Wedding Anniversary today.  We were married September 12, 1981, but is that when you start counting your years, or should we include the time from when we met on May 9, 1980?  I suppose you officially count from the wedding, but we still have the memories from the beginning.

I wasn't a cook, but Ron was, and for our wedding he gave me the book "How to Boil Water" that he purchased at a garage sale.

I wasn’t a cook, but Ron was, and for our wedding he gave me the book “How to Boil Water” that he purchased at a garage sale.

In 33 years we have certainly experienced a lot — lots of fun, lots of ups, and of course some downs.  Life is rather like a roller coaster, chugging along in those climbs to the top, then the thrilling ride as you top the hill, a fast speed race to the bottom, and then you whip around a curve and the next hill approaches.

When I met Ron he was only a couple weeks into his divorce, which was a nasty one.  His ex-wife disappeared with their daughter (an infant) and we spent months locating her and then years trying to get visitation, including a full-blown custody trial.  Over the years we have had periodic ventures in court with a son that seemed to find trouble and/or get into trouble on a regular basis and is currently serving time in prison for home invasion.    Our daughter’s husband committed first degree child abuse against our son’s daughter, Kiley, when she was only 7 months old.  Nate, our son-in-law at the time,  went to prison and my daughter divorced him, but CPS became involved with both families and the rest is a horrendous story that is the subject of a book I am writing.

We have enjoyed many fun vacations over the years.  My first trip to Niagara Falls was in the  winter when it was under ice, and that was where we also  honeymooned.   Niagara Falls, Canada is one of my favorite cities and we used to travel there frequently for weekend trips.  The summer before our marriage Ron and I did a road trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania and down the Blue Ridge Parkway, where Ron was climbing on rocks to take pictures and sprained his left ankle.  His car was a stick, so I then did the majority of the driving, except when I couldn’t see coming down the mountain in the fog and he took over.  He was driving faster than I could see, which made me nervous.  That night I had repeated nightmares that we plunged off a mountain cliff, and each time the car started to fall I woke up, got up to use the bathroom and rammed my head into the wall mounted TV that stuck out just before the bathroom door.  Ron was exhausted and slept like a log and the next morning he commented that I had never arisen to use the bathroom all night!

Ron and Grace - Art Hop CroppedOver the years we took many family vacations, including a few trips to Florida where we once spent eight days at Disney and almost missed our flight home due to a thunderstorm on the final day that delayed out ability to exit the Magic Kingdom as quickly as we wanted.  Nothing like having the stewardess come running down the hall at you to assist with your carry-on luggage and then the doors slamming at your back as soon as you step onto the plane.  We also did trips to Universal Studios, Daytona, and a 2-night cruise to the Bahamas where we swam with dolphins.

With two kids who love amusement park rides we took numerous trips to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio over the years.  I’ll never forget Patrick’s first ride on the Blue Streak.  He was just of qualifying height to ride and as we topped the first run of hills and were rounding the curve at the top in preparation for the next run I realized he had slid way down in seat.  I quickly said “sit up” and as soon as Patrick pulled him self back up fully into the seat I stuck my hand down on the seat between his legs to act as a brace and we made the next run.

We attended the International Collectible Show near Chicago, Illinois for several years and did road trips that included stops at Indianapolis Speedway, St. Louis Arch, Hannibal, Missouri (home of Mark Twain), and visits to the Precious Moments Chapel in Carthage Missouri.    We flew to Houston, Texas for a week long vacation one year enjoying many sights there.  Another road trip took us to Hershey, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, New York, and Niagara Falls where we enjoyed a helicopter ride over the falls.  Most vacations included a few “regular” things including an amusement park, playing putt-putt, visiting an historical home, and when available visiting a cave.   We have done America’s only cave where they drive you all the way through by tram in Springfield Missouri, the only cave where they take you through by boat in Pennsylvania, and the Mark Twain Cave in Hannibal that was featured in the books Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer.  Mark Twain actually played in that cave as a child and the tour guide explained to us the procedure for making sure all the children were back out of the cave each night.  2008 - Stephanie Burnham and Justin Fickles wedding

Ron and I also took a few trips without the kids over the years.  We spent a week in Hawaii around 1990, we spent a week in San Francisco in 2005, and one year Ron drove to Florida to see his daughter, Patricia, from his first marriage graduate high school while I drove to New York to see our niece graduate from West Point.   We have taken road trips up the east coast and west coast of Michigan to photograph light houses, and this summer spent a week in the upper peninsula of Michigan with the main focus being to photograph waterfalls.  NOvember 2008

I almost forgot to mention the “toys” of which we have had a few over the years, beginning with a Laser sail boat when we were first married.  This is a small sail boat in which you literally hang off the side and your butt most likely gets wet dangling in the water.  Ron’s thing, definitely not mine!  When Caroline was about 2 years old we purchased a 19-foot Baja boat, a bow rider which I loved.  I drove the boat and pulled Ron on skis.  We spent a lot of time on that boat for several years, and then as the kids got older we took it out less and less and eventually sold it.  We purchased a dirt bike for the kids to ride when Patrick was about 4 years old, Caroline 7.  We then got a moped, and when that one got totaled we purchased another.  We bought a set of jet skis and spent quite a bit of time using those.  The kids were older then, and they would frequently drop a car off to me and pick up my truck so they could tow the jet skis to the dock and take them out.  Then Ron and I got motorcycles, he got his in 2004, I got mine in 2005.  I was the motorcycle lover, frequently riding 35 miles one-way to work, 50 miles one-way to college, and loved taking rides to relax in the evenings.  On the weekends we would ride to activities/events we were attending, and also participated in poker runs.  We spent a lot of time out riding until one day on the way home from an event a car ran the stop signs and broadsided me, bringing our days of riding to an end.  I still miss the feel of the wind in my face and how relaxing it is to ride.  Ron spent over a year taking care of the house and me as I went through recovery, and then we purchased our latest “toy,”  a 35-foot motor home.

Photo with our Son, Patrick and Daughter, Caroline, at her wedding.

Photo with our Son, Patrick and Daughter, Caroline, at her wedding.

I have only lightly touched on the ups and downs we have encountered over the years.  We have deaIt with our granddaughter being severely and permanently brain damaged while under the care of who was, at the time, our son-in-law.  We have experienced the loss of a grandson born premature who died shortly after his birth.  We have no contact with one of our granddaughters whose mother has not always been cooperative about allowing our son parenting time, and the loss of two granddaughters at the hands of CPS/DHS workers who withheld contact, lied to the court, a guardian ad litem who lied to the court, and a judge who rather than seek the truth and require them to substantiate their claims ruled against us.  The youngest granddaughter, Kae-Lee, has already been adopted by her foster care parents even though we wanted to adopt and raise the two sisters together.  The judge has refused to allow us the visits that the director of the Michigan Children’s Institute said he needed to finalize his decision on adoption of the older granddaughter, Kiley, who had suffered severe brain trauma, leaving her status in limbo.

So now here we are after 33 years of marriage. We have encountered numerous bumps, mountains and valleys and will likely continue to do so as time passes on.  We are now empty nesters, both photographers, and enjoy travel when time permits.  So whether we count it as 33 years from marriage or 34 years from meeting, it has been a lot of fun and good times.  Here’s looking forward to another 33.

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