Silhouettes

August SunsetNothing signals the change from late summer to fall like the brilliant sunsets. I grew up in a house that faced the west and I became fasinated with the glories that heraled the end of day.

The autumn sunsets were always the announcement that a change was approaching. It was the ending of a season of warmth and bounty. It was the sure signal that colder weather was coming. A new and harder season was fast approaching.

One of the most striking differences from the summer sunsets and the fall was the contrast seen in the silhoutes cast by the fall sunsets. Everything before the sinking sun and its fading rays were sihouetted. The trees with their lost leaves, the barns, the houses were all dark against the intensity of the fading sun.

This has always been a bittersweet, melancholy time in my heart. I truly hated seeing the end of warm summer breezes. I waited in anticipation of the coldness of the winter snows that were sure to add more difficulty to the everyday happenings.

This year has been especially difficult for me. With each new sunset, I see Dan and I riding the motorcycle in our leathers. We would find the highest vista in the Hills of Brown County to observe the freshly harvested fields. We would catch the fading rays in the distance and know that we needed to leave before the ride back home would permiate our bones with the cold air.

I miss looking into his eyes to see my reflection. In his eyes held all unspoken but clearly known feelings reserved from his heart to mine. I miss his eyes.

Many times we would set in a coffee shop and I would just watch him watch people. He was an astute observer of people and he had a discernment into their character. He would watch them and I would watch his eyes.

I could dance in the palm of his hand with just a look from him. To him, I could do no wrong, even when he knew that I was as wrong as I could be. His eyes never betrayed me.

As I watch the fall silhouettes, the words written in his lost letter come to me.
” As I lay on the couch filling up time contemplating what is going to be, I watch you sleep. So soundly is your slumber, I wish and pray that this disease would pass and we could start all over…I miss sleeping with you and holding you in my arms. I miss the soft tender touches that passed between us. And, I miss your kisses, oh, so sweet.

I miss our bike rides in the evening sunsets. Watching your hair blow in the breeze. I miss your laughter and you wonderful smile. I miss watching our grandchildren grow up.

I feel that this disease is driving a wedge between us. I am so sorry. All I can do is pray for healing and the healing of our children’s hearts. I love you so much that my heart feels as broken as does my body.

It seems to early to stop making memories and plans. I miss you more and more…I love you as no other…

Dan

In his words, he seems to capture the silhouette of our life together. He wrote the essense of our life together and he wanted to begin again. He wanted the memories to continue. He wanted to be restored so that we could be husband and wife with all its responsibilities and wonders.

My life is so much less without him here with me and I feel my life become the shadows of the tree that lost its leaves.

His sunset has come and gone. Mine is still above the horizon. It is not as brilliant as it once was. It feels so faded and worn.

Will I ever know what it is to thrill at the changes embedded in the glories of the seasons again? I wish I knew…but where ever I am, so he will be…

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A Daughter’s Sorrow; A Christmas Wish

On my blog roll, there is a site listed  “Just My Thoughts”. It belongs to my husband’s oldest daughter. On this site, she writes about her father’s illness, her children and other things that are close to her heart.

One of entries was about her fear of loosing the memory of her father’s voice and how she lost her “Protector”. She calls and emails from time to time, but, as for many, the contact with me causes her pain. I am the remenant of her father and the hurt is just too much to bear.

She  mentioned that others have memories that she does not have. Some are good and some are not so good. I  posted this comment on her blog.

Dear One,
You knew the real person that lived inside your dad. He didn’t allow many to see this side, but you did and he wanted you to know him.

Yes, you are the same artist and lover of beauty that he was. He couldn’t live without music playing in the house. He was always looking for that inspiring sight that he recorded deep inside his soul. As with you, his innermost being was that of an artist.

 

I believe that, had he been granted the wish to live his life over, he would would choose to be that long haired “hippie dude” playing the bass violin in the symphony orchestra…a true bohemian, who would have thrilled to the sounds of music created by the orchestra every night.

He would have sculpted the wonders around him and yes, he would have ridden his Harley as his primary vehicle.

Like a diamond,  he was so multi faceted, and you, dear heart,  are a part of that flawed but, brilliant gem.

I am coming to terms with the lack of his presence. I can imagine him riding a moonbeam or I can see him standing before God’s throne singing the songs of the Redeemed.

Never forget, angels cannot sing about being redeemed. They can never know, as a personal experience, the price of sin and its effects on our human life.

You father knew the experience of redemption. Your father knew exactly from what  he was saved and how much he was forgiven.

Regarding those things that people remember about the dark side of your father’s life, unfortunately, they may not be able to know nor can they comprehend this miracle. It is their loss.

Your father knew all of the things that are remembered by others. Now, he knows  his freedom to be all that he was created to be. 

I lived with him during his metamorphasis and that is why I am so confident in the man that was renewed.

Even in sorrow, I can rejoice that your father left this world a wonderfully changed person He left a completed man….He was REDEEMED…and God has welcomed him with open arms…

It will forever be my privilege to have known the man before redemption and after it. I loved both men and I am the richer for it…so are you, Dear-heart..You are the fruit of the man that lives on. Your children are the testament to his life…

         

           Love always,

           Mom II

  

As I thought more about the man that my husband became, I realized that it was not me, not circumstance, not anything of this earthly life that caused him to become that wonderful man.

 

It was  a “Saving Grace”, the unmerited favor, of his God that penetrated his heart and caused him to finally become what God intended from beginning of the foundations of this earth.

 

He did reach this final goal.

 

I believe all of us are doing the same. We are on a lifelong journey to discover and to become what our Creator designed us to be.

 

My husband was a loving and caring man. He was a concerned and compassionate father.  He was a man who could not allow a day to pass without praying for those he loved.

 

He was the man that said, ” Oh, Lord, let there be nothing between You and me.”

 

It must be have been hard for his oldest daughter to hear what others said about her father. Those who once knew him but never knew him as the finished product can never comprehend the change in him. They knew the “old man”. They never knew the “new man”.

 

As Jesus said to those who were amazed by the miracle of Lazarus rising from the grave, “Loose that man and let him go”. That is what I want to say to those who only remember the man he was.  “Loose him and let go of what was, he is not the same man.” 

 

He is no longer bound by his actions of the past or the opinions of others. He no longer must pay the consequences for his actions and choices. He was loosed from those things that bound his heart and soul for so long. He is finally free to love without fear.

 

It is sad that there are those who will never see the miracle of a changed life because they insist on holding on to the pain and anger of the past.  Little do they know that they are running the risk of becoming one as a person bound in grave clothes… tied to past pains and old resentments.  

 

While it is human to bear resentment and grudges, the human soul cannot live with long remembered pains. Should we refuse to forgive, and hold onto to these past hurts, these resentments can become a great price that is paid on the alter of “dead” issues. 

 

They can hang like a millstone around our necks. The longer we refuse to let them go, their weight increases with bitterness. . As bitterness grows, it eventually crushes the life out of a person.

 

No one can bind my husband any longer. I like to imagine him riding a raindrop as he once rode his Harley.  If that isn’t fast enough for him, I can imagine him riding on the tail of a gas filed comet. In my mind’s eye, I see singing in the choir of the Redeemed.

 

I fail to understand why our human condition continues to look for him here? He is no longer held down by this world. He is free…and he is at Peace…

 

This man loved Christmas. I have no problem imagining him singing the original songs of the Heavenly Hosts. I can hear him sing along with the Angels as they sing their songs of comfort and joy  to the shepherds.

epiphany1It brings me joy to think that he  is celebrating with the original angelic throng who sang God’s announcement of

                  ” Peace On Earth, Good Will to Man”.

As the final moments of this Christmas Day come, I wonder, if, I listen carefully, maybe, I can hear his sweet tenor harmonizing with God’s angels?.

 

 He has every reason to sing.  He will gladly lift his voice and join in the heavenly celebration because he knows that, we on earth, are remembering that his Savior was born…Somehow, this brings me comfort. I am doing my best to have a good Christmas….I wish you all a Merry one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In The Living Year III

As I write my husband’s life story, I see more and more the hurt and anger that festered inside of him. This all began from trying to be the “good son”, the obedient son, and the frustration that came with his efforts. These emotions spilled over into his adult years as well. As a son, he was always obedient, with a “twist”.

An example of his being obedient with a twist was when his father wanted him to drive the church bus. This happened when he was in his early 20’s and he drove a “big rig” since he was 19 years old so, naturally, he could drive a bus. However, at this time in his life,  he didn’t attend his father’s church. He had enough of church by the time he left his parent’s home. But when his father asked, he always obeyed. On his only day off of work, he agreed to pick up all of the kids and others who needed transportation to church.

Keeping true to his rebellion, he would pick up the kids and others, let everyone off of the bus at the church, then, he would pick up all his “hippie” buddies. While everyone was at church, he and his “friends” would smoke up the bus with a little “weed”. He did as he was asked and then did as he wanted. Yes, this wasn’t very wise, but it was so like him and his way of being obedient with a “twist”.

Over the years and after two divorces, I think his parents “gave up” on him. They gave their approval to the second son and because of the developmentally delayed status of the adopted son, they reserved most of their concern and attention for  him. They knew that my husband could take care of himself. By his early 30’s, my husband had a true love/hate relationship with his parents. This lasted for the majority of his life. I think that it was the same for his parents.

I should clarify. Over the years, time was given to my husband. It was not done from a willingness or a parental concern, but it was done in the midst of crisis or drama. My husband’s choices in his early life always brought these elements with him. He received attention.

Much like when a child needs attention and they are unable to get it positively, they will act out and receive it negatively…that seems to be the operating principle over my husband’s youth and young adult years…

As the effects of life wore on my husband and his restlessness abated, his need for peace and contentment finally won out over his need for rebellion.

Over the years of our marriage, my husband and I “worked” on his “Father Hunger”. We bought books, tapes and listened to sermons that addressed the unending needs of an adult child when they lack a relationship with their father. My husband knew that his father was repeating in him what his grandfather sowed into his father…not much time or thought.

In 2003, my husband’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s dementia. She knew that something was wrong and when they finally told her, she began to become frightened of her future. My husband tried his best to reassure her that he would always remind her of whatever she forgot. He could remember things that happened when he was 2 and 3 years old and his parents were always amazed at his accuracy.

In 2005, a CT scan of his father’s brain showed atrophy and he too began to not relate to the present. He seemed to go into a trance and do whatever my husband’s mother bid him do. He seemed to cease being an individual.

On several occasions in those early days, before my husband’s cancer was diagnosed, we told his parents that, since we lived close by that we would help in any way with whatever they needed. On many occasions my husband would go over and “check” on them.

He tried to have a conversation with his dad about things that were on his mind, but all he received was silence. 

Many times, after the fact, we would find out that they called on someone else to do what my husband said that he would do for them.  I could see the hurt in my husband’s face  with each one of these occurrences. His heart was bruised again with each incident…..He finally gave up on the hope that he could resolve his issues with his parents. He had to let them go…

In the months prior to his passing, he gave up on calling them. They didn’t remember that he was sick or they remembered that his brother had prostate cancer, but didn’t remember that he was sick. He felt worse after trying to talk to them and, afterwards, it drained him emotionally so he stopped calling. For him, It was too painful to bear their dementia and his cancer.

The final week of my husband’s life, I spoke to my husband’s brother about whether he should make the effort to bring my husband’s parents down to our home. Traveling was a  difficult task and both my brother in law and I knew that they would not remember being here or seeing their son.

It seemed that my brother in law and I came to the same conclusion at the same time because as I called him, he was about to call me. I said that it didn’t matter if they remembered seeing my husband or not. If it were one of our children, we would want to see our child, so it must be with my husband’s parents.

By this time, my husband was unable to communicate with us. His level of consciousness was anyone’s guess at this point. When my husband’s brother said that they were coming, the children and I cleared space for chairs to be by my husband’s bedside…

I was not feeling well that day. I was having a major physical reaction to knowing that my husband was hours away from dying. The hospice nurse had instructed me to take my anti anxiety medication and lay down. I was sleeping when they arrived. The children assisted them.

I woke up after they had been here for a couple of hours. I knew that they would not stay much longer than that. As I lay on the couch between being fully awake and still drowsy, I heard something amazing.

My husband’s mother was talking to him in that voice that every child knows. It is the one where you are sick and your mother’s voice is as soothing as any medication or medical remedy. My husband couldn’t see his mother because she was standing by the window and he was facing away from it. The next moment I heard a cry come out from my husband.

With every ounce of energy he had left, his voice rang out, “Mom!!!”. No one will know just how difficult it was for him to say that word! It was his desperate attempt to reach her and It took every ounce of life left in him. All of us knew that she could never appreciate that is was one of his lasts words heard on this earth.

In many ways, it sums up their relationship. He was crying out for his parents and they never truly heard him. They were always lost in a fog when it came to their first son…

Yes, my husband’s parents are still living, but they are not here. They are in a place of confusion, a twilight of shadows, that robbed my husband of an opportunity to express his love for them and they for him. We think that we have years and years to tell our parents the hidden things, the wonderful treasure of memories that we have of them and us.

The reality for my husband was that, even when he tried to overcome the obstacles that were in their relationships, they could never listen and hear him. That moment of reconciliation never happened for him.  Dementia took his parents before death took him.

It is during the act of living that we take the opportunity to tell those we love how we feel. It is in the memories that we make that we feel their love and acceptance. It is too late for my husband and for me to express ourselves to our parents.

Now is always the best time to tell those you love how important they are to you……Now is always the best time….

In The Living Years II

I mentioned in Part I that when I first heard this song, I was reminded of my relationship with my father. I didn’t realize, until later in life, my father was the one that was imprinted on my heart and mind. He was the one I measured all men by and if they didn’t measure up, I either wanted them or I rejected them. To this day, I am not inclined to respect a man with “soft hands”.

Of course, he was the one who was the most distanced from me as a child. After the birth of my youngest sister, he ran from the idea that he had a special needs child. The doctor told him that he was the reason for the extra chromosome and he was a perfectionist in all his ways.

Naturally, he didn’t want to be reminded that he did not produce a perfect child.

In today’s understanding of Down’s Syndrome, I don’t know if that “fact” still holds up to the light of day, but it didn’t matter then. He went from playing and giving attention to me to being out of sight. He would go to work before I woke up and he didn’t come home until after I went to bed. He was there on weekends, but he was always busy or fishing.

I learned to fish from an early age. He bought me my first fishing pole at the age of 8 years old and I caught a 5 lb small mouth bass on 2 lb test line…I proved my worth. If I wanted time with my dad, it was done by fishing with him. There was always pressure on me because if I failed to catch fish, I wasn’t allowed to go the next time.

The other part of my life with my father was being his “gofer”. The gofer was the person that ran after whatever part or tool that was needed by whatever engine or piece of machinery that he was working on at the time.

I learned the names of the tools in the tool box. I learned the basics of the combustible engine and, even though I don’t put my hands on things, I am not half bad about diagnosing what is wrong with an engine by listening to it.

That is what it took to spend time with the first man that I ever loved. I learned to step into his world and he never crossed over into mine.

My father and I were very much alike, however I learned in my teenage years that I didn’t respect his volatility and his emotional decision making. That seemed to bring intense arguments that resulted in a slap across my face. Usually, that was where he would strike because, by the time I was 16 years old, I was taller than my father.

The last time he slapped me, I remember hearing him walk down the hallway and I knew that I was going to get one in the mouth. After he found me, he slapped me for talking back to him. I remember looking deep into his blue eyes and I told him, “You will be sorry for that.” I turned and went into my bedroom and locked the door.

If he wanted to, I knew that he could burst through the door and, if he did, he would deliver a sound beating. Maybe he knew that the beating would have only made me more resolved. Like I said, we were alike in many ways and a beating would have only solidified my stubborness and, by that, set the stage for another argument. I had ideas of my own and I would not let them go until someone proved them wrong.

To my surprise, (I am sure my mother intervened) my father finally read the brochure that I brought home. I wanted to go to a music camp at Indiana University. It was an honor to be of a caliber of voice to be able to attend this camp over the summer months and I wanted to learn more about voice and have the experience of singing with some of the best in the state. ( IU was known nationally for its School of Music). My father was opposed because he believed that nothing good could come out of Bloomington. He believed that it was “Sin City” and no daughter of his was going into “Sodom and Gomorrah”.

In the middle of the night, I woke up and went to the bathroom. I saw my father reading the brochure that he refused to open. For the first time, I saw him in the process of reversing himself and really thinking about making a decision. It was a milestone. By morning, he said that I could attend. By this simple action, I regained a little of the respect that I lost for him.

My relationship with my father was changing from that point forward. I wish I could say that it was for the better, but it wasn’t. I became the voice of reason in his fits of anger and he resented the fact that one of his children would say what they thought. On most occasions, my thoughts ran counter to his. There was always the threat that I may have a better idea. I was not welcomed into his life.

Sadly, he could never see that independent thinking was the lesson that he taught all of us. As children, my siblings and I were never allowed to say the word, “Can’t”. We always had to accomplish the task even if the usual way didn’t work. We were required to find a way that would work. Today, I think it is a college couse called “Critical Thinking”. My father was the professor and we all learned this lesson, not with grades, but rather with approval. 

He never realized that his standard pushed all of us to achieve regardless of education or lack of it. He never allowed anything to stand in his way and he was not going to allow his children to get by with “standing still” in the face of a problem. He gave a great gift by insisting on this kind of thinking. Yet, when it came to him, he lost sight of this lesson that he taught so well. This kind of thinking became the corner stone of all his children’s success. Funny, he never saw us as successful. Maybe, it was because all he saw in us was himself.

I wish I could say that my father and I had a moment in life where we could have said all of the things that needed said. But, like in the song, his pride and mine kept us from saying those wonderful things that a father says to a daughter and a daughter says to a father. Even at his death, I wondered if he loved me.

I have no memory of being “Daddy’s little girl”. I never was that to him. I was his “gofer”… the fisherman that could out do him if he took me along. I eventually ran his business after the death of my brother and my “style” was successful, but he didn’t agree with it.

To know my father’s approval was something that I seldom achieved.

So, when I hear this song, I understand the verses so well. And when I hear other songs that sing of a Father’s love and protection, I don’t have an earthly pattern to refer to. I wanted one. I needed to know what it was like to dance in my father’s hand without critism or watch his face smile at my performance. I never knew if my father would come to my rescue because his kind of love was so conditional.

In response to this uncertainty, I found It very difficult to trust a loving Father God, yet somehow, I do.

Maybe I do because I watched my husband with his children. It was wonderful to see how he would be the father that I wished for. I watched as he quietly worked behind the scenes to do for them, at a great personal expense, the important things that showed them that he would always be there for them.

I saw his love for them as he watched them play and how he would take up for them when anyone was unfair or when they were hurt by others. He was always in their corner. He was a good dad in spite of how many things that their “mothers” told them about him. He was their protector.

His heartache came from the lack of a “Father-Son” relationship with his own dad. He and I knew the pain of having a father, but even when they were home, they were not there. I think that children of divorce know a terrible pain, but it is no less of a pain than having a father in the household, being able to see them in front of your eyes and realize that they are not present for you.

It is all pain. In the next part, I will write more of my husbands hunger for his father and mother and his desire to tell them how much he loved them while all of them were still in “The Living Years”.

In The Living Years…Part I

I heard this song on the “Oldies” radio station as I was driving home from my last client. It took me back to the time when I first heard it.

I remember how much I thought that it captured the situation between my self and my own father. He and I were just too much alike in many respects. I had the advantage because there was enough of my mother in me that I didn’t do as he did, but I did inherit his ability to take risks.

Now, when I hear the song, I realize that my perspective has changed from when I first heard it. I am the parent in the song. The song caused me to think of my husband’s and my relationships with each one of the children. Each of us had “issues” that would cause us guilt and it was laid at our feet. Over time and hind sight, we knew that each child had disappointments in us as parents, both collectively and individually. There was little “co parenting” done with each child.

With my husband’s children, issues were always present. He was the non custodial parent and his desires or influence were reduced to a minimum.

The song brought to mind my husband’s relationship with his youngest daughter. She was lost to him since 2002. The final contact between them occured in the last seven months of his life. In December 2007, She wrote and sent pictures of her 3 daughters.  She asked that they restore their relationship.

At first, my husband was happy to hear from her and he immediately called his daughter. When he got off of the phone, his joy had turned to a painful realization.

He said that it was like “pulling teeth” to get a conversation out of her. I said that he needed to take into consideration the “shock” factor of hearing her dad on the line. I suggested that  the shock may have kept her from talking as much. But, I could see in my husband’s face all of the painful use and misuse that he suffered at the hands of the child’s mother and by her own..

After much deliberation, he wrote her a letter thanking her for the pictures of her children and  told her how glad he was to hear that her life had turned for the better. He told her that he loved her, but he had nothing left to offer her. He told her that the disease was taking away the time that it takes to restore a relationship and he wanted her to remember the good times more than the bad ones.

He never heard from her again.

When he died, I had my husband’s son call the number that my husband used to talk to the daughter. It was not in service. I told the son that I had the phone number to his half sister’s maternal grandmother and he may be able to reach his sister through her. He called and there was no answer. He didn’t leave a message. This kind of news is just too much to leave a message.

Later on in the day that my husband died, after everyone was gone, I received a call from the grandmother. I really didn’t want to talk to her, but it was too late, I had answered the call.

Her first words were that she had a “number” now. This comment set my suspensions on alert. Old habits never leave you and this was always a precursor to future troubles.

Then, the grandmother began telling me how she had lost her husband this past January. I listened as she told me all of the details of the cancer that took his life. As I listened, I tried my best to empathize. I was comforting her….she didn’t ask anything about my husband. She just talked about her loss.

She asked if I wanted the phone number of the ex wife. I declined that offer. I was in no frame of mind to deal with the person that had caused so much damage to my husband.

Personally, I believed and still do, that my husband’s cancer began with a decrease in his immune system and the decline was directly linked to the stress that he lived while going through the divorce and custody battles with this woman. I definitely did not want to talk to her at that moment in my life.

I told her that I would rather have her call and tell the daughter about her father. I explained that I didn’t want it said that no one thought to call and tell her about his death and I gave the grandmother the details of the Memorial Service.

The next thing that the grandmother told me was all about this daughter’s health problems and how stress effects her adversely. I replied that I could understand how this kind of thing could be stressful and worsen her condition. but I repeated the details of the Memorial Service. I said that I wanted his daughter to be aware of the arrangements. I then, as quickly as possible, ended the conversation…it was just one of the many nightmares of that day.

As the words and melody of the song rang in my ears, I thought about the time that was available for this daughter to say the things that she needed to tell her father and the things he needed to hear during his living years. I also thought about the words she lost by not making efforts during the time he survived.

His desire to live through all of the possible manipulations and painfulness that was associated with this child was gone. As hard as it was for him to let go of this child, the first time, and wait for her to come to him, he again chose to let her go because the time for living was too short. As much as he loved this child, he could not deal with the “maddness” that swirled around her. He had said all that he wanted to say to her in his letter.

As the song points out, each generation seems to loose sight of the living years and the opportunities that are afforded to speak heart to heart. Each child holds their parents responsible for their pain and each generation fails to learn the song’s lesson…so it stretches out in front of my generation now.

If it were possible, every parent would accept that the generations don’t see eye to eye, but we want so much more than that, don’t we? We want to rewind our lives and relive those times when we made the wrong choices. We would give anything to be able to undo the things that hurt us or our children, but that isn’t possible.

Now, we live with our regrets. There will be times that each one will have to reconcile themselves with the words that failed to find a voice. Regret is a hard thing with which to live, but it has been done by generations before us and it will be repeated by the generations past us.

No parent gets it right all the time. All we have are our opporunities to right the situation in the “Living Years”….

“Say it loud, say it clear, you can listen as well as you hear… Its too late when we die to admit we don’t see eye to eye….. So we open up a quarrel between the present and the past. We sacrifice the future. It is the bitterness that lasts….So don’t yield to the fortunes, you sometimes can see his fate. It may have a new perspecive on a different day…and if you don’t give up and don’t give in and you may just be “OK”…Say it loud, say it clear, you can listen as well as you hear…..Don’t give up, don’t  give in, don’t wait until it is too late….”

It’s Gonna Be Worth It

The Video says it for me….I can’t add much to what the song says.

Everyday, as I, in fear and trembling, leave the sacturary of my home to face new people with serious illnesses, it is this song that comes to my mind.

When I am so tired that I don’t know if I am going to be able to force myself to get into that old car and drive an hour to my first stop, I have to recall that “It’s Gonna Be Worth It”.

When I look into the faces of children and into the faces of the aged, my heart breaks for them and the betrayal of their bodies that bind them into a shell of the life that they once knew, I hear the melody and words that says, ” I don’t understand Your ways, but I give you my song, give You all of my praise…”

I especially don’t understand the pressure cooker of events that seem to befall me as I deal with the greatest loss my heart, mind and soul has ever known. I just know that I must not fail to live. If I fail, then who would take my place to tell of this man who was taken too soon from those who loved him.

But, most of all, there is only one way that I know that I can survive this crushing pain that consumes me body, mind, and soul. It is through my faith that I look past the hurt of my heart and cry out to my Lord…

I especially identify with the lyrics that says that He is using my pain to pull me closer into His ways….and if I must walk the rest of this life alone, I want to see His face. I want to see the Mysteries that my husband now knows.

He would quote the verse that says, “I would see Jesus”.

That was his goal. He wrote in one of his prayers that He wanted NOTHING between him and his Lord…I saw with my own eyes the smile on his face when he left this earth. The only thought I had was that he must have just seen Jesus…

I would see Jesus and I shall give him my “song” and all of my praise…because He is pulling me closer and bearing my pain…

For today, that is all that I need. I no longer live in my tomorrows because my days are full of bringing a little hope to those who are hurting in ways that my heart can understand. It is my hope that I am a “light” into their world and that they are God’s light in mine…

So as my weary heart, soul and body cries out in pain, I play this song and remind myself that Heaven is a little sweeter because my husband is there, but more than that, Heaven is my Hope and seeing Jesus face is worth it all…

In that I have absolutely no doubt….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

School Days III

In 1964, when my husband was 12 years old, the family left the small Indiana rural community to take a church in the northern area of Chicago. They were located close to the Naval Training Base in Waukeagan IL.

Changing schools again, and going into a school system of another state made my husband’s desire to excel in anything academically more difficult. This was the 4th school in 6 years for him.

Instead of a classroom with the same teacher, he was in middle school with several teachers and classes. This is a difficult transition for most children. Add to it that he was the “new” kid in many classes as opposed to the “new” kid in one class and soon it spelled trouble. Again, my husband was fighting and there were many “meetings” with the principle over his behavior.

 Because of the Naval Base, there were many ethnic groups i.e. Puerto Rican, African American, Hispanic. His behavior caught the attention of the “tougher” kids of the school and my husband was invited to run around with this diverse and multi ethnic tough group of kids. Hanging around with these kids was quite an exciting change from rural Indiana.

Because of his fighting, he quickly gained a reputation for being a “tough” guy. He soon became a part of the juvenile system. This brought into his life a person that soon took interest in him; his probation officer.

My husband described this man as a 40 something, big black man who seemed to show up every place and every time he was just about to do something “stupid”. My husband credited this man with saving him from having to do jail time. Many of his other friends had already been in jail and it is only through pray and this man’s vigilance that kept him from following in the footsteps of his buddies.

School was not a priority to my husband. The difference in school systems caused him to be behind the grade level of those in his class. That seemed to drive my husband’s disinterest and he began to focus on the “social” aspects that presented themselves through school.

There were many times that he would walk in the school building and on through it to a local coffee shop across the street. Again, the probation officer came to his parent’s door. This time it was for his truancy.

There were a few bright spots. The name of the school was Jack Benny Junior and Senior High Schools. This school offered orchestra. It was through the director of the orchestra that my husband began his love affair with the bass violin.

This man would give my husband private lessons at his home to ready him for the “First Chair” in his orchestra. Through this avenue, my husband learned and played the classics…Vivaldi, Handel, Beethoven, The New World Symphony,…all of the great music that caused his heart to sore. Music was already an intregal part of my husband. He loved of all kinds and types of music, but the classics was his introduction to another world. One that was full of beauty and grace. His love of classical music was birthed through this teacher’s interest. It was one of the few saving graces of my husband’s young life.

His home life was becoming more splintered and fragmented. His mother was consumed with his now adopted brother. Caring for this child was her main focus.

His father was pastoring the small church and working in a shoe store to earn extra money for his family. When his father was home, he was working on his college courses to finish his degree and to qualify himself for seminary. Like many of us born in the ’50’s and coming of age in the ’60’s, our parents were absent even when they were home.

My husband told of the time when he wanted and needed to talk to his father. I don’t remember if my husband ever said what was on his mind at the time, but he decided that the only way to get his father’s attention was to write a letter to his dad and leave it in the typewriter.

When my husband told the story, there was pain and dejection in his voice. He viewed this story with the saddness of an abandoned child.

When his mother told the story, she viewed it as one of those stories where your child did something that was just “so cute” that you just had to share it.

My husband’s parents never knew the desperation that  was in his heart. As he hunted and pecked out the words of this letter, his heart’s cry failed to be heard. My husband went to the one thing that he knew his father would go to on a daily basis; his typewriter.

i don’t know if my husband and his father ever had the “talk” that my husband requested. I doubt it because it wasn’t long afterwards that my husband began using drugs and staying gone from home for days.

Where does a 14/15 year old get the money to buy drugs? In the mid ’60’s, they work for it.

At 15 years old, my husband began working at the same shoe store where his father worked. He began earning enough money to do as he pleased. He not only worked everyday after school at the shoe store, but he worked weekends for a catering service.

When he told me about the catering service, scenes from Dirty Dancing came to my mind. He told of the white shirt, black dress pants and tie that was required for this job. It brought to my mind those scenes  with the waiters in their white coats serving the guest at the retreat. That movie captured a lot of what life was like at that time.

My husband also talked about hopping a freight train to downtown Chicago. For the longest time, he never told me what he did downtown. I thought that he was just going for the sake of excitement.  It wasn’t until he was in 6ICU at IU Med in 2005 that I learned what he did.

Because, he had thrown two blood clots and they lodged in his left lung after the debulking surgery, he was told to lay still and not to move.  I sat by his bedside as he dozed off. He woke up and said that he wanted those “Goombas” to get this 5 pound bag of sugar off of his chest. Before I could ask any question, he went back to sleep.

I sat there wondering what a “Goomba” was. I could understood  the 5 pound bag of sugar. He had pressure in his chest from the clots, but I couldn’t figure what significance the Goomba had.

He awoke again and said something about getting the Goomba out of here. I finally asked him what was a Goomba and why was he so afraid of it.

It was then that he told me that when he was 15 years old, he would hop the train and go downtown Chicago and “run numbers” for the Mafia. He said that they let him drive a big Cadillac and go to the barber shops and pool halls and pick up the numbers and the money. He was a kid and if he got caught, he would be charged as a juvenile and nothing would happen to him. He said that he made a lot of money by doing this and that he always knew that if anything came up missing, the Goomba’s would hurt him.

Finally, I knew what a Goomba was and why he was so afraid. Even though he wasn’t Italian, the Mob was using kids to run the numbers and transport money. All the “wise guys” were identified by wearing a pinky ring. In this picture, notice the pinky ring on his hand.

It explained how he always had money. How he could buy the “trike” that he kept at his girlfriend’s house,  how he had the money for drugs and how he always was aware of his surroundings. He was “street” smart. He didn’t need school except to meet girls.

It was this time in his life that his father learned that he smoked cigarettes. He was at work at the shoe store when his father came in and saw him smoking in the back room.

His father lost his temper and began hitting his son. My husband said that he couldn’t hit his father and he was taking a hard beating when the manager/owner of the shoe store saw what was happening and called the law on his dad.

With eacg blow, hardness was forced deeper into my husband’s soul. Hardness against God, against  his father and all he represented. This beating hardened his heart against all things spiritual. I believe it completed the detachment that he was developing. He could detach himself from almost anything; even those he loved.The beating provided the determination that he was going to live his own life and he didn’t care what anyone thought. 

My husband said that he most likely would have given up smoking had it not been for that beating. He loved his parents dearly, but he decided that the life that they had, the “church” thing, was definitely not how he wanted to live. If he ever was going to go “church” he didn’t want what his parents had. He wanted what his Grandmother Lela had. He believed all “Christians” in his father’s church were as hypocritical as his parents and he wanted nothing to do with it.

This break with his parents only led to more “acting out” behavior. It led to his “road trip”. At 15 years old he and his buddies decided to go to New Mexico…..

School Days Part II

My husband also had to learn the lesson that what was said in the parsonage had to stay within the walls of the parsonage. When he was about 7 years old, he heard his mother call one of the ladies in the congregation a “Battle Ax”. And, when my husband saw this lady in church, he too called her a Battle Ax. When the lady asked why and from whom did he hear such a thing, his honest and child like reply was “From my Mom”….

Oops, that was a real problem and it was the beginning of my husband’s ability to keep secrets. He was learning to hide his feelings, watch his words, and do nothing that would reflect badly on his parents…what a huge burden on little ones!

Of course, there were many mischievous things that he and his brother would do. In the church world, when the District Superintendent came to your church, it was expected that they would stay over night in the parsonage and the church pastor’s wife would have to play hostess for this visiting “dignitary”.

When this would occur, my husband’s mother, who was an immaculate homemaker, would go into deep cleaning mode. She would put on her most worn and haggard work dress, old worn out boots and a bandanna around her head. She looked something like Carol Burnett’s char woman costume.

On this particular day, my husband knew that she was fussing about the upcoming visit and that she was in her cleaning garb. My husband knew that she was upstairs cleaning in the guest bedroom and he decided that it was the perfect time for a prank.

As he lisstened to the sounds from upstairs, he anticipated her finishing up with the deep cleaning. He knew that she would be coming down the stairs with her mop, bucket, and broom.

Just as she was half way down the stairs, my husband rang the door bell. As he opened the door, he yelled up the stairs, ” Mom, Brother So and So, (the name of the District Superintendent) is here.”

He heard his mother drop her bucket, broom and mop on the stairs and she turned to run back up the stairs and across  the upstairs landing. When she came back down the stairs without her cleaning supplies and her char woman outfit, he and his brother laughed until they rolled in the floor….she was not laughing, but that didn’t stop them from doing their pranks.

Many times when missionaries or evangelists would come for a meal or would stay at the parsonage for a meeting, both my husband and his brother would start a conversation at the dinner table. My husband would look at his brother and say, “Oh, look, brother, we have meat tonight. We haven’t had meat to eat for at least  a month”. His brother would reply, ” Yeah, and look, there is butter for the bread…we haven’t had butter since last Sunday.”…They would watch their parents faces turn red and then they would laugh until they cried. Later, I am sure that they may have cried from a spanking, but it was always worth the look on their parents faces….

My husband never lost this mischievousness. He would get on elevators that had 4 floors and ask the person standing next to the panel to push the button for the 6th floor. The person willingly started searching for the button that had the number 6 on it only to find that they had been “spoofed”. He loved that kind of thing and it started at an early age.                      

The other major event that took place at this time was the introduction of another “brother”. It seemed that my husband’s parents wanted another child. They wanted a little girl to go with their sons, but for  whatever reason, they could not conceive. They decided to register with the welfare department and wait for a baby to care for as foster parents with the hope that they may be able to adopt this needy child.

The call came. There was a baby that needed extremely good care. The child was severely malnourished due to his biological mother’s alcoholism. The child had been allowed to just lay in his bed and cry from hunger. He was covered with sores and his overall health was very poor.

My husband was ten years old when this baby came into his life. My husband told about how he slept on the floor beside the crib just to watch over this tiny helpless creature. Once his mother began to care for this child, she lost her heart to him and that was that.   

As the years would unfold, this event changed my husband’s world forever. It was one of those moments in time that seemed to bring an unanticipated impact. It would take his loving mother away from him. The new child consumed all her time and attention. 

As this child grew, it became clear that he was not developing normally. The sores on his skin healed and his malnutrition was reversed, but it was clear that something was wrong. His speech development was lacking and he seemed to regress instead progress after a the age of 2. The hyperactivity also gave clues that this child suffered from the effects of his mother’s alcohol consumption. He had fetal alcohol syndrome which left him with mental deficiencies. After searching for answers from doctor after doctor, it was determined that he was developmentally challenged, In the language of the 1960’s, he was retarded. 

This required more time and attention from my husband’s mother. And, with the requirement of time taken from the original two brothers and it was given to the youngest child, it took its toll. 

In the 50’s and 60’s, our parents were not prepared to parent this kind of child. They were at a loss in dealing with this kind of trauma. There were no books and people were not willing to talk about raising a less than perfect child. Many children that were developmentally challanged were hidden away from the world in basements and never allowed to interact with the outside world. Sometimes, no one knew that this person ever existed because of the stigma and shame that was attached to the less than “normal”.

This little boy, who was discared by his birth parents, reaped many benefits from the love and care of such a doting mother as my husband’s. But there were consequences of all that attention going to one child. Both of the biological sons suffered the loss of their mother and, in time, both sons would act out their frustrations. It was the beginning of change within the walls of this perfect household. This needy child affected my husband especially. This addition to the family added to my husband’s rebellion.

These events as well as the uncertainty of living as a preacher’s son would lead him into troubled times in his teenage years…No one knew just how deeply these circumstances would influence my husband as he grew towards manhood. All he knew was that there wasn’t time for him anymore…

He was entering into the mid to late 60’s without stability and security. He was not the happy child that announced “Here me am.” any longer. He would make his presence known in another world that was far from the “church” world where his parents resided. He would fill the void and there would be trouble…..

Life Does Go On….

Today is a day that my husband hoped to see and even though he is not here on this earth, I still want to believe he is aware of this moment in time.

This morning about 5:30 AM, I received a call from my husband’s son. He was letting me know that his wife was in labor and that today was to be the day that we all were waiting for.

At 8:30 AM, he called to say that little Emma was here. After coming home from church, I had a message saying to check my Facebook account. Pictures were waiting for me and what wonderful pictures they are.

Little Emma is beautiful. And, so is her mommy. What a wonder and what a miracle is giving birth!

A little later after looking at the pictures over and over again, I thought how proud my husband would be to have another grand daughter and that she is the namesake of his mother. He loves little girls.  Well, in fact, he just loved women, but he especially loves little girls just like I love little boys…he would have been so thrilled that his life is continuing through his children’s children.

It was then that the phrase that sometimes gets stuck in my throat came to mind, “Life does go on…” When I repeated this phrase to myself, I could smile and yet, a tear came to my eye. Little Emma is one of those hopes that my husband held onto as he fought to survive. He wanted to see this day.

This day will have its bittersweet moments, but how can there not be joy when this wonderful child filled with hope and promise has made her entrance and blessed our lives for just being. Nothing can spoil this moment in time as my husband’s legacy takes another human form.

It will be exciting to watch her grow into the wonderful woman that God has intended. It will be my honor to watch for both her PapPap and me.

Yes, this is one time that hearing “Life goes on…” will not cut both ways. It is a great day. Happy Birthday, Emma….

Love,

Your NanNan

” If I Don’t See You Again, It Has Been An Honor “

I have just come inside after trying to mow our acre lawn. I seem to have lost a part of the exhaust on the old Bolens mower and it seems to have overheated and blown a head gasket. At least, that is my best guess as it blows white smoke from under the hood…

I stopped mowing when it started to belch out the smoke and when I raised the hood, oil was thrown all over the exhaust. When I opened the breather, it was full of oil…most likely, head gasket…it is going to be a long summer.

I started the LawnBoy push mower to try and finish up, but I finally gave up. I am really tired after today’s events and my allergies are having a fit. What a disappointment.

I was looking forward to mowing until sunset…around 9:30 PM. I do a lot of thinking while I ride the old lawn tractor. I needed to do some thinking this evening. I needed to ponder on what our family doctor said to my husband today.

Usually, on Wednesday, after his usual patients, our family doctor has us come in to do a little talking and then he takes my husband through some peaceful imagining and sometimes, he lays his hands on my husband abdomen.

Early on, we learned of our physician’s commitment to holistic healing and we have enjoyed this 45 to hour time that is used to block out the events of the week and look ahead to whatever comes into our lives. Today when our doctor saw him, the first question that he asked my husband was how much he weighed.

My husband told him and then he looked on the chart and saw that he had lost over 20 pounds since he last weighed in at the office. That was about 2 weeks ago. That is a lot of loss in a short time. It seems to be advancing and the loss of weight tells most of us that the cancer is winning the battle.

My husband enjoyed today’s session immensely and he got up off of the table to feeling like a new person. His energy level was increased, he felt a sense of well being and he was renewed. His fatigue seemed to be gone. That was amazing.

Our doctor informed us that he would be gone for two weeks and then he said, ” I expect you to be here when I return, but, if I don’t see you again, it has been an honor” and he put out his hand to shake my husband’s…

I wasn’t surprised by this statement. I think that my husband will be here when our doctor returns, but I also see why our doctor wanted to say this to him. There is no guarantee that he will be here. The time is getting closer for my husband’s journey on Cancer Road to end.

My husband complains that he is so tired and he is short of breath when he moves around too much. He doesn’t have the will to push himself to do things as he has always done in the past. This kind of fatigue is beyond just being tired. It is an absence of life force, it is an emptying and a lack of replenishment of life…

My husband has said a few things that lets me know that he is aware that he cannot continue on much longer. He sees his face in the mirror and he doesn’t recognize the man that is standing there. His eyes look so big and open now. He sees that his muscle mass is dwindling.

It doesn’t make it easier to see this and make these kinds of realizations. He wants to live and he wants to be a part of his children and grand children’s lives. He knows that all, but my oldest grandson, are too young to remember him when they grow up. He wants them to remember him, not from photos or from stories; he wants them to have their own memories. But, most likely, they will not.

Our time with our family doctor has been such a blessing. This young doctor has a wonderful heart and he does practice the healing arts and not just the science. He truly cares for my husband. That bond has grown over the months and it was clear that saying this to my husband struck a deep cord within his heart.

There are no words to express our gratitude towards this remarkable young man. He has been a great part of this journey and he has played one of the most important roles in my husband’s survival…I truly hope God blesses him as he has blessed us…

As for the next few days, I will have to push mow this monstrous lawn. Summer is just beginning and that is a lot of pushing and shoving….maybe, I will plant wildflowers and place signs along the road for people to not mow, native wildflowers growing…