Darkest Before The Dawn…

astronightIf there is any truth to this old adage, then the faint rays of dawn should be on the horizon. The past few weeks have been terribly dark for me. Even in my dreams, troubling imagines and circumstances are indications that I am not coping with my life.

Several nights ago, I dreamed that my family doctor told me that the results of my tests were not good and that I, too, would be leaving this earthly life. My response was not one of fear or dread, but rather, I asked if the doctor could orchestrate my leaving to be at the same time as Dan’s.

In light of my families’ tendency to have prophetic dreams, at first, I was alarmed. But, on further reflection, I realized that my inner person was telling me that my desire to live this life was not strong and that I needed to be proactive about my physical and mental health.

When I began to contemplate all that was in the dream, I recalled the statistics regarding caregivers and depression. Depression is very common in those who have loved and cared for someone until they died. In fact, I don’t know how you can not become depressed as you watch someone who has become a part of you suffer and loose their battle to live.

The article that I read noted that caregivers and spouses of the terminally ill often develop terminal illnesses or develop chronic conditions frequently after the death of their loved one.

I became aware of this while I was caring for Dan. and I began a routine of  walking regularly. I knew that physical exercise helps to balance anxiety of the mind and it releases helpful hormones to the brain.

After Dan died, I would walk Mozie twice a day. Once before I left for work and then on my arrival home. I kept to this routine until on one of these walks, one of my cats was hit by a passing car.

I  realized that this accidental death could have been me or Mozie. Most times, it was dark when I would walk. Even though I had a flashlight with me, I know that I was not easily seen by the motorist. I decided that it was too risky to continue to walk the dog in the dark and I stopped.

Then the cold weather hit. jack-frost-nipping-at-your-nose1

It seems that I have become quite a wimp when it comes to cold weather. I really didn’t want to walk in the cold. It seemed that it took  hours for me to feel my extremities again, so I talked myself out of walking in the cold. 

Now, I am out of the habit and I find all manner of excuses to not do what I know will help my mental and physical health. Inertia has definitely set in. The longer inertia is allowed to stay, the more resistence there is to any kind of movement.

There is one activity that I have not quit doing. It is somewhat  an unconventional  but I believe that it has helped me both physically and emotionally deal with grief.  I attend Sweat Lodges.

I can’t remember if I posted about this on the blog, but attending sweat lodge was a major part of Dan’s inner healing. It put him  in touch with his Native American roots.

Our family doctor suggested that Dan to this and the first sweat that Dan attended, he was not able to complete all of the rounds. I took his place as  his proxy.

It was not an easy sweat because this was the first sweat of the new season and the round that expressed thanksgiving for the new willow saplings for the lodge was quite intense. sweat-lodgeIt was also very warm outside, so this round was not easy for the seasoned veteran of attendants. But, for Dan’s sake, there was nothing that could have prevented me from enduring the heat. After that experience, I knew that I could endure the sweat and I seemed to find a peace during the ceremony.

Since the time of our first sweat, our family doctor completed his study with an elder and he is now able to hold sweats. The elder under which the doctor studied  has taken the elements of the sweat and modified the ceremony to be less specific to the tribe and more universal. Everyone is accepted. The is no restriction or  requirements to observe. You are asked to pray.

After Dan died, our doctor invited me to one of his sweats. I was thankful for the invitation. As I was thinking about attending a sweat on my own, I remembered what my friend, the hospice chaplain, told me about the physical composition of the tears of grief.

She explained that I tears of grief are of a different chemical composistion. She explained that the tears carry away the residue that grief leaves behind in the body.  She wanted to explain this to me because shecould sense that I was refusing to cry. She wanted me to know that tears of grief were made to be released and should I not do this, I was holding within myself toxins that needed to be cleaned from my body.

As I recalled her explaination for tears, I reasoned that the sweat would further help my body by release the toxins that stress and grief manufactured. I also was needing a place where I could moan, lament and cry without worrying about others trying to “fix” me. I need autonomy.

In the hallowed darkness inside the lodge, I am free to allow my grief and pain flow from me. In the midst of  endless tears and drops of sweat, I can feel the toxins and residue of this kind of living are wash from me. In many respects, I as I did when I was baptized.

When the sweat is completed, I feel refreshed and regenerated. Physically, I feel lighter and emotionally, I feel peace. For the short time afterwards, I feel  happiness return and I also enjoy the feast and fellowship that follows the sweat. I feel clean and restored.

For a time after the sweat, I have increased energy and I feel like doing things that I have recently lost interest. The effects of the sweat can last a few weeks before I feel the strain of bereavement return. Then, I begin counting the days until the next sweat.

I attended a sweat this past weekend. Instead of the effects lasting a few weeks, I was returning to the strain after a few short days. I have a couple of months before I can attend the next one and my dream was telling me that I  didn’t have the luxuary of time. I need to counteract this depression, now. I called and made an appointment with my family doctor.

The dream has become the catalyst for me to face  what this pain is costing me.  For some time, now, I knew that I have several symptoms of depression. The one that has plagued me the most is  lack of sleep.

Each night, I fall asleep on the couch around 8:30 in the evening and wake up around 10:30 PM. I know that I must get back to sleep because my alarm clock is set for 3:30 AM. I have to be at the client’s house by 5:30 AM. If I can’t get back to sleep, I will be awake about 20 hours. After a few days of this, I am totally exhausted.

This cycle of sleep deprivation has caused my immune system to be compromised and I can fall victim to every flu virus that comes along.  I cannot afford to miss work and I cannot afford to become chronically ill.

I also noted that I seem to have an increase for minor accidents. Lately, I have pulled muscles in my ribs and arms. I have sprained my ankle and I have fallen more than I usually do. Normally, I don’t find myself so clumsy. But, I know that this kind of thing goes along with depression. Now that I live alone, falling and spraining things are more of a concern. I know that I can have an accident and no one will know until I am able to get to a phone or have another way of communciation. It becomes more of a concern.

Depression can be well disguised when you keep yourself too busy to think. I think that the dream caused me to acknowledge that I need to be wiser than my pride and accept that I need help so as to not be overtaken by this kind of dark of shadow.

After seeing my doctor on Friday, I am to start on an anti depressant this weekend. As I discussed this with him, I expressed that I do not want medication to become a long term kind of treatment. I told him that I do not want something that will keep me from grieving, but rather, I need this medication to be a tool and I want to take this medicine for 6 months to a year period at most.

I won’t be relying on medication alone for this problem. I will be doing the  things that I know will help combat this disorder. I will return to walking for exercise andI will try to eat better. I will also take supplements to help build my immune system.

I also contacted my hospice chaplain friend about a bereavement group that meets at times when I can attend. If there is no group, then I will go back to meeting with her for counseling. I know that this must be a balanced plan.

One of the other tools that has helped me has been writing this blog. You may have noticed that I do not post as often as I have in the past and that I do not respond to comments like I once did. Writing has been my “saving grace”. Now, it is not as fluid. That was also one of my warning signs. Hopefully, the blog will see more attention.

So, now, I begin the uphill climb, up this rugged face of a mountain called depression, toward an emotional recovery. I am not walking an unknown path. Many have struggled with this pain as they try to find life after the death of someone they loved deeply. glorious-sunriseThere is no reason to stay in this dark moment.

I will meet a New Dawn. To accomplish this,  I will need every tool to be successful in this quest.

If it is true that it is darkest before the dawn, then know that, at this moment,  I cannot see my hand in front of my face. But  know this, I shall see the light of a new day dawning…Dan told me that I cannot leave here as yet. I must stay….

Coincidence or Timely Messages?

12_77_57-red-rose_web1Sometimes, the anticipation of pain is worse than the actual pain in and of itself.

I had a neighbor who suffered from kidney stones. He had terrible pain when one would develop and the doctor allowed him to have a very strong pain medication for relief. His wife was a RN so the doctor allowed the medication to be administered by injection while he was home  . It was given every 4-6 hours “as needed”.

It wasn’t too long before the multiple dose vial was empty. The doctor refused to refill the medication because the neighbor went through it so quickly. The neighbor was upset because he only envisioned that the pain would come and he was without anything to offset the excruciating pain.

As his frustrated wife discussed this with me, she voiced her anger that her husband would become totally unreasonable when she tried to encourage him to try a pain pill before having the injection. She also was upset because she knew that the doctor lost trust in her as a nurse because of the quick consumption of the potent pain killer. Once a doctor believes that someone is abusing this kind of medication, there is nothing that will pursuade him to order the medication again.

I suggested to both the neighbor and his wife that it wasn’t the pain that was causing him to reach for the injection, but rather, it was the fear of the pain. The memory of having that kind of horrific pain caused such a fear of its return that a person will want to be relieved of the possibility as much as the pain.  The medication can become a “security blanket” of sorts and the fear had to be dealt. The doctor was not going to allow the fear to become the first steps toward the chance of addiction.

When I said the words “fear of the pain”, my neighbor chimed in that it was the fear of the pain that caused him to become irrate and unreasonable when his wife tried to get him to delay the injection. The fear became more powerful than the pain.

So it seems to be the same with me. I think that the past few weeks of living mountain-in-the-midst-of-a-stormthrough the first wedding anniversary without Dan, remembering in disbelief that the happiness found in the Renewal Ceremony had come and gone and it was just a year ago. And then the first Valentines Day without Dan; all of this was akin to  my neighbor’s fear of the pain. 

My anticipated fear of Valentines Day was more potent and dreadful than the actually living through the day and being reminded of loosing Dan.

Yes, it did hurt to not have the customary card or gift from Dan. Overhearing of everyone’s plan for the special day also was a hurtful reminder that I was alone without love in this world. For a while, it caused melencholy to sweep over me  as I spent the evenings alone.It was the fear of the approaching day that became more intensely painful. That is until I received something special.

I came home on Friday to find a voice message on my home phone. My neighbor said that he found an envelop with a card in it in the ditch in front of his house. It was addressed to me and that he walked the 50 feet to my mailbox and placed it inside. He made the comment that he thought that it was peculiar that the card was so far from my house. He just couldn’t understand how the mail man had lost it so far from my house.

After hearing the message, I went to the mailbox. Inside was an ink smeared envelope. My name and address was barely legible.  On the return address was a familiar name. It was from a friend of Dan’s and mine who worked in one of the doctor’s office.

I stood next to the mailbox and opened the envelope. On the inside of the card, our friend wrote of how much she enjoyed reading this blog and how she looked forward to each new posting. She added how both she and her husband realized how difficult this holiday would be for me. 

She was already familiar with Dan and my story. img_2036She saw us every week for the past year and half. She knew Dan’s personality well. She watched our life unfold around Dan’s  final days. In the card she wrote …”He was so strong and had that certain edge about him that made him so tough-Yet, he seemed so kind and loving at the same time…”  She and the doctor commented on Dan’s will to live and how he fought a hard fight to survive cancer. Inside the card was $25 with the instructions to “treat” myself with coffee and chocolate.

As I stood by the mailbox reading this wonderful card, I marvelled at the special circumstance of receiving this card and I pondered over if this was just coincidence or was this a timely message that I needed to hear???

The Story Continues…Part III

Rehearsals for the spring musical were increasing and the days seemed more hectic. I was busy, but I was excited about singing with the Preacher’s Son.

I loved to sing with him, but I was looking forward to spending some time so that I could talk with him about some of the perplexing things that were happening.

Instead of practicing at the church with his mother, we decided to pick out the song at my brother’s house. We knew that whatever we chose to sing, the Preacher’s Son’s mother could play and follow our lead. We just had to decide on the song.

It was more comfortable at my brother’s. signs-of-springThe Preacher’s Son was more relaxed and he seemed to enjoy the atmosphere. As we looked through the music, I asked him why he didn’t call or come by for Valentine’s Day.

His reply was vague and I was more convinced that I knew so little about what really was going on in his life. He asked about the musical and how things were going at rehearsals.

I told him that the director was biting his fingernails because the cast seemed not to be as serious about the performance as he would have liked. It was then that I decided to ask the Preacher’s Son to come to the cast party with me. He accepted the offer and said that he would look forward to it.

We decided to take a break and go outside. My brother was in the barn and he was saddling up one of his horses. The Preacher’s Son said that he had worked on a horse farm in Chicago and he liked to ride. My brother asked if we would like to take his horse, “Bill” for a little exercise.horses

Now, my history with “Bill” wasn’t a good one. I thought that I loved horses. I would spend hours looking over the fence at this animal and dream of riding him with my hair in the breeze.

The truth of the matter is that Bill hated to be saddled and he really didn’t like people much. I would take him apples to eat and he would gently take them from my hand. At the last minute, he would nip me on the shoulder. He wasn’t being “playful”. This animal liked to inflict pain on people.

So, when the Preacher’s Son got on Bill and reached down to help me up to ride behind him, I was suspicious as to how long Bill would let us be there.

It had been quite a while since a saddle was on this horse’s back and he wasn’t too pleased to have to do what the reins said. The horse walked from the barn to the road. He seemed that he would behave himself, then all of a sudden, he took off at a full gallop.

I was hanging on to the Preacher’s Son with all my might, but this horse was heading for the woods and low branches. The Preacher’s Son was pulling on the reins to get this horse to slow down, but the more he pulled, the faster this bag of glue would run.

In front of us was a fence and I could see that Bill was going to try and rake us of off of his back by taking out our legs. Still, the Preacher’s Son was trying to get this out of control animal to mind and the horse, which was more like a mule, was running as fast as he could. I was loosing my grip on the Preacher’s Son and I was thinking how to fall off of this nag without getting kicked in the head by those flying hooves.

I told the Preacher’s Son that I couldn’t hang on much longer. It was then that the Preacher’s Son pulled on the reins to where the horse’s head was looking at him eye to eye. Bill finally stopped his running rampage.

After we stopped and dismounted, the Preacher’s Son took the reins and pulled the horse’s head down to his level. The Preacher’s Son pulled back his arm and landed a fist on the side of the Bill’s head.  Then, the Preacher’s Son mounted and pulled me back on the horse.

Old Bill walked docilely back to the barn as if butter would have melted in his mouth. I think that it was then that I decided that I never would own a horse.

It was getting dark and the Preacher’s Son said that he had to go home. I didn’t get to talk with him about all of the things that were on my mind. I just knew that this boy was hiding himself. Not just from me, but to most everyone around him.

He said that he would tell his mother about the song that we chose to sing and to come early on Sunday morning so that we could run through it before service.

As I watched his ’51 Ford leave down the winding drive, my heart ached. So much to say, to ask and so little time to say it…

I was more excited about the cast party than the performance. I would be going to the cast party with the Preacher’s Son. It would prove to be quite interesting to have the old boyfriend and the Preacher’s Son in the same place at the same time…

Time In A Bottle

As I think about this day, the first Wedding Anniversary without him, I wonder,” Do you still have wedding anniversaries when you are a widow? ?”

It was our day, now it is mine. Mine alone.

As I write about the beginning when we were 17 and 18 years old, this day becomes a reminder that, it isn’t only our Wedding Anniversary, but today is exactly 38 years from our first date.

Instead of Spring, there must be something about “Midwinter” that became our time. Warmth from cold, love from second chances, and dreams from painful losses, all are contrasts and so were we.

I was the “good girl” and he was the “bad boy”. Later on, I was the “business woman” and he was the “hard core biker”. I was the Christian and he was the Lost Soul. How could there be compatiblity? So much for eHarmony if we abided by perceptions.

The past opinions were costly perceptions that caused us to live with lost time and love lost. He was told that he wasn’t good enough for me. I never knew this until we married. Those opinions cost us 25 years. What is the price of time?

Like the song, I wish I could save those 25 years that we were apart in a bottle. I would have loved to been his young bride with the hope of family and children with him. Instead, we had the later part of our young adult life and the beginning of our middle age years.

I am grateful for those years that were seasoned with life experience. Sometimes, when the pain seems too great, I ask myself if I would have walked away from him had I known about the premature loss from cancer? Then, I realize, I would have been even more resolved to be a part of his life if I had known he would die at 55.

Saving time…if only there was a way. But, there is no way to save time when it is lost….just like Dan, it is gone…

The Story Continues Part II

b2f40d9f9cdcd14c1The Spring musical was fast approaching. Again, I was given my choice of roles to play.

The musical was Oklahoma and I knew that my cousin was cast as the male romantic lead. I decided against playing the female romantic lead because I doubted that I would be able to keep from laughing. He and I were kissing cousins when we were kids and I didn’t think that I could overcome the “giggles”.

I also knew that my old boyfriend was going to play the part of Ali Hakum, the swindling con man. I knew the part of Aunt Eller was antagonistic toward this character. I thought that I would really enjoy giving him “what for” so I chose to play the supporting role rather than playing Ado Annie, the girl who “Just Can’t Say No”…

The songs by Aunt Eller were not memerabale, but I liked acting as much as singing so the director cast me in that role. I was looking forward to it.

All of this effected my time. I soon was too busy to ponder as to why the Preacher’s Son had become so evasive. In reality, he was never far from my mind. Neither was the old boyfriend.

I met with him after lunch as I agreed to do. He was apologetic and he wanted to take me to the Prom. He knew that the Prom was closed to anyone who was not a student at the school. He knew that the Preacher’s Son would not be able to take me.

As I think back on it now, I don’t know why I agreed to go with him, but I did. I guess I was hoping that, by agreeing, he would call off his little “dog” that met me after Econ class everyday. I was really sick of seeing her face on a daily basis.

I knew that there was something more that the old boyfriend wanted to say, but it was time to go to class and I knew that I didn’t want to hear it. I said that I had to go.

The next few days, I didn’t see the Preacher’s Son when I went to work. He was on the road and the timing was all off. Finally, that Friday, payday, he came into the office and everyone else was out of the room.

I thanked him for the flowers. I also asked him why he didn’t call or come by. He gave me a vague answer and then my sister came into the room. He picked up his check and he was gone.

I didn’t know what was happening. My heart was telling me one thing and his actions were saying the opposite. His eyes said one thing and his actions said another. I could always read his eyes.

So, I did what I knew to do. I prayed. That was the only answer for troubled souls and I knew that something was truly troubling the Preacher’s Son.

Everyday, I went to my room after coming home from school, I got on my knees and poured my heart out to God. I didn’t understand all of these feeling and I didn’t understand how I could see that the Preacher’s Son’s heart was restless, but I knew it was.

I prayed for my old boyfriend, too. I could see the hurt in his eyes and I didn’t want to be the cause of the pain, but I knew that there was nothing in my heart for him.

As March rolled around, the date of the show and rehersals were bearing down on all of us. I was having a blast with dancing with one of the guys in the cast. Imagine my surprise when he ran for Mayor a few years back.

I recalled how he picked me up and let me go without me finding my balance. I fell into a prop bench that was where I was to sit down after the “square dance” segment. When I fell back into it, it shattered into pieces. Of couse, the director wanted the scene done like that on the night of the performance, but my rear end couldn’t take it. It would have been so funny.

I was growing tired of staying home on weekends. I wanted to go “cruising”. There was a couple of streets where all of the kids would drive through, make a turn and loop down the other side of the street.

This had gone on since my brother (who was 15 years older than me) was a teenager, if not before. There would be a few who would park their cars and stand on the street. They would yell at those who they knew or make fun of the cars.

I knew that I couldn’t go alone, so I made arrangements to pick up a few of my girlfriends. It was the thing to do and I loved cars, so I wanted to “scoop the loop”.img_4389

As I drove the loop, I saw the Preacher’s Son. He was standing next to his car with his “Third Members” car club jacket on. I also saw my cousin and a few other guys that I knew from school.

I honked my horn and the Preacher’s Son and all of the other guys waved and hollered, but by the next pass, the Preacher’s Son was gone. He and a few of the other guys had taken off and again, I was confused. It seemed that I had developed the plague or something.

On Sunday, I saw the Preacher’s Son at church. He and I were asked to sing a special song for next Sunday’s service. His mother would accompany us on the piano.

“Finally”, I thought.  I would be able to have a chance to talk to him about this confusing behavior and what was bothering him about me.

Practice was set for Wednesday evening after church…

The Story Continues….

As I returned to school on Monday, the refrains of “Mr Bo Jangles” were ringing in my head. But, whatever pleasure that I took in replaying the memory, it was erased when the same girl appeared at the door of my Econ class.

She was there to tell me about another supposed “date” that she was on with the Preacher’s Son. I must have been a second cousin to a mule because the more she talked, the more I was resolved to not believe anything that she or anyone else said. I was living in my moment and I liked it there.

I didn’t see my old boyfriend in school for a few days. I didn’t know where he was, nor did I care. No one said anything about him to me, either. I guess I made myself quite clear that I didn’t want to know anything about him and if I did, I would ask him myself.

The next week was my father’s birthday and the family was going to go out to eat in Indianapolis. I asked the Preacher’s Son to go with us.

At first, he said that he was busy. I know I had a perplexed look on my face. I didn’t quite understand why he acted like he didn’t want to go. But, after a  few hours , he called and said that he rearranged whatever he was to do and he would be joining all of us. I was thrilled.

The rest of the week, I would see him for a few minutes out of the day when I went to work. He was in and out of the office to collect his bills for his delivery. He would smile or say “Hi”, but he didn’t have time to talk.

Finally, the Saturday night of my dad’s birthday party came. I was so excited. The Preacher’s Son wanted to drive, but my dad insisted that we all ride together…bummer!

As I think back on that event, it must have been very uncomfortable for him. Going to your boss’ birthday dinner and being on “high alert” because you were there with the boss’ daughter…the Preacher’s Son had “moxy”.

Things seemed to go well, but I noticed that the Preacher’s Son seemed to avoid my sister. He would answer her questions, but he never relaxed, not like he did when he was at my brother’s house.

When we returned at my house, he didn’t stay. It was Saturday night and my parents were insisting that I go to bed early because we had church in the morning.

He gave me a “Good night” kiss and I said that I would see him in the morning, but I didn’t. He wasn’t at church.

I don’t know why, maybe it was because my mother had a strict rule about a girl not being forward and asking about a boy, but I didn’t inquire as to where he was. I just knew that he wasn’t there and I wondered why. I could have asked his mother, but then that would have been breaking my mom’s rule….and that would have been trouble for me later.

This was new territory for me. I had no idea what was happening. I guess I thought that, since I broke up with my old boyfriend to date the Preacher’s Son, that he would take over that part of my life. I didn’t know so much.

I didn’t know that the Preacher’s Son’s mother advised him to “date around” and not get serious with any girl…and he took his mother’s advise.

Days went by and I didn’t see him at work. Valentine’s Day was fast approaching and I was beginning to wonder if I would be seeing him. I was wondering if what I thought he felt was the same as what I was feeling. I was perplexed and confused by his actions and even more by my emotions.

The week of Valentine’s Day went by and I didn’t see the Preacher’s Son at work. He wasn’t messing up on his time card and he was in and out of the office making deliveries. There was no time to talk. He didn’t call either.

12_77_57-red-rose_web1Valentine’s Day was on a Saturday that year and about 10 AM, the door bell rang. My mom went to the door and there was a delivery from the florist. The Preacher’s Son had sent a bouquet of flowers. I was overjoyed and I thought for sure that a call would follow.

Lunch time past and about 2 PM, the door bell rang again. It was the florist. This time, there was a single rose in a vase delivered. It was from the old boyfriend…still no call.

The rest of the evening past and I was feeling so disappointed. Yes, I liked the flowers. They were my first flowers sent to me by a guy,  but I would rather have the guy than the flowers. I never received a phone call from the Preacher’s Son.

Sunday came and I saw the Preacher’s Son in church, but he left before the service was dismissed and I didn’t get to thank him for the flowers.

The rest of the day, I spent in my room totally wondering what was all of this about. The phone rang and my heart took a leap. I was hoping that it was the Preacher’s Son, but it was the old boyfriend.

He asked if I received the rose and I said that I did. I remembered my manners and thanked him. He knew that I couldn’t talk on the phone very long, so, before I had to get off of the phone, he asked me if I would meet him. He needed to talk with me.

I didn’t want to do that. He had embarassed me at the basketball game and I was still mad at him for that. He kept telling me that it was really important…so I told him that I would see him at school tomorrow after lunch.

I was really beginning to dislike him a lot. I knew that he was behind the daily harassment by “the freshman girl” and I also knew that I really disliked the “spies” that he had stationed in the hallways…as if I didn’t know that he had done that one…

I guess I had a sense of obligation because of the rose. I just wanted to get this over with and I was preoccupied with wondering what had gone wrong with the Preacher’s Son.

Life seemed so much simplier when I just had homework, musicals, school and work….and not so many emotions. What was happening and why did it feel like crying?


Our First Date…Part II

This was beginning to be a little too much excitement. What was up with all of this? All I wanted to do was enjoy being on a date with a guy that I really liked?  I was beginning to realize that there was more to the Preacher’s Son than I knew. At that time, I was determined to not listen to what was being said about him. I didn’t like gossip and I didn’t appreciate everyone wanting to be in “my business”.

I also was realizing that ”breaking up” with the old boyfriend wasn’t going to be as simple as I thought it would be…what did he yell at the Preacher’s Son?

What did he mean, “I will see you later????”

It took 25 plus years before I knew what transpired regarding those words. After we married, my husband told me that the old boyfriend drove to the parsonage the next day.

The fight ensued. I think that was the first fight that my old boyfriend ever had and I am sure that he will never forget it. How can a boy from Cornfield County know how to fight someone who fought on the streets of northern Chicago? Needless to say, the old boyfriend learned alot about getting into fights over a girl that day.

I was oblivious to all of this. I had no idea what was being said or done outside of my little world. I didn’t know that the Preacher’s Son was told that he wasn’t good enough for me.

After we left the gym, we drove to the next town. There was a new Pizza Hut in Columbus and I was so excited to go anywhere but the old haunts of the home town.

We talked about Chicago and all of the “getting to know you” kind of things. He told me about playing the bass violin and orchestra. We explored our likes and dislikes of  music, family and church.

While we were waiting for the pizza, a song was playing on the PA and the Preacher’s Son began to sing along with it. I had never had anyone to just begin singing and he sang this song for me, just me. I was “smitten”.

I was so impressed with his voice, his easy way with a song that was not the latest hit. He was amazing.

Much too soon, my curfew was fast approaching and we were going to have to go back to my house. I didn’t want it to end…but, I also knew that my mother would be manning that porch light and I didn’t want to have to jump out of the car and go running into the house.

We arrived a few minutes early and we sat in his car. I really didn’t want to go inside. I was so comfortable with him and he with me. As I sat beside him, his arms went around me and I was enfolded in a place of warm and safety. I didn’t understand how someone’s touch could make me feel like “home”, but it did.

The windows on that old Ford began to steam up. The passion that filled that cold car was beyond my imagination. But, the foggy windows was a signal to my mother to start the blinking of the porch light.

The porch light was flashing like a neon light on the Vegas strip and, the longer that I ignored it, the more I knew that I would be punished if I didn’t get inside.

Relunctly, he walked me to the door and we said, “Good Night”. It was over. Our first date was ending. For me,  it was just the beginning of  “something wonderful” …

A Hard Day’s Night-Part II

“As I turned the car for home, I called my sister in law. I was ready for a meal and I knew that the hardest part of this day still laid ahead. The end of 2008, the year of my husband’s death, was fast approaching…

This hard day was entering into night….”rebirth

My sister in law was waiting for me when I arrived at the restaurant. I felt such relief to see her face.

I needed the warm hug that was at the ready for me when she saw me coming in the door. I needed that hug more than I needed food.

The first thing that she saw was the gash on my head. By this time, the bandaid had fallen off and the wound was exposed for all to see. So, the waitress was curious about what had happened and I was too tired to go into detail. I passed it off as a loosing battle with a car door. It was.

Today, the car had the better of the score. Car- 2, Me- 0…

By this time, I was all out of decision making ability and deciding what to order was just too much for me to do. I ordered soup….That was something that I hadn’t eaten for a long time.

Dan had been on a clear liquid diet for over a month and I had eaten what he could eat. Soup was eaten on a daily basis, until that moment of indecision, I hadn’t wanted to see another bowl of soup. Tonight, soup and a sandwich was a safe decision to make.

It was good to sit and talk about the day. She listened and her eyes welled with knowing tears as I explained how I just couldn’t shake the never ending tears. I knew that I didn’t have to hide anything. With her, I could be as transparent as I needed to be.

I don’t think that the average person comprehends just how much of a mask that people in grief must wear. If you allow people to see the deep pain and terrible sorrow, they run away as fast as they can.

They don’t mean to. They are just so uncomfortable with things that are not controllable. They are helpless in the face of such pain and, in their empathy, they become as overwhelmed as your own heart.

Transparency of the heart is like walking in on someone coming out of the shower. Embarrassment seems to be the first response such full exposure. It is the natural tendency to turn your head and leave the room. So it is when people see your breaking heart. You are fully exposured. They are totally embarrassed.

At least, at this moment, in the presence of my sister in law, there was no fear of over exposure or transparency. It felt good to let down my guard.

I finished telling her about all of the vexing details of this day. She shared her heart about her heartaches with her son and his family. It was good to share the things that we hide from everyone.

She shared her heart about missing my brother, the things that she said at Dan’s Memorial Service and how much she loved watching him with his children….it was good to be able to talk about Dan and my brother.

Dan and my brother were very much alike. The two women that knew them best had no problem seeing just how much their hearts were similar. Their personalities were made from the same cloth.

The main difference was where Dan was not shy about his opinions and extroverted, my brother was more cautious and more reclusive with his thoughts and opinions. That didn’t mean he didn’t have them, he just avoided conflict as much as possible.

As we recalled how both men believed that they walked this earth without a friend, we recalled the scenes from my brother’s funeral and from Dan’s Memorial Service.

My brother had people who waited for hours to come to his viewing. The line outside circled the block. Both, my sister and I thought how ironic that my brother thought that he didn’t have a “friend”.

Dan’s inner heart was always looking for a friend, a man, who he could trust to always be in his corner. He had “friends”, but I think he was looking for that bond that he could trust wouldn’t be betrayed.

As we remembered the outpouring of people at the final event in their lives, we wondered how could they not know the hundreds of people who counted them as friends?

I believe that their inability to believe that they had true friends was rooted deeply in their childhood. Each had learned to keep their scars hidden. They both missed having a close father/son relationship. The emotional scars visited upon them from living in the families that judged their own rather harshly had caused them to place  high walls around their willingness to allow people to know them. I saw that it was their way to survive those who they loved.

The day continued in its stubborn and annoying irritations. I asked the waitress if the coffee was fresh. I needed a cup of good coffee. She replied that it was 30 minutes old. She called it fresh. Not in my opinion, but she said that if I didn’t like it she would fetch me something else to drink.

She brought the coffee. I tasted the coffee. I said that it wasn’t fresh. She took it back and brought me something else to drink.

When the soup arrived, it wasn’t warm enough to melt the cheese on top. I sent it back to be “zapped” in the microwave. When she brought out the BLT sandwich, there wasn’t any tomato on my Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato sandwich. I sent it back….

I don’t know why I expected that my string of minor irritations should end just because it was later in the day. It was just a continuation of whatever this “string” of annoyances was all about.

After about the 4th correction of my order, I just started to laugh. It was just a “BAD DAY” and it had nothing to do with me, the waitress or the date. It was just one of those days that the simplest of tasks was accompanied by a complication…

I don’t know how those kind of days occur. Is it a manifestation of the person’s state of mind for that day? Is it just a phenomenon of events lining up that are determined to not go smoothly and like a intricate domino string, once one thing is knocked over, each one sets the other toward a cascading misadventure? I don’t know and I didn’t have the emotional or mental energy to contemplate it.

We left the resturant for home and a wonderful welcome awaited from Mozart. He was so excited to see his “aunty”. He loves my sister in law. She stays with him on the weekends that I have to work.

As she brought her things into the house, he followed her everywhere. He even refused to go outside without her…

I still wanted a cup of coffee, so I fixed a pot of coffee for us. As we drank the warm brew, we talked. We talked about this year, the past years, Dan and his heart, and my brother. Even after 19 years, my sister in law still has the pain of loss and the longing for my brother to be with her.

Yes, everyone says that time will blunt the acute pain that I feel now, but I also know that it never goes away. My sister in law told me of how, not long ago, she passed a place that she routinely passes on her way to her mother’s house.

For years, she has seen the old stock cars sitting in the garage area of the neighbor who still races. But on a day, not any particular day, she passed the location and seeing one of his stock cars,  she burst into tears.

It was one of those unexpected waves of grief that she didn’t know was creeping up on her. Nineteen years later, this kind of pain surfaces out of the blue…grief…

Grief is sneaky. I thought that it is like an amputated limb. Your eyes tell you that that it is gone and you work towards rehabilitation and compensation so that you can go on and live life. No matter how long it has been since loosing that part of your body, you can still feel it. In the middle of the night in a half sleep, you reach down to scratch an itch on a limb that is no longer there. 

The medical world calls this  phantom pain. It can be maddening. You continue to have feeling as if it is still there, then, you remember, it is gone. A part of you is missing, but you still feel as if it never left you.

As I tried to understand why all of this hit me on New Year’s Eve, I realized that it didn’t matter.  A very real part of me is feeling, but I am missing what has been  real, a core part of me. And I shall feel the phantom pain. Always.

By what my sister in law shared, I know that I will never get over being left behind to spend my life alone. I don’t know why being alone is so frightening for me. I think that it is something that reaches back so very far in me. Maybe it stems from being a very lonely child and remembering what it was to find Dan.

There was such a soul tie between Dan and I that, even when we were married to other people, we were still bonded. I don’t understand this kind of emotional tie, I just know that from, the time I was 17 years old, I have been a part of Dan and he of me. I wasn’t alone as long as Dan was in my life.

The night was uneventful. My sister in law and I talked, we “cat napped” to wake up in time to see the ball drop in New York. Then, we slept the first few hours of 2009 away…

New Year’s Day became just another day again. A day that caused our minds to think about the upcoming day of work and I began to realize that the luxury of doing nothing was over.

I know that this month may have more difficult days ahead. It is the month that Dan and I dated for the first time. It the month of our  wedding anniversary and it was just last year that we celebrated our Wedding/Renewal-our last anniversary together.

Three weeks later, it is Valentine’s Day…memories and  milestones in time. That is what is ahead and I must be better prepared and more aware that grief is waiting in these early days of 2009.

Janurary 1st….Dan died 6 months ago today…

Our First Date

As we pulled into the driveway, the porch light began to flash and I knew that the strobe light effect meant that my mother was at the door signaling for me to come inside. The Preacher’s Son walked me to the door but, instead of the anticipated  lightening bolt, he gave me a quick kiss and said, “Until Friday…” then he was gone.

As I went into the house, I was full of emotion.. Joy, disappointment, fear, excitement and anticipation… they filled me at the same time. What a whirlwind! It was a little frightening. As I tried to fall asleep, all I could think about was our upcoming date on Friday.

The next few days were torturous. I had no idea that the whirlwind would turn into such a drama.

My old boyfriend had rallied his friends to come to his aide. The next morning, I was met after my first class by a freshman girl that I had never seen before that moment.  She proceeded to walk beside me as I made my way to my next class.

She began the conversation with complimenting me on my performance in the recent musical and then she started telling me how she and the Preacher’s Son had been out together in his car drinking earlier in the week.

Later, I learned that she lived close by my old boyfriend and she was known as “Hot Pants”. Her nickname was from wearing the shortest of shorts and her reputation seemed to mirror her nickname.

I didn’t understand her intentions or why she thought that she could find me and start this kind of a conversation. I didn’t know her. Why she was in the 300 building?

This was a brand new building and most all of the classes held in the building were at the Senior level. As far as I knew, there were no freshman classes in this building, so that meant that she had to leave the main building,  get to my classroom, walk with me to my next class and then try and make it to her class. Why was she willing to get into trouble for being late to her class? It didn’t make sense to me.

She was there the next day and I began to dread the ending of my  economics class. Again, she was outside the door waiting for me. Again, she had some story of an escapade that she and the Preacher’s Son had supposedly done. I didn’t like this at all, but it wasn’t enough for me to call off my date with the Preacher’s Son.

Word spread quickly about my breaking up with my boyfriend. Everyone wanted to know why especially everyone in Advanced Choir. They asked me who I was dating. I said nothing. All of this interrogation made me more resolved to say nothing.

Even though I didn’t run in the circle of “the popular kids”, I knew most everyone in my senior class and they knew of me. Imagine my surprise when some of the guys that I was in class with began wanting to talk to me about my breakup with my boyfriend and that they heard that I was dating the Preacher’s Son.

Where was all this concern and attention coming from? All of this new interest in my personal life was becoming a little “much”. Where were they before I broke up with my boyfriend? Why were they saying all of these things?

I  knew the Preacher’s Son from church and work. I didn’t know anything else and so, when they began to tell me about the rumors that they heard involving the Preacher’s Son, I dismissed them. The person that I knew wasn’t anything like the person they were talking about.

I suspected that my old boyfriend was behind all of this flurry of concern. It seemed that he showed up around every corner. He followed me between classes. He followed me to the gym or he would join whatever group of friends that I was talking to after lunch. The more I tried to avoid him, the more he appeared to be everywhere that I went. It seemed that he had become my shadow.

The day of the basketball game was finally here. I was so excited. I planned what I would wear and I was ready and waiting anxiously for the Preacher’s Son to pick me up.

This was a welcomed change from being the one who did the driving and the picking up. Even though my old boyfriend had gotten his license, he wasn’t allowed to use the family car so I continued being the one to pick him up. I was excited that the Preacher’s Son was driving and that I was going to be able to sit in the middle of the front seat.

I was expecting him to drive his ’51 Ford, but instead, he had his father’s Buick. I was a little disappointed. I really liked the Ford but I thought it rather sweet that he borrowed his dad’s car to take me on our first date.

He and I arrived at the high school gym to watch the basketball game. The place was jam packed. The team was playing well and there were great hopes that we could make it to the Final Four. That was every high school’s dream.

Indiana is known for its love of high school basketball. The movie “Hoosiers” tells the story of how a small high school dreamed of beating the “big schools” and winning the title. It wasn’t any different 20 years later. This  year we all believed that our school had a shot at the title of State Champions. The year before, our team had gone to the Semi-State finals and we were hoping for a repeat and to advance into the Final Four.

I, especially, had an interest in the team. The star player was struggling to keep his grades up. To insure  that he could stay “eligible”, I and a few others were doing his homework for him.  Back then, the players had to maintain a grade average of a “C” to play ball. If they slipped under that grade average, they would not be able to play until the next grading period. By that time, the basketball season would be over.

I would do this guy’s English and Spanish assignments and someone did his math and science. I don’t remember who covered his government and history classes, but we all pitched in to keep him playing. (Who could have imagined that he would become one of Indiana’s Congressman???) I wanted to watch the game to see if my efforts were going to good use. Through this kind of investment, I believed that I was doing my part to get our school in the finals. We called it “Team Spirit”…I think that the teacher’s and the school would call it “cheating” but my senior class was wanting to win the championship…whatever it took.

As the Preacher’s Son and I threaded our way through the crowed gym, I remember thinking that I was  happy. For the first time in my life, I could say that I knew what happiness felt like.

Growing up so isolated in the country and sheltered, I had been so lonely. Most times, I didn’t allow myself to feel. I just kept thinking that someday, I would find someone who loved me and then I would be happy. There were just so many new and unfamiliar emotions that the Preacher’s Son brought along with him and I was grateful that “happiness” was one of them.

The reactions coming from my friends were strange. Some seemed to want to keep their distance. I didn’t know if this was the result of my old boyfriend or if they were upset with me for breaking up with him. It definately was different and perplexing.

As the game was ending, the Preacher’s Son wanted to know if I wanted to leave early to beat the traffic jam that would form when the game ended. The team was winning and I thought it was a good idea and we started toward the door.

As we navigated our way through the crowd, the Preacher’s Son was leading me by the hand when I felt something hard hit my hand. It broke my grasp and it startled me.

There, in front of me, stood the old boyfriend. He had broken the Preacher’s Son’s grip on my hand so that he could walk between us.

At first, I was embarrassed by his actions and then, I was angry. I stood there feeling like I was about to explode when the Preacher’s Son grabbed my hand and pulled me away toward the door.

The old boyfriend shouted  something to the Preacher’s Son that I didn’t hear clearly and when we were out of the door, I asked the Preacher’s Son what was said. He refused to tell me.

We quickly got into his father’s car and took off before the old boyfriend could follow us and start more trouble…

This was beginning to be a little too much excitement. What was up with all of this? All I wanted to do was enjoy being on a date with a guy that I really liked?  I was beginning to realize that there was more to the Preacher’s Son than I knew. At that time, I was determind to not listen to what was being said about him. I didn’t like gossip and I didn’t appreciate everyone wanting to be in “my business”.

I also was realizing that “breaking up” with the old boyfriend wasn’t going to be as simple as I thought it would be…what did he yell at the Preacher’s Son?

What did he mean, “I will see you later????”

The Only One

My life was shaped by a simple and sheltered but strong world view. It was based on my parent’s generational values. Right was right and wrong was wrong. The thought of living your life with a view point that was relevant to circumstances was totally absent. There were absolutes to be observed and truth was truth. That was it.

My world view was also shaped by my church and the “guidelines” that it set out for those who were serious about their spirtual walk with God.  The Ten Commandments were not suggestions. My church was very consevative and “holiness” was to be observed in all things including the way you dressed, how you conducted yourself and the places that you frequented. During  that period of time, I accepted and totally believed what I was taught without any doubt. I was very serious about my spiritual life and the spiritual life of others.

The other major influence on my life were my older siblings. They became  my “Signposts” as to how to navigate the years that I was fast approaching.

My brother was 15 years older and my sister was 11 years older than me . I watched their lives and assumed I would walk the same path as they.

I do not have any memories that do not include my sister’s husband. He came to the house almost every night and I, at 3 and 4 years old,  would wait  in anticipation for him.

He would pay me a quarter for every time that I told him if a “certain” boy called my sister or if she wore shorts or her bathing suit while she mowed the grass. Taking into consideration the value of a quarter in the late ’50’s, it  was the best money that I ever made. I think that it was bribery, but it paid really good. My sister was 16 when she became engaged and she was married the summer after her graduating high school.

My mother always told my brother to not date anyone that he wouldn’t want to marry. In those days of  double standards, it was good and wise advise for a young man. In the late 1950’s/ early ’60’s, should my brother get someone pregnant, there most definitely would be a “shot gun” wedding and my mother was telling him that he had better like the girls he dated.

At 7 and 8 years old, I didn’t understand the reasoning behind her advise and I didn’t comprehend  anything about a double standard for guys and girls. I only remember my brother dating one girl and she became my sister in law. I think my brother listened well to my mother’s advise.

This is how I thought everyone lived ife.  It was the way of  my sheltered and controled world and I had no reason to think otherwise. I belived that this was how life was lived and the  “Rules” applied to everyone. I was in for a great disillusion.

In the early ’70’s,  there were a lot of changes to these “rules”, but I was so isolated, I didn’t know about it. I wasn’t allowed to listen to the “rock” radio stations and on Sundays, I was not allowed to watch TV. For me, there were only 3 options as you turned the corner toward 18.

If you were prepared, you went to college. It wasn’t easy to get into college back then so you had better have your grades and your transcript acceptible if you were going. There was a big reason for the colleges and universities to be so particular. It was called “Vietnam”. Colleges may accept you, but the first semester was focused on “washing out” as many as possible so that the draft could have its necessary “supply”.

The second option was to find a job and work. It didn’t mean that you left home, but if you lived at home and had a job, you could be asked to pay “rent” . To my parent’s way of thinking, if you were working, you could contribute financially to your “room and board”. In other words, if you made money, you could pay money. This is how it was explained to me by my father and I had no reason to doubt that he would ask me to pay “rent”.

The third option was to get married. It wasn’t so unusual for many to leave high school and, in short order, marry their high school sweetheart. No one thought that you were too young to marry at 18 or 19 years old. In fact, you were expected to be able to support yourself and a family. No one thought you ill prepared for life. In fact, they thought you were missing something if you were unable or unwilling to do this.

In 1971, I was approaching my 18th birthday and I believed that I was looking at my future from a different perspective than I ever considered before meeting the Preacher’s Son.

After the kiss in the garage, I went to school on Monday and met my boyfriend after lunch. I told him that I wanted to date someone else and that this time, we were finished.

I expected him to cry, but instead, he got really angry. He wanted to know the name of the guy that I wanted to date, but I refused to tell him and this only made him angrier.

Needless to say, the next few days at school were really difficult and, even though I avoided him as much as possible, I was with him in Advanced Choir. His anger unnerved me. I didn’t expect this kind of reaction and I didn’t understand it. In my mind, it was really simple. I was done.

All the same, I was relieved that I was finally free of my obligation to the director and I was also free to date the Preacher’s Son.

After school, I went to work and I told my sister in law that I “broke up” with my boyfriend. I knew that she would tell the Preacher’s Son.

He wasn’t at the plant when I arrived after school. My brother had taught him to drive one of the semi tractor and trailers  and he was making deliveries. Instead of  walking down to the sawmill break room, I might see him when came into the office to pick up his bills of lading.

The following Wednesday night, after “Prayer Meeting”, the Preacher’s Son asked my dad if he could take me for a coke. Imagine my surprise!

I was not so surprised that he wanted to take me for a “coke”, but I was in a state of shock that he asked my dad’s permission. It took real “nerve” to ask my dad anything. I avoided it as much as possible. My dad consented with the stipulation that I had to be home before 9 pm. It was a school night.

As we  went into town in his 1951 Ford, I was thrilled to be able to ride in this car. Since I was a little girl, I knew the make and model of every year of car on the road. I loved them.

My love affair with cars began with my dad’s love of speed. He would drag race my brother and his friends in the family’s 1957 Chevy Impala. I was about 4 or 5 when Dad would  sneak off to the “Quarter Mile” that was just below Madden Hill. I was allowed to go with him if I didn’t tell my mom. I never told.

At the Quarter Mile, he would pull up beside my brother’s buddy. The bet would be made and I was the one who got to yell at the top of my lungs, “Go”. My dad had great reflexes and he was able to get the “hole shot”. The 1957 Chevy would fly and I was flying with it as I stood on the seat next to my dad.

From this kind of influence, I learned about a car’s performance,  gear ratios, and all things relating to horsepower. On vacations, if I didn’t recognize a car, I would ask Dad what kind of car that it was.  By this time in my life, I knew the makes and model of cars from 1949 until the early ’70’s. 

I was almost as excited to ride in the Preacher’s Son’s Ford as I was being in the car with him. I know, it was strange, but it was my world. 

Things were a  little different between us than when we were at my brother’s. It was the first time that he and I were alone.  I suppose I was more nervous because I knew that I already liked this guy more than I ever liked my old boyfriend. It went beyond that, but I didn’t know what it was at that moment in time.

We talked and we laughed and then he asked me out for the Friday night basketball game. Of course, I accepted.

As it approached my 9 PM curfew, the Preacher’s Son was in a hurry to get me home. I can’t imagine the pressure that was on him. He knew that if he didn’t get me back on time, I may not be able to go to the game on Friday. It could also bring problems at work for him. He was dating the boss’ daughter.

As we pulled into my circular driveway,  it came time for the “good night kiss”….