“The damned knives are still dull,” I mutter to myself. “I need Vic to sharpen them.”
Just washed organic lettuce, bright baby peppers, and cucumbers drain into the kitchen sink. I gently sweep them to the maple counter top, a chopping block wide enough for two. We designed it by standing elbow to elbow and measuring the distance two choppers need to avoid bumping into each other.
I grab a knife from the magnetic holder. Dull. I grab a second. Duller. Then a third. Dullest.
Vic honed our knives with rectangular sharpening stones every week. I had knives to envy, but that’s past tense. Continue reading →
“What’s wrong?” I asked Patty. Patty was Mom’s aide at the skilled nursing home. She wore colorful smocks with floral prints and always smiled, but not today. Aides stood around in quiet clumps with frowns on their faces. Had someone died?
“There’s a patient we can’t feed. Everyone’s upset,” Patty said.
“Why can’t you feed her?” I asked. My heart pounded as I waited for her answer. My mom had been lying in a fetal position for years, unresponsive and comatose. All that was left of her was bones and a swallow reflex. They put a straw to her lips and she sucked. They put gruel in her mouth and she swallowed.
“The woman had a stroke and her Advanced Directives says we can’t feed her or give her water if she doesn’t respond,” Penny said with a sad shake of her head.
Marion Woodman‘s last letter came in February 2011, almost three years after my husband Vic’s death.
I first met her in 1996 and we had corresponded since 2003. In the last years, her neat and orderly letters had become scraps on the back of an envelope or old greeting card. Lines wandered about the page, but she was still there with wise intuitions, reflections, and guidance. When I needed encouragement, she wrote, “DO IT!” When I needed comfort, she held my raw grief tenderly and wrote of her own marriage and how hard it would be to go it alone.
In her last note written on the back of an old birthday card, she said she was determined to write to me. Her note ended with this: “As you bring to consciousness your feeling and try to work with it. Be Gentle with yourself. Let the warm love flow.” Continue reading →
“If you have your health, you have everything you need,” Dad said.
He looked fit, played golf, and smoked Lucky Strikes like the doctors in Life Magazine ads and the other men in Mexico, Missouri in the 1950s, but he was often too sick to get out of bed. My mother grew quiet then and cooked him special foods. She blinked and cleared her throat too often.
“I remember when your dad had rheumatic fever when we were kids,” Uncle Jim told me many years ago. “We plowed furrows next to each other, walking behind our horses. I’d get to the end of the row and wait for him to catch up.” Continue reading →
I stood naked in my husband Vic’s office on a sunny afternoon. I had taken a fast shower after working in the garden. My wet hair was wrapped in a towel, but the rest of me dripped on the rug.
“I know what I want. I want to be a nutritionist,” I said. “I will be a nutritionist.” I spit the words out loud and fast so they wouldn’t slip away.
Vic turned his office chair toward me and grinned. He knew I’d been fishing for my next step. Our youngest son was starting kindergarten and I needed a project. I hadn’t thought about studying nutrition in years, but I came to Cornell in 1963 to major in nutrition. Instead, I was hijacked by anti-Vietnam war politics, marches on Washington, and “Hell no, we won’t go,” so I majored in government with a focus on Southeast Asia. Continue reading →
It’s all a misunderstanding. I mean, I misunderstood. I’m sorry, I can’t hear you. I can’t always make sense of the noisy world. I feel far away and a little out of focus. Much of my hearing is gone.
Hearing loss began twenty years ago and progressed slowly. One hearing aid, then two, then higher tech models. I lost the pleasure of music and movie soundtracks years ago, but could hear your words.
Hearing stabilized during my husband Vic’s illness and didn’t change after his death, but a roaring began eighteen months ago. The diagnosis is Meniere’s Disease. Dizziness, tinnitus, and rapid loss of hearing in what had been my good ear. I grieve for this loss just as I grieve for my husband. In both cases, I deal with it, day by day, minute by minute. Continue reading →
When the lupines pop, the bluebird eggs hatch, and lettuce seed germinates, I remember my husband Vic. His death is part of this season, part of the earth and the cycles of my life. Images of Vic’s last days float through my mind as I enjoy nature’s enthusiasm. I remember the moment he did not inhale, just after midnight on June 3, 2008.
Usually grief is my quiet familiar rather than a bleeding wound, but as the anniversary approaches, I feel alone and preoccupied, tense and unsettled. To honor my love and comfort myself, I create a personal ritual. By creating an intentional ritual, we consciously recognize the time of transition and ground ourselves in our new life. I use images meaningful to me and my ritual changes in time as I change, so create anything that feels right for you. Continue reading →
Go outside and plant, a wise voice in me says. You need flowers.
This year’s plants sit on the porches and at the side of the house. They’re hardened off and ready to go in the ground. Part of me thinks I have better things to do than plant a garden. It’s not true.
For me, sorrow permeates this season of bursting life. My husband Vic and I spent May 18, 2008, our fortieth anniversary, in the hospital. I bought him decaf cappuccino and read our favorite love poems out loud. Our life centered around his physical suffering. We knew it would be that way as long as he lived. He was dying. The question was how soon. Continue reading →