A year ago

A year ago today is when we got our first indication that our world was about to change. I won’t go into all the details, but when I realized Chuck was yellow, jaundiced, I knew I had to get him to the ER. I drove him to the Medical West ER in Hoover but had to drop him off because the Covid restrictions were already in place.

We were under contract on our house already. I went home to take care of marking our electrical box per the inspection, via a wonderful young man who walked me through it by phone and would not let me pay him.

Within an hour Chuck called. They had done a scan and found a mass on his pancreas. When I went to pick him up he was standing outside on the curb, looking so lost.

That day was the only time I remember him really crying. This gentle giant of a man curled up in our big brown chair in the living room and said, “I wonder who will be my pallbearers?”

Then he began his brief fight against the monster that raged within him. Pancreatic cancer. Our journey brought our children back together and then took us to Jacksonville where Chuck died two months after we first heard the words “mass on the pancreas”.

He had no pallbearers, but he is buried in a beautiful cemetery, along with his great-nephew, Wyatt. I can’t say life has gone on without him because he is a part of everyday for me. I see him in the kindness of his daughters and the laughter of his sons. I watched my grandson Everett play chess last Saturday with one of my son’s friends and I thought of how Chuck played chess with him even when he was ill. I’m grateful Everett will have those happy memories of Grandpa.

Everett and Grandpa, 2020

It’s April and you know what that means….

Ruby

PAD. Poem a Day. Poetry month.

I’ve been writing everyday, some good, some not so good. Most of my poems tend to center around Chuck, but yesterday I took a lighthearted turn. The prompt was to write a persona poem.

Ruby 

who do you think you are, 

walking down the sidewalk there

or in the street 

I’m sounding the alert

you must mean us harm

this is my house 

my yard

how dare you knock

or ring the bell

oh, hello

yes, come on in

let me sniff you

of course you may pet me

hey, don’t stop now

I’m going to follow you around

I think I’ll lick your hand

and sit at your feet

come back soon, okay?

Moving Forward

I’m not one for looking for signs and wonders, but sometimes it’s just interesting how God can use seemingly insignificant things to direct our thoughts. I follow a blog called DC Widow that has been very helpful to me. Her post from March 11 was good, but it was a comment from a reader that got me started on the idea of moving forward. The reader, Steph, said, “Nora McInerny’s TED talk about not moving on but moving forward is spot on…” so, I looked it up and she was right.

At breakfast I picked up the AARP bulletin to scan it while I ate and the cover jumped out at me: “The Path Forward”.

AARP Bulletin

Then, at lunch I did the same with the latest copy of Southern News, from Florida Southern College. Inside was was an article heading “…move forward without forgetting the past.” Wow. It all goes together.

Southern News, Winter, 2021

I am moving forward, well, literally I’m moving south. In two weeks. I closed on my home in Tampa on March 5, then stayed there a week on an air mattress, painting walls and planning. At the end of each day I just drove 1.6 miles to my son’s house where I was fed and loved on. Now I’m finishing up packing and preparing for my third move since last May. It’s been exhausting, not just physically but emotionally. I have to keep stopping myself from the thoughts of “this isn’t how it was supposed to be”. I remind myself, rather, “this isn’t how we planned it.”

Carole King’s song, Anyone At All, comes to mind. I have loved that song ever since I saw “You’ve Got Mail” years ago. It felt like Our Song. It feels like it even more now.

“You’ve become a memory I can’t erase…” “It wasn’t in the plan, not that I could see…” “…that’s what catches me when I fall
I’m so glad it was you”

Sojourning

Birmingham, AL , September, 2016

“Displaced souls roam every city in every country.” – Ilana Manaster, One of the Crowd, Real Simple – 2017

I know what it feels like to be a displaced soul. I felt pretty much like that the whole six years we lived in Birmingham. It was a beautiful place, but it was never home. I don’t mean to dishonor Chuck when I say that, because where he was, that was home for me. But, I think he felt the same way. We both felt uprooted.

Now I’m “home”, but he’s not here, and once again I don’t quite feel at home. But it’s different, because I do have family here, and numerous friends. I’m in the town where I grew up. It’s changed a lot, but still familiar. The Maxwell House Coffee drifting across the St. Johns River smells the same. The ocean, though constantly changing, is the same. I can still drive by my childhood home and my high school.

So now, as I prepare to move for the third time in less than a year, I think about how to put down roots in Tampa. God willing, I won’t move again. I long to live there and serve God to the end of my days. To make a home for my family, my friends, and other sojourners, for I have to remind myself that, ultimately, I’m just a sojourner on this earth.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. Hebrews 11:13-14

The Valley of vision #4: Strength

I’ve read statements from unbelievers that think Christians are weak. That believing in God is a sign of weakness. That is so very far from the truth. This line I read today from The Valley of Vision struck me so profoundly:

“Strengthen me that I may cling to Thee and not let Thee go.”

Juliette, summer, 2019

Think about that. It takes strength to hang on. Physically speaking, if I had to hang on to a building or a mountainside or even the monkey bars, I would not make it. My arms are like jelly. (Unlike my granddaughter who has muscles I don’t even dream of). Thank God I have not been left stranded in that way.

But, spiritually speaking, I have felt helpless and sidelined. I could not have held onto God on my own, but He strengthened me and held onto me. He made me to hang onto Him.

What a comfort.


He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. Isaiah 40:29

Steinbeck

The camper truck “Rocinante”, which Steinbeck took on a cross-country trip described in Travels with Charley. Photo by LordHarris at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I am assailed with my own ignorance and inability…Sometimes, I seem to do a good little piece of work, but when it is done it slides into mediocrity… – John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck was born on this day in 1902. Though he died in 1968, his name and fame live on. I think he did a lot of good little pieces of work, my favorite being Travels With Charley.

In researching his background, I came upon this tidbit that I thought was interesting: “Steinbeck complained publicly about government harassment. Thomas Steinbeck, the author’s eldest son, said that J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI at the time, could find no basis for prosecuting Steinbeck and therefore used his power to encourage the IRS to audit Steinbeck’s taxes every single year of his life, just to annoy him. According to Thomas, a true artist is one who ‘without a thought for self, stands up against the stones of condemnation, and speaks for those who are given no real voice in the halls of justice, or the halls of government. By doing so, these people will naturally become the enemies of the political status quo.'” – Wikipedia

Photographs and Memories

September, 2012

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal – Love leaves a memory none can steal.”  –  from a headstone in Ireland

If I didn’t have photos, I’d still have memories, but I am so thankful for all the pictures I have to look back on and smile, even though sometimes the smile is between tears sliding down my cheeks. I may have too many photos, but that’s in large part because I am the keeper of the bulk of the pictures that were left behind by Mom and my mother-in-law.

Now in the digital age nearly everyone takes multiple photos on a daily basis. Back as a young teen when I first had a camera, I never knew until I got my developed film just what images I had captured. It was always a thrill to drive up to the Photo Bug to pick up my envelope of photographs.

photo via columbuscoasterco.com

I look forward to making more memories, taking more pictures, and one day passing them on for others to treasure.

Ordeal or Adventure?

on an adventure…

Elderly Cindy takes it all in stride. “My daddy was a farmer. He used to say the only difference between an adventure and an ordeal is how you look at it.” – from Sean of the South‘s blog

Moving can be an ordeal or an adventure. Or both. For me, it’s both this time. The ordeal part is no more than anyone else experiences in moving. After what I’ve been through the past eight months it seems it’s actually going to be a piece of cake.

This is my third move in less than a year. The first two were far from being an adventure. They were an apartment and a house chosen for convenience. This next one has been chosen for a home. The adventure will be in turning it into a home. The adventure will be being with my grandkids. I’m ready.


Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever. – Psalm 23:6

Solitude

California, 2018

“‘But people are never alone now’ said Mustapha Mond. ‘We make them hate solitude; and we arrange their lives so that it’s almost impossible for them ever to have it.’” – from Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

So many people have been forced to figure out how to be alone this past year. For those who have never liked being alone, those who crave companionship, those who hate solitude, it’s been hard. Indeed our lives are so often arranged: work, playdates, sports, meetings – it’s hard to find time for solitude. I wonder how many people figured out they liked a little time alone. How many took the time given them to slow down and just be in the moment.

I must confess I have much to work on here. It wasn’t the “pandemic” that forced me to be alone, but the loss of my husband. I fear I didn’t always make the best of my newfound solitude. It’s not easy. But if it was easy, I’d never learn and grow. If it was easy, I’d have to question why.


For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. – Ecclesiastes 4:10

Sad Souls

“A sad soul can kill you quicker, far quicker, than a germ” – from Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck, 1961

I wonder what Steinbeck would think today about all the sad souls hidden away in their homes, locked away from others in nursing homes, out of work because their job just wasn’t deemed as important as Hollywood. Sad souls living in fear.


If I say, ‘I will forget my complaint, I will put off my sad face and wear a smile,’ – Job 9:27