Seven Years

4-25-2014

The picture above popped up in my memory feed today on Facebook. Already feeling out of sorts, this added fuel to my sad fire. But it also was fuel for my poem today.The prompt was “thought” . So, I thought, as if I wasn’t already thinking, about how long and how short seven years are.

Thoughts on Seven Years
 
seven years ago we moved to a new state
it was not our choice
but that’s okay

and though there is such a thing called the seven years war
that’s not what we fought
in fact, many of those seven years were good ones
years of plenty like in Joseph’s dream
and Joseph's life
but years of plenty
soon became lean years, rawboned and grievous 

though we enjoyed hiking through the beauty of fall colors
and a few snow-angel winter snows
and spring on the back porch
there was much loss
the demise of three parents while we were away
longing to be with them

even though we often languished
in the city where we tried so hard
to belong
we were together

we finally migrated back home 
but one month later
you left
for your eternal home
and I try not to wither away
without you

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

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

Texts from the past #10: Retirement

Moss Rock, 2015

How quickly we forget things. I’m a little surprised as I see how far back we were talking about Chuck retiring.

April 13, 2017: (This was me joking on one of my subbing days) Me: I’ll be sitting in the library until 10 or so. Glad I have my book. I don’t really have to do anything. C: Earn that money :). Me: going to use it to retire and live on an island and listen to music all day and walk on the beach.

April 11, 2018: C: In a seminar RE Retirement Medical, State Farm subsidizes premiums!!!! Me: Does that mean they pay part of them? C: Yes. Suh weet. Me: Would you be eligible even if you left at 62? C: Yes. You too C: We…R…out…of…here!

October 23, 2018: C: FYI – Alert, there is real hope for early rather than later retirement! I will show you tonight.  C: I am almost beside myself sitting here at work.  Me: Don’t get all the way beside yourself. One of you is enough. C: hee hee

May 10, 2019: Me: At Costco. May be in return line a while. C: ok. Me: I’m sure you needed that info. C: I wasn’t sure if I should write it down or not. Me: U so funny. C: I’m thinking I may retire now and go on tour. Me: I’ll be your sidekick.

March 3, 2020: C: I started the retirement process effective June 1

March 10, 2020: C: I started the ball rolling on social security. Big phone appointment next Thursday.

It’s still hard to believe that on April 13, 2020 we got the first inkling that our world was about to change. The sadness just overwhelms me sometimes. He was so excited when he began figuring out we could do this – make it work – retire. When his friend and supervisor, Patrice, had retired he had plied her with questions. I finally met her last week. It was such a blessing to meet one more person that knew and appreciated Chuck.

Now I, too, am officially retired. I want to spend these next years, however many God gives me, doing things that would honor Chuck. Things that honor God.

Grace to Carry On

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I wrote the post titled “Life and Death” on June 15, 2018. I never dreamed, could never have imagined that two years later I would lose yet another person I love so dearly.

https://angie5804.wordpress.com/2018/06/15/4326/

This quote from that post is so true –

“We fear it (death), yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves. For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone.” – from A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Chuck didn’t fear death. He knew where his hope was. I knew that, too. I know that. But, the sadness is still here. Sadness that his face will no longer light up when his children or grandchildren enter the room. Sadness that we talked, dreamed, and finally planned for his retirement and our return home to Jacksonville.  That return was overlaid with sorrow. For him, that return lasted one month. Now he is truly home, and I’m left here to carry on.

Hebrews 4:16 – Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

New World

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Spring – 2014

 

we talked of a new normal

as we hid in our homes

but, the old still abided

in the hearts of those who love

good news cheered us everyday

the drive-by birthday greetings

teddy bears on display

meals freely delivered

a husband who stood outside the window

of his wife’s room

where he could no longer go

there, on either side of the glass,

they sang Amazing Grace together

this was a sweet new normal

I didn’t  want to lose

but then that normal

changed for my world

the words pancreatic cancer

turned my world upside down

now we are back home

but not the way we dreamed of being

our days are filled with tests and procedures

and the endless repetitive questions

name? birthdate? 

have you had fever, chills, change in taste or smell?

and I see the hollow look in the eyes of my love

the one who has been by my side for over 41 years

the one who protected me

kept me from falling when I lost my way

and all I want to do is to

take away the sadness

 

We never know

eastside

eastside.polk-fl.net

 

We often never know what difference we’ve made in someone’s life. We, as teachers, may never see a student after they leave our classroom at the end of the school year. I don’t remember all the students, but some do stick in my mind and my heart.

My first three years of teaching in the public school system were at a school in Haines City, Florida. I taught fourth grade in this school  that was more than 50% Hispanic. I worked with a group of teachers that became my friends. We poured our time, energy, and hearts into the young lives we had from 8am-3:30pm each day.

By my second year I was more comfortable in the classroom. I’d taken some ESL classes, I had a  little experience under my belt and my teacher-friends and I worked especially hard that year in writing instruction. We were test driven, not by choice,  but we tried to make it fun. That year some of our students got their letters to Al E. Gator published in the Lakeland Ledger. I still have a photocopy of the paper where five of my kids had their letters printed. I can still remember their faces. Their was towheaded Jeremy, funny Jah, outgoing Aida. And then there was Zenaida and Hector. Both were shy and still struggling with English. The letters were simple : telling Al E. Gator about their Thanksgiving plans.  Zenaida’s letter ended with, “All my family is going to go to my house and I am going to be very happy about that.” Hector talked about the previous year’s Thanksgiving, “My grandpa, my sister, my dad, my mom, my big brother and my dad’s friends were there. I played with my friends. We played hide and go seek. I felt happy.”

Simple childhood joys. This was in November, 1997. I don’t know the details of their lives, but I know Zenaida and Hector grew up and fell in love. They had a baby.

Fast forward to February, 2005. Hector’s sister was home for the weekend from the School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine, Florida, along  with her boyfriend who also went to the school. She was deaf and mute and he also had hearing loss. For some reason, Hector’s sister checked him out of school early and, along with Zenaida and baby Jasmine, they were all headed somewhere in the car that the boyfriend was driving. He ran a stop sign, hit another car.  Hector, his sister, Zenaida, and baby Jasmine were all killed. About a month later the boyfriend also passed away.

Hector, just 17, was on track to take his GED test. He wanted to be a mechanic and take care of his parents. He, Zeniada, 18, and the baby all lived with his parents.  It’s been nearly 15 years since the accident, about 23 years since I last saw them, but I can still see their sweet 4th-grade faces in my memory.

I cannot even begin to imagine the grief of his parents. To lose two children, a granddaughter, and a girl who was soon to be their daughter in law, all in one fell swoop.  Loss is part of life, but some losses grip us harder and stay longer. We don’t any of us know our days or times, which makes that time even more precious.

Say love.

Avetts in October #19: Winter In My Heart

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Asheville, 2009

 

In anticipation of The Avett Brothers concert on October 25th, I’ve been writing  a series of blog posts connecting some of their lyrics to words of some of my favorite authors.

I’d tell myself to stop judging others. And then thirty seconds later, I’d do it again. This, I realized, is why I don’t like going to crowded parks. It’s not just that I don’t like all the other people. I don’t like the person I become.  – Lassoing the Sun – Mark Woods

I think there are times for many of us that we don’t care for the person we’ve become. There can be many reasons, such as  grief, loneliness, stress, or other reasons, that cause us to act like someone that we wouldn’t want to be friends with.  In Winter In My Heart, I feel the sadness and helplessness. I’ve been there. And the line, “I don’t know what the reasons are” is gripping. But, winter is a season, though it can sometimes a long one.

 

It must be winter in my heart

There’s nothing warm in there at all

I missed the summer and the spring

The floating yellow leaves of fall

 

 

Avetts in October #10: Sadness

AvettTrueSadness

wikipedia

In anticipation of The Avett Brothers concert on October 25th, I am writing a series of blog posts connecting some of their lyrics to words of some of my favorite authors.

 

It seemed so unfair: that time should render both sadness and happiness into a source of pain.  –  from A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

 

He’d smile at them across that distance, and the smile was sad and hard, and it meant estrangement, even when he was with them. – from Home by Marilynne Robinson

 

I never know quite how to describe the music of the Avetts. True Sadness seems an odd album title, but actually it’s pretty perfect. It was the first TAB album we purchased. I didn’t know it had been nominated for Best Americana Album. It’s also referred to as folk and alternative country. It’s all that and more. It’s hope.

 

‘Cause I still wake up shaken by dreams

And I hate to say it but the way it seems

Is that no one is fine

Take the time to peel a few layers and you will find

True sadness