Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Hey there-

You gotta love in-laws.

Bob's family has become even more important to me since his death.

They are the keepers of the family lore, the remember when, the childhood secrets. When the boys ask if their daddy ever did this or that, they are the only people who have the answers. I can tell them about their dad in his 30's, but that isn't what they want to know right now, maybe when they are 30 something.

They want to know if daddy liked to read when he was nine, if he was good at math, did he ever get a time out in gym in kindergarten, did he like to sing at the Christmas concert?

Ah, the Christmas concert. The concert where Arthur dances his way in, spots his Aunt Kathy and me in the audience, breaks into his million dollar smile and joins the other wildly waving children on the bleachers. The same concert where Henry marches in, eyes down, stands in position, spots us out of the corner of his eye, smiles imperceptibly and gives us the wrist wave. (you know the one, the one where the arm does not move at all, only the wrist)

Arthur smiles while he sings and does all of the carefully rehearsed snowflake movements with a natural rhythm and an Arthur flare, only looking towards his aunt and me about 10 times per song to smile even broader if that is possible. Henry, on the other hand, has his eyes only on the teacher as he sings with zero emotion, seriously, you would have thought he was being lectured to by the police. When the swaying part came (he had expressed concern the day before about the swaying; "No one is going the right way, we are supposed to start on the left and then go right and everyone is going every which way. We are going to be horrible!") most of the children swayed with abandon picking their feet up and bouncing their shoulders. Not Henry, he swayed carefully, first right, then left, no shoulder movement, no feet moving, he was rooted to the spot. This is serious stuff!

Their Aunt Kathy and I watched both boys with the pride only a family member can feel. We laughed and nodded at each other knowingly and appreciated both for their unique approaches to the performance.

"Arthur and I are opposites," Henry said to me on the walk home. "Arthur likes to sing in front of a crowd and I don't. He doesn't get nervous and I do. Which way do you think dad was at his Christmas concerts?"

"That is a good question for your grandma," I told him, making a mental note to ask the next time we saw her.

Of course, she will say Bob was fabulous even if he was the kid who picked his nose or wet his pants or pulled some girls hair. That is how her memories work.

The boys and I recently spent the day with her and the subject of discipline came up. Grandma shocked the boys with tales of her mother making her kneel in the corner if she had been naughty. They particularly enjoyed the story of her mom going to the lilac bush to get a switch to swat her on the butt with if she had been REALLY naughty.

"Did you ever do that to Daddy?" They asked wide eyed and still giggling about their grandma just saying butt.

"Oh no, you couldn't do that any more by the time I had kids, it was out of fashion," she said. "They would have called it child abuse."

"Did you ever make him kneel in a corner?"

"I don't remember ever doing that....."

"What did you do, Grandma, when daddy was naughty?" they asked, dying to know what horrendous punishment their dad had to endure.

"I don't know........I just remember they were all good kids," she said with a smile.

Boring! We want some dirt on daddy here!

Although the look on her face, you almost believed her. (Please be assured that the punishment stories are not the only ones grandma tells of her childhood. She is just as likely to talk about the homemade noodles her mom made for the chicken noodle soup and how much effort her mom put into decorating a beautiful Christmas tree.)

This is all good stuff. For me and the boys. The continued connection with their dad's family, priceless.

I am so grateful to have that person to lean to at the Christmas concert and shake my head and laugh knowingly. Without my sister-in-law there I might look a little too longingly at the couple in front of me as they lean into each other and nod and laugh; "just like his dad" they are saying I am sure. (these couples are always incredibly happy in my mind, perfect for each other in fact, a first marriage of course, everyone is healthy and biologically related, no complications.......)

I could go on and on with stories that point out just how precious this in-law relationship is to both sides. I could write about the trip Henry got to take with his uncle this past summer. The trip that his uncle showed up in his 1959 Triumph and announced to Henry that he had the air mattresses that he and Bob used on their first road trip together when Bob was 16! You just can't make this stuff up!!!

So yes, I love in-laws, wouldn't want to be doing any of this without them. Even those that teach my little boys bad words. But once again, a subject for a different blog.

Thanks for checking in-


Friday, December 11, 2009


Hey there-

This is ridiculous.

It is crazy how much I am missing Jake. He was a cat for goodness sake, and an annoying one at that. He ate cellophane and threw up all the time. We couldn't leave any kind of wrapper or ribbon laying around or he would find it and start yakking. Birthdays were a nightmare, I finally had to give up getting balloons.

Jake was quite grouchy too. He had a fake hip from an injury when he was very young. Bob had to hold him down while I did range of motion exercises on his little leg. The poor guy foamed at the mouth trying to get away. I knew Bob really loved me as I watched him calmly hold Jake, this high maintenance cat that had come with me in the relationship, so I could rotate his hip. I believe the hip caused Jake pain in the humid summer time (and the cold winter time). He would spread his rather large body across the kitchen floor on particularly hot days and if you tried to walk around him he would growl and nip at you.

For a while he used to stand at the front door and lunge at anyone who had the audacity to leave the house and leave him inside. I eventually decided to let the de-clawed SOB be an outdoor cat.

Jake also had an amputated tail. Bob came home one day for lunch and found the poor guy hanging by his tail on top of a pile of folded laundry. The piece of wood holding the window of our 1920s duplex had fallen and slammed down on his tail.....ouch!! When he emerged from the folded shirts and pants after being set free his tail was a crooked letter "L".

The story of Jake losing his tail was part of our family lore, the boys and I. I was pregnant with Henry when it happened but you would think he had found Jake suspended in the air by the way he tells the story. And Arthur too, they both love to tell the story of when Jake lost his tail.

"And when dad opened the window Jake went running after Amber (our other cat). She must have been sitting there taunting him the whole time. Ha, ha you got your tail stuck in a window...you can't get out..." Henry will say dramatically, laughing and shaking his head very Boblike.

I had this false idea that since I survived losing my spouse I would be immune to "lesser losses". I know they say (you know, "those people" who say things) that you can't compare grief. "They" also say the most difficult loss is a child first and then a spouse. So a cat has to be rather far down the list.

And yet I find myself mourning Jake. When we decorated the tree this year I commented that we didn't have to worry about ribbons on the presents this year since Jake wouldn't be here to eat them and then vomit. I mentioned it as a silver lining, but the realization made me tear up.

Jake used to sit in between Mike and I on the futon when we watched TV and it always bugged Mike. He would grumble as he moved Jake's decreasing mass out of the way so we could cuddle. So Jake is part of Mike and my lore as well. Jake came with me into Mike and my relationship just like he came with me into Bob and my relationship. Jake was a four legged bridge between my past and my present.

And now he is gone. One more connection washed away. There won't be any reason for Henry to tell his version of the story of when Jake lost his tail anymore, no one will ask. One less tale about Daddy to tell.

I will miss the bridge, the limping, four legged, stub tailed bridge. But I still have two beautiful blue eyed, two legged bridges. One who got a time out in gym class today!!!! But that is a whole other blog.

Thanks for checking in-


Friday, December 4, 2009

One More Day

Hey there,

We had to put Jake down yesterday. (the 17 year old cat) It was very sad. Worse than I imagined it would be.

It doesn't sound sad does it? We put him down, like you put your child down for a nap. Only it wasn't anything like putting your child down for a nap.

It seemed sudden, although he has been aging rapidly in the last few months. And he was 17 for goodness sake. And, truth be told, I thought I was ready for Jake's demise for years. After Bob died I felt like Jake had outworn his welcome.

Really, that is how I felt.

I kept thinking to myself; "Why is Bob gone and Jake is still here?"

Really, I did.

I had Jake before I met Bob, and then I still had him after Bob was gone. I had Jake longer than I had Bob. I am not sure why that fact has always bothered me. But in the end I guess I had grown fond of the old coot again, and I already miss having him around.

Henry and Arthur were with me at the vet and they took it hard. There was wailing. We even had some folks out in the waiting room in tears. Here is some of what those poor unsuspecting dog owners heard through the door:

"Now Henry, Jake had a long life."

"But I was only a part of it for such a short time"

gasp, sob

"Just like with Daddy"


"I was a part of his life for even shorter!"

more wailing

"I am glad I was so much younger when Daddy died. I didn't know so much of what I was losing. Now I know"

what is another word for wail? keen?

Now Arthur:

"At least I knew Jake......I hardly knew Daddy at aaaallllllllll"

Now we are all crying.

At this point the vet wanted to run screaming from the room I am sure.

This morning I came downstairs and found both the boys getting dressed in their room and crying again.

"I can't believe it," Henry said. "One minute I was laughing about something my teacher did at school and the next minute I was crying because you told me Jake was dying and we had to take him to the vet."

As Henry continued to lament the unpredictability of life, while hopping around and pulling up a pair of Spiderman undies, I thought to myself; "That is kind of how these things work, kid, bummer I know." You can't really prepare yourself in advance for these sorts of things. You can't know that next week your husband will get a cancer diagnosis, or that tomorrow you will get in a car accident.

"I just wish I had one more day," Henry continued.

"Why, babe? What would you do with one more day?" I asked him, truly curious.

"I don't know. It would just be one more day. Don't you want one more day with Daddy?" He looked up at me with those intense blue eyes all waterlogged.

This question caught me off guard, honestly I have never thought about this option. Before I could gather my wits the boys, fully clothed, were off to pour themselves a bowl of Honey Oats. I will never cease being envious of children and their ability to turn grief on and off like a light switch.

But I continued to ponder the question.......and my final answer is no. I would not want one more day with Bob. Especially if it were a continuation of the days we were having before he died, I did not want one more hour of that. Maybe if it could be a day of my choosing, like the day we spent in Brugge, Belgium, before we discovered Bob had forgotten to put film in the camera. Or the day we went camping in the Olympic Rain Forest and it rained (harder than usual) and we spent the entire day in the tent playing backgammon and reading out loud to each other. Or the day I found out I was pregnant with Henry and I was freaking out and Bob just grabbed me around the middle and said; "Renie, this is going to be a riot with you!"

But, no, even if my one more day could be one of our greatest days, my answer is still no. One more day would simply put me back at the beginning of my grief journey. And you could not pay me enough money to be back there. When the movie "Ghost" came out (which was LONG before I met Bob let alone lost him) and Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze have that last dance together and it is supposed to be all romantic, all I could think of was ... Now she will just have to start all over again.

I guess I am not a romantic. I am too damn practical for my own good. If something is over, why drag it out with one more day? Maybe it isn't just practicality but a lack of patience as well. If there is no fixing a problem, I want to be moving beyond it.

So, no Henry, I don't want one more day with your dad.

Now, a lifetime? Totally different story.

Thanks for checking in-