Friday, August 28, 2009

A Smooth Ride

Hey there-

In my last post I mentioned that my mantra while I was doing a little off road biking recently was "look where you WANT to go".

I learned this useful phrase the first time I ever did any kind of mountain biking. I was with my best friend, who was an experienced mountain biker (and WAY braver than me), in the mountains of Colorado. I had no helmet and the words of my mother as we parted following my graduation from college the day before were ringing in my unprotected head.

"Don't forget to get health insurance". I think she was a little excited to have just completed the task of successfully raising and educating seven children.

As I attempted to make it down the steep trail full of rocks and roots my friend kept telling me to look where I wanted to go, not at what I was trying to avoid, and the bike would follow. Try as I might I just kept staring right at those mini-boulders in my way, mentally pleading for them to remove themselves from my path, and sure enough I ran smack into most of them.

Once we successfully, and slowly, made it to a paved trail I vowed never to go mountain biking again. I am quite certain that my friend also vowed never to take me mountain biking again.

While I have never returned to the mountains of Colorado to do any biking I did find myself doing the occasional off-road trail with Bob here in the Midwest, and now with my boys. But I admit, I still prefer a paved trail, a smooth ride through a shaded overhang of trees, past farmlands and lazy rivers.

What does this fact say about me and how I proceed with my life?

I prefer a smooth ride, it's true. I like when things work out according to plan. I like when events start on time and people live up to my expectations. I like when my checkbook balances and my children do their chores without a fuss. I like when couples happily grow old together and when people live to a ripe old age and die quietly in their sleep.

I like when there are no boulders or roots in my way.

But, inevitably, there things that happen that put a kink in the plans. Even paved trails have their twists and turns, the occasional stone in the way. Sometimes husbands die before they reach a ripe old age. And those plans of growing old together don't come to fruition, no matter how carefully I planned.

So now what?

I can't will the boulder away by staring at it; but I can look where I want to go, be brave and continue on the path, move beyond the boulder, and look beyond the next one as well.

Thanks for checking in-


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Grief Sucks

Hey there,

You know what?

Grief sucks!

Bob died 5 1/2 years ago. And here I am, going along; I love where I live, I love who I live with, I love what I am doing, and yet the thought that I will never talk to Bob again, never hear his voice, can still take my breath away.


I recently took all three boys camping with a girlfriend and her two boys. Camping was one of those things, like biking, that I was afraid I would never do after Bob died. Bob was always the motivator and organizer of our camping trips. My contribution was to carry all of the sleeping bags, the tent and the bins packed with camping "essentials" to the car so Bob could pack it all up.

I was about as much help once we got to the camp ground. My idea of appropriate camping food is whatever comes out of a box and doesn't require a dish that needs to be washed. Bob enjoyed making elaborate meals while camping, involving the whipping of eggs and the need for things like buttermilk and cumin.

I could never live up to all that.

I feared the boys would not grow up knowing the joys of camping. No sleeping in tents listening to the cicada's sing, no starting fires in the morning and sitting around the fire at night roasting marshmallows, no wishing on the first star to come out, no catching frogs outside the outhouse.

No great outdoors.

It took me over a year to figure out that I didn't need to cook full course meals to give my boys the great outdoors. I could camp without buttermilk and fresh eggs and Idaho potatoes. I could camp "Irene McGoldrick style". Grab a box of cereal and some Poptarts, stick a brat on a stick, cook it over the fire, and call it a day.

That I can do.

And that is what I did, until I met Mike, who likes the more complicated meals around the campfire. So now I am back to my "carry out the sleeping bags and tent and place them by the car for packing" routine.

But this past trip was just my girlfriend and I and we took the boys off road biking for an afternoon. We found ourselves following the boys as they negotiated the trail with different levels of enthusiasm and skill. We tried to warn the serious riders as they blew by us about the 5 young children up ahead strewn about the trail. Only 2 of our group ran into a tree (one was me thank you very much) and Arthur got pushed down a small ravine in an attempt to keep him from getting run over by one of the aforementioned expert riders.

On one of the more level parts of the trail I had a moment to think (in between my mantra of "look where you WANT to go, look where you WANT to go") about how proud I was to find myself in this situation right now. I felt good. A cool bike trail, a fabulous camping weekend, the boys having a great time in the great outdoors.

There was a time I couldn't even imagine being able to put the bike rack on the car.

"Look at us, Bob," I thought to myself. "Look where we are, look at our boys ride this trail."

That's when it happened.

The realization that Bob and I won't ever admire these beautiful blond haired boys we created. We won't stand shoulder to shoulder, leaning towards each other, watching in awe as our children learn a new skill or discover a new fact about their world. This realization felt like a tree branch had just run into my ribcage, my breath came shorter. (it could have been the biking, we were going up a hill by this point) But then, there were tears.

Damn it, and I was having such a good time.

When will it end? The grieving, shouldn't I be done with it by now?!

Man, grief sucks! It really does. It is hard work, and anyone that tells you it just takes time is mistaken. It takes courage and perseverance and resilence and patience. Patience!

By the time we were back at the cars loading up the bikes, the kids hopping around excitedly reliving their "near death" experiences and munching on pretzles dipped in Nutella, I had come to another realization.

There is something worse than grief. Having never had anyone worth grieving for, that would be worse.

Now that would really suck.

Thanks for checking in-


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Walk It Out Reminder

Hey there-

Walk It Out will be happening this Saturday August 22nd, 2009.

Come walk and talk.

The weather should be gorgeous and the construction almost complete.

I will see you at 9:30am at the Hart Park Senior Center parking lot.

Thanks for checking in-


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Sun Room

Hey there-

Yesterday would have been Bob and my 13th wedding anniversary.

What was most remarkable about yesterday was that no one remarked on it. I say this not to make anybody feel bad, I have always felt that anniversaries are for the couple and not for anyone else to remember, but simply to make an observation. Of course, I did tell Henry and Arthur what the day was.

"Oh, wow," was Henry's response. I give him credit for trying.

On the first anniversary after Bob died I went out to dinner with my parents and some friends. When I returned to my new home, with boxes still unpacked, I sat in the big chair in the sun room and opened an incredibly thoughtful gift from one of my friends. She had stolen the newspaper clipping of the recipe for "Portuguese Fisherman's Stew", the last meal Bob made for friends before he became too sick to cook, and she had it framed.

Sitting in the sun room staring at that recipe I wept imagining Bob standing at the stove stirring the bubbling stew with one hand and studying that slip of newspaper in the other. I suddenly found myself in a panic because I could not remember the sound of his voice.

It had only been 5 months and I had already forgotten the sound of his voice?! How long until I couldn't remember what he looked like , or what it felt like when he held me?

Thankfully, I think that one night was just a temporary freak out. Five years later I am sitting in that same sun room in the same big chair and I am able to hear the sound of his gentle voice; "Happy anniversary, sug." (short for "sugar")

And I remember clearly how it felt to kiss him 13 years ago on that bright sunny day, when our whole lives were in front of us and anything was possible.


Thanks for checking in-


Saturday, August 8, 2009


After arriving home, smelling like suntan lotion and sand, Bob suddenly realized that he was supposed to be fasting for the surgery he had scheduled later that day. Knocking his head like a V8 commercial he casually chastised himself for the mistake of eating grapes down at the park.

“Are you sabotaging your recovery, Bob? What were you thinking?” I yelled at him while marching around the kitchen, flailing my arms wildly.

“I didn’t think about it. Willy just handed me some grapes. I took some grapes.” Bob explained, shrugging his shoulders, eyes innocent, head tilted to one side, arms out in an “oh well” kind of expression. He appeared bemused by my “overreaction”.

“Now what are we supposed to do?” I screeched, frantic. My own eyes shooting daggers across the counter. I could have sliced that tumor out myself.

It was the Friday before Memorial Day and now we had to wait over the entire holiday weekend because you can’t get these procedures done on weekends or holidays.

“Cancer doesn’t grow on the weekends,” as my sister Teri said.

Oh, how I wish that were true. At this point you could literally see the tumor get bigger by the day. It was horrifying. Once the biopsy finally was done we would have to wait again for the results and then wait again for the doctor to make her determination. Wait, wait, wait, I couldn’t wait.

“Just don’t tell them.” I suggested in a burst of desperation. “Just go, what are they going to do?”

It was just a couple of grapes, they are mostly water, I reasoned. I wanted Bob to get that offensive growth biopsied NOW.

I stood in the kitchen, defiant, arms crossed, listening to him on the phone with the nurse. He mentioned the grapes, he nodded his head wordlessly and then I heard the word Tuesday. Grabbing my purse off the counter, I turned on my heel and headed for the garage. The sound of the screen door slamming was not nearly enough to drown my screams.