May 26

Today is one of two days each year I spend some time remembering my fiancee. May 26, 1984 was when we were supposed to marry each other. Instead, I scattered her ashes in the ocean and got VERY drunk.

This year, it is a bit more special. My wife and I are living in a very rural area. This was my wife’s dream, my dream and my fiancee’s dream. So, this dream was achieved…30 years later than planned, and with a different person…but still achieved.

Even in hospice, my fiancee was more worried about me than herself and I know she would be pleased about me completing the dream.

Amazing

I find it amazing that it has been four years since I retired. November 1, 2017, my last day at the telephone company, I drove my 1950 Jeep to and from work…just like I did on my first day there in November 1991.

And, it’s also amazing that 38 years have passed since my fiancee’s doctor recommended hospice. I remembered that by going out on long slow run run. Running and cooking were our “time together”. We studied together as well, but that was more of an individual effort because engineering and pre-med/micro-biology did not have a lot of common classes.

Equally amazing is how my definition of a long and slow run has changed since the early 1980s. Sigh…

A Surreal Feeling

Each May 26, I stop to remember my fiancee. Had death not broken our engagement, we would have been married May 26, 1984. At that time, she would have been 22 years old.

I was nearly 30 when I did get married and was 37 when my wife and I became parents. Our daughter is now 23, which is the same age I was in 1984. It is a surreal feeling.

Something Unusual

I had a dream that I remembered when I woke up. I don’t seem to remember dreams very often, so this is something unusual. In the dream, I was in “the double wide”, holding my fiancee and humming the song, Die Gedanken Sind Frei.

Die Gedanken Sind Frei is the title of a German folk song that became a protest song. In English it means, “Thoughts are free”. With free meaning “not imprisoned” instead of “no cost”. The idea of the song is that, despite being imprisoned, one can still think (and dream) as they please.

When my fiancee went into hospice, the hospice staff did not know we were engaged, so the room was equipped in the normal way; a hospital bed, a tray table and a chair that would recline flat and turn into something resembling a bed. When the staff realized we were engaged, they discretely asked about bringing the “double wide” into the room. They explained that the double wide was a hospital bed that was wide enough to be used by couples but added that the chair/bed wouldn’t fit in the room at the same time. She (my fiancee) said yes to the big bed, so the regular hospital bed, and the recliner chair/bed, were removed…and the double wide was brought into her room.

I would lay on the bed with her and we would talk, and talk, and talk, and then talk some more. We talked about everything from dreams missed to funeral plans to my promising that I would continue on living.

When it got to where, even with assistance, she couldn’t get out of bed, I would climb into the bed, gently hug her and hum Die Gedanken Sind Frei. It was a reminder that even though her body had become a prison, she could still dream of better times. My humming that song would always bought a smile to her face.

Even after she became unresponsive, I would hold her and hum the song. I’d like to think that she could hear it and was smiling.

….Suitcases full of memories…..that are normally kept closed and locked up tight…but sometimes “sneak out”.

The 1980s

Pat Willard’s blog, at https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/109621129/posts/3158858832, talked about what I thought was a funny cooking adventure and it reminded me of some “make me smile” cooking memories from 40 years ago.

In the early 1980s, while attending university, I lived in a small house by myself and my girlfriend would come over to study. She shared her apartment with three other girls and sometimes they did not want to study, so my place was a nice and quiet “study hall”. (I guess at age 60, I can call 18 year old women “girls”…..)

One night while we were studying, pre-med for her and engineering for me, I offered to cook some dinner for the two of us. My cooking was limited to hamburgers, french fries in the oven, “nuked” baked potatoes in the microwave oven, eggs and bacon. Chicken was a *huge* “leap of faith”.

These college kid meals worked until she noticed the Betty Crocker Cookbook that my mom and grandmother had left for me. When they had given it to me, I did the “guy thing”; look at it, thank them and put it on the shelf “for later”. She saw the cookbook and started looking through it, much like my wife just did with the Ball Blue Book. After a few minutes, she commented that a particular recipe didn’t seem that difficult and the next thing I know, we were walking to the grocery store to buy the stuff we needed for the meal.

The food we cooked actually tasted good and neither of us got sick, so it obviously turned out OK.

When we would find terms in the cookbook that we couldn’t figure out, we would ask my neighbors. They had sold their “mom and pop” restaurant and retired, so they had no problem answering even the most complicated questions, like “What is Sautee?”

After finding a recipe that we liked, we would practice making it until we felt confident that we could duplicate it without messing it up. Then we would invite the retired neighbors or some friends to my house for a nice meal. It was a lot of fun being the host and hostess.

Later, as our skills improved, we watched the cooking shows on the local public broadcasting television station and made notes on the recipes that were presented on the shows. Sometimes the recipes worked and sometimes it was obvious we had missed “something”. If the food was edible, but was just missing “something”, we’d make notes about what to try next time and then try it again. Most of the time we could figure it out and make a presentable meal, even if it wasn’t exactly what was presented on the television show.

Sometimes, however, the outcome was so bad that there was no hope. I can still remember my girlfriend’s scrunched up facial expression and her tone of voice when she would say, “Ahh…..if we have friends over for dinner…..let’s not make this…” That ALWAYS made me smile.

For some reason I could imagine her using the same facial expression and tone of voice when calling the professor to come over to look at an unexpected discovery in a human cadaver. My apologies for creating that image, but that’s what I envisioned when she would make “the announcement”. I guess that is what made it so funny for me.

Pat’s blog entry, with the sheep’s head, complete with teeth, while it probably would make a good meal, would have likely elicited the same scrunched up face and tone of voice that always made me smile.

Things Did Work Out

Today, I was out running along the city parks’ running-walking-biking-riding trails. It felt good to be breathing hard and sweating a bit.

Around quarter after 9 am, I stopped for a few moments and thought about how much my life has changed, how far I’ve come in 37 years and how thankful I was that things did “work out”.

Halloween, 37 years ago, around 9am, my fiancée and I were brought into her doctor’s office. It wasn’t the exam room, but the doctor’s actual office. Around 9:15 in the morning, the doctor walks in, sits down and begins with, “I’m afraid I have only bad news.”

He was right. It was bad news. He told us that none of the available treatments had slowed her ovarian cancer and there was nothing left to try. He knew that my fiancée had completed her pre-med program and had been accepted to medical school, so they “talked technical” for a few minutes. He then went on to tell us that he felt it was time to consider hospice.

I remember her slowly nodding her head and me holding my breath until I felt like I was going to explode.

When my fiancée was in hospice, she kept making me promise that I would keep on living and also insisting that things would work out.

After thinking about “that day”, my thoughts returned to today and I thought about my wife of 31 years, our 22 year old daughter, our careers, our retirement and “life in general”.

My fiancée was right. Things did work out.

May 26

Technically it’s now May 27, but this post is about May 26.

Two times a year, May 26 and October 31, I stop and make an effort to remember my fiancée. May 26, when were going to be married, and October 31, when her doctor recommended hospice. May 26, 1984 was a Saturday, the start of the USA Memorial Day Holiday weekend. October 31, 1983, Halloween, a Monday.

It’s been 36 years, but I still do it. I still stop and commerate her on those two days.

Today, my wife and I were helping our “graduated from college 3 weeks ago” daughter into her new apartment. At sunset, I was on the apartment balcony, watching the sunset. In the distance, I could see the sun reflect off of a body of water and the sparkles on the water reminded me what my fiancée liked about the beach at sunset.

A minute or two later, I went back to moving the bed and night stand into position.

Corn Plant. Part 4.

I’ve written about the corn plant (Dracaena) several times before.

This is the plant that was given to my fiancee when she was recovering from the surgery to remove her ovarian cancer.  I remember the hospital not allowing a live plant in the room, so the plant was given to her while she was at my house.

My fiancee lived for 21 years.

The corn plant lived for 35 years.  Then it died.  I emptied the flower pot out into the back yard and it sprouted.  I brought it back inside and potted it again.  Then it was broken by our dogs as they jumped up into the pot to look outside.  It sprouted again.

It’s now about 2 feet tall and is a very vibrant green.

It’s a tough little plant, just like my fiancee.

May 26, 2019

Book One — The Ending

When she was sick, she, over and over, made me promise that I would move on with my life.

It took me a few years to patch the hurt and move on, but it eventually happened.  I kept my promise and moved on.

At the same time, I can’t pretend she never existed.  So, two days a year, for a few minutes, I remember her and our time together.  Then I come back to the present and look toward the future.

This does not mean I never think about her at other times.  Every now and again she sneaks into to my thoughts and nearly always the thoughts are helpful in some way.

Perhaps she’s looking out for me.

Oct 31

Yet another October 31 passed with little external fanfare.

I was out hiking yesterday and I stopped by a pool of water being fed by a tiny trickle of water.  The pool was perfectly still and I could see my reflection.

I looked old…balding, grey hair, a “turkey wattle” under my chin.

In my mind, I could still see my fiancee. She was young.