That Week……

Ah the week after Christmas, it is like no other.  Unlike other weeks it starts on Thursday or Tuesday as often as it starts on Sunday, this year it started on Wednesday.  The one constant is, it starts the day after Christmas and ends with the beginning of the New Year.

Kids everywhere take advantage of the break from school to enjoy their Christmas stuff; it makes it just a little bit better if it snows.  It was a long time ago for me but I still have fond memories of Christmas breaks when I was a kid.

Social calendars can become difficult to manage because it is a popular week to get together with family and friends.  I know, for me, back in the day it was a heck of a party week.

The business world seems to back off the accelerator or maybe even kick it out of gear and kind of coast for the week.

It is also a good time to review or reflect on the past year and to regroup or refocus and get ready for the new one.  I prefer the terms reflect and refocus, they don’t sound quite as complicated.

There is another “re” word that comes to mind when talking about a new year.  The word is resolve or resolution.  I guess those things work for some people; I never took them very serious and if I made one at all it had normally fallen by the wayside by sundown on New Years day.

For many years I did the “reflect and refocus” thing.  I didn’t make a big deal of it, I just kind of quietly looked back and looked ahead and tried to improve on the way I did some things.  The last time I did that was in 2007.  In ’08, ’09, ’10 and ’11 I reviewed everything I did on a daily, if not hourly, basis.  Any regrouping or refocusing we did was driven by PET scan results or visits with the Doctor; not by some idea I had in late December.

I am once again in a position to reflect on the past year and look toward the new one.  To quickly summarize what I see in the reflection.  The year started with the expected but extremely heartbreaking loss of the best thing that ever happened to me.  Sharyl lost her 3+-year battle with cancer.  A short forty days later Conner was suddenly and tragically taken from us.  As I look in the mirror those losses remain crystal clear.  I love you guys dearly and miss you every day.  The rest of the year is somewhat blurry.  I see a tired old man struggling to refocus, regroup or re something and get things figured out.  I also see a family and some dear friends doing everything they can to help the old man in his effort.

I don’t know what ’13 has in store, I know it could also be filled with tragedy but I like the odds and I am excited (excited might be a little strong) but I am anxious to have a go at it.  I plan to continue to work toward getting things figured out and put back together.  I have made some progress; I’m not the basket case I was in the spring but I still have a long way to go.

To be a little more specific; about five months ago one of my posts contained the following paragraph.

During the latter stages of Sharyl’s illness, to pass some time on sleepless nights I would dwell on things I needed or wanted to do.  Three recurring things were: lose some weight, get the yard back up to our specifications and enjoy some time at the lake. For about the first four months I really didn’t care how I looked or how the place looked and I didn’t have fun if I went to the lake.

I have learned to enjoy spending time at the lake.  The place still needs some work, but I have made some progress and procrastination is not the problem.  The weight loss thing isn’t going well.  I said I didn’t have a timetable as long as the trend was down.  The trend has been down, but I need to pick up the pace.  At the rate I’m going I will be at least 107 years old when I reach my goal.

I know that just because I turn the page on the calendar things won’t suddenly be okay.  I expect the first two or three months of the New Year to be a continuation of the past couple months.  I also believe this time next year the reflection I see will be much brighter than the one I see tonight.

I had a very brief post in mind when I sat down tonight.  I guess I got a little carried away.  I hope your New Year meets your expectations.

Please remember me when you say your prayers and consider a donation to the cancer research organization of your choice.

Good Night and God Bless.

Dave.

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Christmas, Cap Guns & Other Stuff

It has been a few days since I’ve been here.  I really don’t know why, I have just had no desire to write.  The days since Thanksgiving have been a little tougher than I was expecting, but those tough times normally drive me to the keyboard, not away from it.

From my business travel days I still remember the real good trips and the real bad ones; the others have kind of faded.  I guess I could say the same for the Rodeos I did.

Christmases in my life fall into two categories and there are no bad ones.  I guess because they have all been good, like the mediocre business trips, specific memories of each one have kind of faded.  A few of them have been unusual for a variety of reasons; those are the ones I remember.  And yes I will bore you with some of those memories.

I know I mention from time to time that we didn’t have much money when I was a kid, I don’t do that for sympathy, it is just a fact.  When I was a little kid Mom and Dad always managed to get innovative with the family budget and put smiles on our little faces on Christmas morning.

We always went to the country and cut a Red Cedar for a Christmas tree, most of the time we went to the Lazenbys’ farm, they were friends of my parents and they had an abundance of cedar trees.  I remember the first time we had electric lights on the tree; I think the string had about eight bulbs and when one of them burned out they all went out, but hey it was a start.

The first one I will share really wasn’t unusual, but for some reason the memory became vivid this past week.  The year was probably about 1949 or 50, times were tough, and I wanted a cap gun and holster.  Christmas morning Santa had left me this killer (no pun intended) 2 gun and holster deal.  I noticed it had some damage on one of the holsters, Mom said Santa probably damaged it in the sleigh.  I had actually got a pre-owned or second hand set. They did what they needed to do to put a smile on the kid’s face.

We all took our guns to school, when we returned after Christmas break.  We played Cowboys and Indians at recess.  I don’t remember how we determined who would be Cowboys and who would be Indians but I know it had nothing to do with skin color or ancestry. If either of those happened today it would be the lead story on the 10 o’clock news. Times have changed.

Sharyl and I shared our first Christmas in ’63.  I was home on leave from Ft. Polk Louisiana. I really don’t remember a lot of detail; I think we spent some time with my family and with hers. We would do forty-eight more before the string was broken.  It is a little tough to accept, the last time she wasn’t with me for Christmas was in 1962.

Three short years later 1966, Sharyl was about 7 months pregnant. I think one of the common side effects of pregnancy is an occasional kidney infection.  Even then she had this thing about side effects. She spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in bed, but we were together and other family members stopped in for a visit.

Fast forward to Dec 23, 1983, it was bitter cold (like below zero) Sharyl suggested we leave some faucets dripping.  I assured her we were okay.  Three weeks and 1000 feet of new water line later we were, as I had assured her, okay. I can still hear my feisty sixteen year old saying “WHAT NO WATER, HOW AM I GOING TO FIX MY HAIR”. We showered all over town for that three-week period.  It was still a good Christmas.

The last four certainly fit in the unusual category.  I won’t repeat what was previously written about each of them.  I will just say I consider them good because we were all together.

I have been blessed to spend 69 consecutive Christmases surrounded by those I love.  I plan to continue the streak in a couple days.  I know this one will be a little somber or melancholy, but it will be good because I will be surrounded by those I love.

Although it goes without saying, I will say it anyway.  We always remember the true meaning of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of our savior.

To Sharyl and Conner: I love you guys dearly and I miss you every day.  I’m sure you will enjoy spending this Christmas with that savior.

To each of you: I hope you are surrounded by those you love and that you have a very Merry Christmas.

Good Night and God Bless.

Dave

Feeling A Little Nostalgic………….

Four years ago tonight I received an email from Lori. It contained a link to a website I had never heard of.  She asked me to read it, run it by her Mom and if we were OK with it we would tell a few people about it.  The following is what was at the other end of the link:

wishes & reality

Posted on December 10, 2008

What I wish is that there was not a need for this blog. Not a need to have a place to post updates about my Mom, not a need to keep our friends and family informed,  not a need to talk about cancer. I wish my Mom didn’t have cancer……
But she does, and we are so fortunate to be reminded daily that our family is not traveling this road alone.
I think it is an understatement to say that Mom has a lot of friends, and each of  you in whatever way you chose to reach out has been a source of comfort for our family.

Writing has always been a trusted outlet for me, so I hope by  sharing my thoughts I can keep those who care about Mom informed, updated and in the loop.   So with Mom’s blessing this blog begins, I’m not sure where it will take us but I do know that we will have love, prayers and friends on the journey with us, thank you all.

Lori

Sometimes it seems like yesterday.  Sometimes it seems like a very long time ago.  I agreed to help her a little with some of the technical or medical stuff.  I guess somewhere along the way, like my daughter, writing became a trusted outlet for me.

The two blogs have produced 356 posts, 1,307 comments and 70,386 times someone has cared enough to see what was going on in our lives.

I guess I’m just feeling a little nostalgic tonight, please accept my sincere 70,386 Thank Yous.

Do you remember that car fever I talked about?  It just took about three months but the fever is gone.

Your thoughts and prayers are still needed and appreciated.

Good Night and God Bless.

Dave

  

The Process: Sometimes It Is Complicated

Four years ago this week I became a blogger (Is that a word?) since then I have done more than 200 posts.  This is the most difficult one I have written.  I normally spend from fifteen minutes to maybe three hours putting one together; I worked on this one off and on for three nights. It wasn’t emotionally difficult; I just couldn’t get my mind to convert what was in my heart into words we can understand.  I hope you understand it, I’m not sure I do.   

Maybe next week I can return to the lighter side.

If you check with Merriam-Webster, definitions for the word “grief” range from the casual, as in “Good grief Charley Brown” to the serious: “very deep distress caused by the loss of a loved one”. I probably should talk about Charley Brown but I need to share some thoughts about the other kind of grief, or the grieving process.

I have talked about the excruciating emotional pain I experienced with the loss of Sharyl and Conner.  I haven’t attempted to put into words the complicated process of dealing with that pain.

There have always been two distinct and different kinds of hurt or two separate holes in my heart.  I guess the process started immediately following Sharyl’s death; no one ran a flag up the pole and said okay the process has started. There is no scoreboard, time clock or schedule.  There is no sure way to measure or document progress; just a self-assessment or “gut feeling”, that is subject to sudden change and that change is not always good.

I think I was naïve enough to believe I was simultaneously processing the grief for both losses. Recently the pain caused by the second loss has been very intense.  Apparently I wasn’t capable of dealing with the two separate and distinctly different types pain at the same time.

I think two important milestones in the process are acceptance and not for the pain to go away, but for it to stabilize, (the hurt today is about the same as the hurt yesterday).  I think, at least temporarily, I have reached those milestones for the loss of Sharyl.

I am not to that point with the loss of Conner; I think I have made some progress but I struggle daily with acceptance and the pain certainly isn’t stable, and I hope it doesn’t stabilize at the present level.

I believe I will always miss Sharyl more, because we shared every detail of our lives for forty something years. The loneliness and remembering the “little things” are a part of my daily life, I don’t expect that to change and honestly I’m not sure I want it to. The loneliness could go but I believe the memories drive the loneliness and I want to hang on to the memories.

Emotional pain is difficult to understand and even harder to explain, but I expect that pain to forever be more severe for Conner, simply because of the youth and “what could have been”.

I love both you guys dearly and I miss you every day.

There is another kind of pain that is very much a part of the process.  I think of it as secondary pain, it is the pains derived from seeing those I love grieve the loss of a son, mom, brother, Maw Maw, nephew or cousin.  Sometimes I think this is the most difficult and complicated part of the entire process.

With God’s help, and your prayers, we will be OK, never the same but OK.

Good Night and God Bless.

Dave

Kitchens In My Life……

I’m not sure where this one will go; I just know it is another of those nights when sleep is a few hours away if it is there at all.  I usually know what I want to say when I approach the keyboard; then I figure out how to say it as I go along.  Tonight I really don’t know what or how.

For obvious reasons I have been very concerned about how I would handle November, December and January.  I was expecting them to be tough. November met those expectations but I was kind of prepared and I think I am doing OK.

I have spent some time; actually I have spent a lot of time, in the kitchen this week.  I haven’t cooked much because it is almost impossible to cook in an upside down kitchen.  I have almost completed the difficult task (physically and emotionally) of converting the place from Sharyl’s kitchen to my kitchen. It wasn’t the sort of thing I wanted help doing; I probably needed help but I wasn’t smart enough to ask.

I had time to think about or revisit the kitchens that have been part of my life.  There are three of them and if it is OK I will share some of the things that crossed my mind as I emptied and rearranged the cabinets this week.

One of those kitchens belonged to the lady I called mom, my kids called her Granny Pearl. One of them belonged to the lady my girls called mom and my grandkids called Maw Maw.  The third belongs to a tired senile old man; I shudder to think what others may call him.

I know sometimes kitchens are shared, that wasn’t an option with these three kitchens.  Thinking about my mom and Sharyl sharing a kitchen is laughable.  They got along great, thought the world of each other and they both were very good cooks but their philosophies regarding kitchens and cooking were completely opposite.  Technically Sharyl and I shared for about three years, but I really just used hers and I tried not to change anything so on her good days she was comfortable there.

Sharyl’s kitchen was my home kitchen for more than forty years. She was a good cook; however if she would have made a list of the things she liked to do, cooking wouldn’t have cracked the top twenty-five. She cooked because it came with the territory and approached it kind of like she approached life.  She stayed between the lines, she didn’t vary much from the printed recipe she had in front of her.

I remembered one of her social outlets in our early years was an occasional Tupperware party because I discovered quite a bit of vintage Tupperware tucked away in the dark corners of the cabinets.  She also was a heck of a homeroom mother because if the oven was big enough I have enough muffin tins to do 68 muffins or cupcakes at one time.

Our daily use cookware is some Salad master stainless steel we bought at one of those party deals in 1965.  We couldn’t afford it, but we managed to pay it out over the next three or twelve years.  I guess it was a good investment because I think I still have all of it and it is almost good as new.

The first twenty something years of my life I took my nourishment in this lady’s kitchen.

Pearl

 

Mom would have placed cooking at or very near the top of a list of things she liked to do.  I’m sure she had some printed recipes but I don’t remember ever seeing one.  Mom’s cooking was a little like her life it didn’t bother her to get outside the lines from time to time.  Honestly I don’t think there were lines in her kitchen.

I think it is a little characteristic of those ladies that lived the great depression to be very innovative in the kitchen.  My mom became an adult and started her family during that time.  If she had a pound of ground beef and enough saltine crackers, she could make enough meatloaf to feed an army.  During some of the tough years when I was a kid we frequently had sauerkraut and wieners or “kraut and weenies” as we called it.  Often when the bowl got to me there weren’t many weenies left.  I accused my brother of getting all the weenies; fact is there weren’t many weenies to begin with.  Mom did what she needed to do with what she had.

She knew how to make lye soap and to render lard from hog fat.  She canned everything imaginable; I spent a lot of summer days washing fruit jars to support her canning habit and I guess she canned to support our eating habit.

She continued to can, primarily pickles, relish and jellies and jams as long as she was physically able.  One time she was making plum jelly and apple jelly, at the end of the day she had a little bit of each juice left, the old do not waste it depression mindset kicked in.  Did you ever have apple-plum jelly?  My girls loved it; every year thereafter she would make the girls some apple-plum jelly.

Mom cooked professionally for several years, primarily as a pastry cook.  In ’62 she made a scale model (I guess that is what you call it) cake for the dedication ceremony of the Raley Chapel at Okla. Baptist University.  One time Sharyl and I delivered a very large wedding cake on snow covered roads for her.  I think it was about a thirty-mile trip.

The problem with not using written recipes is; things don’t always taste like they did last time.  Most of mom’s stuff was always very good but when she made meatloaf or dressing as in turkey and dressing; we learned to approach it with caution.  Sometimes it was very good and sometimes you wished you would have only taken a small helping.  I would like to try one more slice of that meatloaf.

The third kitchen in my life is still very much a work in progress.  I should have shared kitchen duties with Sharyl over the years, I didn’t, no excuses.  We were very compatible in a lot of the things we did; cooking was not one of those things.

When she got sick some wonderful friends fed us very well for about two months.  If I would have allowed it they might still be bringing meals and yes I have had second thoughts.  I tried to fix what Sharyl could and would eat.  She was appreciative and forgiving because she knew I was trying.  I’m not sure if genetics or environment is the primary driving force in my cooking style.  I use recipes but I usually deviate a little, I have always preferred to at least step over the line just a little.  I think if I was smart enough or experienced enough I would probably be more like my mom.  Don’t accept an invitation if I’m having meatloaf.

The conversion is almost complete, if I took a before and after picture they would look almost the same.  The in process picture would be scary.  I have a few lids without containers and some containers without lids, but mostly I just put this where that was and that where this was.  Kind of done it my way.

I’m sorry this one got a little long.  I’m not real sure when I’ll be back, I don’t have anything in mind to write about but I’ll probably have a goofy thought worth sharing in a few days or a few weeks.

Thanks for reading what I write and god knows I still need your prayers.

Good Night and god Bless.

Dave