The human memory. It’s both a gift and a curse.

Without memory, there would be no nostalgia. There would be no reminiscing over happy times. But, without memory, there would also be no regrets; no sadness. No grief…

To some degree – a large degree – we’re asked in scripture to live in the present. Learn from the past via our memories, but without drowning in them. We are not to “live in the past”, as it were. But sometimes, following that advice is hard as the mind sometimes goes where it will despite every intention and effort not to – like an unbroken stallion. I guess the task, then, is in dealing with this beast when it runs on its own: bridling it in; bringing it back to now.

On the same token, we’re told not to worry about the future. As I like to say: make plans for the future to protect yourself and your place in it, but don’t dwell on it or try to control it. That last bit isn’t for us. But who doesn’t find that majestic beast in their skull dragging them forward to turn some issue or aspect over and over at some point or other?

One of the joys of widowhood and the “widow brain” fog that seems to fall on us is the apparent inability to exert much control on either – vaulting into the past and worrying into the future like a yoyo.

I write this retrospectively – I’ve come a long, long way in a relatively short time on this. I find myself remembering often, but less so with the sadness and melancholy of loss. And, thanks to a new relationship with a wonderful woman who has gone through this same experience: I don’t wonder at what lonely trials the future may hold for me.

But many things have changed in a relatively short time. My youngest daughter has left the nest. She was the most company I had whenever I was at home. To be fair to her, though, since I’ve retired, I’ve been spending less and less time here – it wouldn’t have been fair to expect her to stay basically all by herself. My youngest son remains in the house, but he works a shift which ensures most waking time here is spent alone. She made the right decision.

When here, I work to alleviate the neglect that my 30-year mostly-on-the-road career, the parade of dogs and cats that came through the house since we’ve been here, etc. has resulted in so that the house can eventually be sold. And, that brings us back to memories. Emptying the house of those things that made it our particular home, as messy as it may have been. Each piece having some memory or other attached to it; having to willfully relegate these things to the trash heap…

The sinks are sunk

January 3rd, Jillian and I stopped at Home Depot on the way from Kim’s grave and I bought three matching bathroom sinks, two matching faucets, and various other items necessary for swapping sinks out. The sinks sat a few weeks as I gathered myself for the task of installing them, and then I installed the first – an event chronicled earlier in this blog. Since, based on the way the supply lines were valved, it was clear that I’d render that bathroom useless whilst I worked on the other sink, I decided I should put it off until it would just be Kenny and I home, or, better yet: just me. Several opportunities came and went as other things (like the taxes, for instance…) took precedence. Sigh.

This weekend Jillian was going to be out of the house, and I vowed to myself that I would get them done. And now they are.

The decision to put them off, though, turned out to be a good one – getting that first sink to fit the plumbing was definitely a fluke: both of these were off by inches, requiring the drain plumbing to be reworked. This rework, of course, resulted in corollary disasters. It literally took until 0100 Sunday morning to finish the second sink in the kids’ bathroom, having discovered that I cracked a pipe in the trap after having cemented the whole affair together. This discovery occurred well after closing time for any store likely to have replacements. Thankfully: “I are an engineer.” I fixed the pipe with some epoxy putty, and it is certified and verified: leak-free. But: that took WAY more time than I had allotted.

Another time-eater: these new sinks don’t have a clamping feature as the old sinks did – they rely on the adhesive caulk to hold them in place, and adhesive caulk need significant time to cure, and I needed this bathroom back in service as quickly as I could manage. Would not have been a big deal, except for, by the time it mattered, I was tired as hell and every @#$%in’ time I needed to get up from under the sink, I’d forget, reach up, and grab the edge of the sink to pull myself up. I got so good and cleaning up and applying fresh caulk on that sink, that the sink in the bathroom on the first floor looks like it was professionally installed. And, not being half asleep, I remembered not to use the sink to get myself off the ground.

Figuring that I’d seen all of what the high school VoTech plumbers could offer, I planned two jobs for today: the first-floor sink, and the much-hated task of replacing the valves in that bathroom’s toilet – another task whose parts have been sitting around for months awaiting my availability. Well, and this is likely needless to say by now: I hadn’t yet seen all of the wonders this house’s plumbing had to offer. Had I removed the cabinet, it would have been simple. But that cabinet had other ideas, and cutting the pipe to reposition the trap was a piece of cake. Cake made from ground glass and concrete, with plaster-of-Paris icing. There was not enough room to use a string saw and, though the pipe proclaimed itself to be 1-1/2 inches, my 1-5/8 PVC pipe shear wanted to have nothing to do with it. I finally used a bare hacksaw blade to cut it. Good thing I have calluses on my hands like cake made from ground glass and concrete, with plaster-of-Paris icing.

But it’s done. I only have one more plumbing task (that I’m currently aware of) left to do. That’s a good feeling.

As a bonus round, we had been battling stained grout in our master bedroom bath pretty much since the criminals (Bobson Construction) finished their destruction-of-our-home-cum-construction-of-an-addition (honestly: if you need work done on your house, run from these idiots). The grout is very coarse; hardly what you would want in a shower (probably because it was cheap), and it holds mildew like a trash panda holds a chicken bone – you ain’t getting that easily! Until now! While looking for plumbing parts, I found a “Chlorox Bathroom Bleach Foamer” at Home Depot. Holy frijoles! Where has this stuff been?! I “foamed” the most horrid spot in the shower – a compound corner that was impossible to hit with any sort of brush – and it is WHITE again! Nice! I foamed the rest of the shower, and it looks really good! Kim would have been happy to see this – finally – after all the different products we’d tried over the years including Tilex.

During the past few days, I’ve also managed to make significant progress in reducing the clutter in the basement, and in getting my “office” upstairs to useable order. A productive, busy few days. My mood has been… generally depressed …but keeping busy helps me not to focus so much on Kim, and knocking things off that list is a huge relief – especially things I hadn’t really planned on getting done yet.

Dreary day

Today was a bit dreary. Warmer than it had been, but cloudy with drizzle most of the day. It started with me going to mom’s since, looking at my phone upon waking, I saw what looked like a panic on the part of my sisters – luckily, I woke up inexplicably earlier than I do even during the workweek. In any case, once again, the firm providing my Mom’s care, Home Instead, appeared to have dropped the ball, and they didn’t know if anyone would be there today or not. This happens far too often, and, if it were up to me, I’d be looking for other arrangements – but I’m not the ringmaster for this particular circus – nor do I wish to be.

Upon arriving at Mom’s, I found she had a caregiver, so it wasn’t as bad as I feared. Unfortunately, I’m not “strong” enough to assist Mom with her toileting if needed, and, if Home Instead had not been able to find someone to take the shift, I likely would have had to.

Four hours later, I returned home to try and get some other things done. Because of the drizzle, I wasn’t able to cut the grass as I had hoped – instead, I managed to clean – thoroughly clean – the litter boxes before my oldest son needed help hanging a new TV he had purchased. At his house, I set the hanger, and cut in the AV boxes for him, and, after Kenny, Chris, and I manhandled the monstrous thing onto the bracket, his nice, new TV is now hanging on the wall with no wires showing. This whole thing, looking at the clock on the way back home, took significantly longer than I thought it did! Time flies, I guess.

Kenny and I got home, and I finished processing some pumpkin seeds I had put in the oven to dry earlier in the day, then I made spicy bean burritos for Kenny’s and my supper. And then the day was used up.


It’s odd how we think about time. Without Kim, shouldn’t I have more time for other things? No, no – that’s not how it works. Without Kim, my brain sallies forth each day into the fog that used to be my ordered, structured mind and nothing is as efficient as it used to be. Thankfully, though, there’s another thing has changed in the After Kim as well. In the past, when she was away, I’d stay up WAY too late ’cause she wasn’t there to come down and say “Aren’t you coming to bed?” If that “stuck,” I’d be in real trouble now, since I do not function well in a sleep deficit, and I’m already dealing with the fogginess of “widow brain” as they call it. But I seem to wind down and want to hit the hay early enough on my own now.

Well, with Jillian out of town, I opted for no Grandma Sue’s tomorrow so I should be able to knock a few more things off my list tomorrow after mass and the cemetery. Wish me luck…

The return of the winter blahs…

So, despite them having removed the snow from the forecast, we got hit with it anyway. All the flowers that remained from Kim’s efforts, the flowering trees, the lawn… All covered with snow. The temperature has stayed low as well, so things don’t look good for them. I’m sure any crocuses will survive, but all the other flowers will likely not. Sigh.

I blame global warming. I’m sure they have some explanation or other how mankind is at fault, and how this perfectly fits their predictions. Like their prediction that we were all supposed to be dead in ten years – made over 12 years ago…

In any case, this cold and snow has dampened my spirits to the point it was pretty dammed difficult to roll out of bed this morning. It is difficult in general – the mornings are my most “depressed” time of day – but today was extra difficult. Since Jeanette got cancelled last night for work, she came over for a pizza dinner (and wings! Love Pizza Hut’s wings!), and she and Vanessa went to their own home last night, removing the incentive to “spring out of bed” at my normal time, since I didn’t have to drive Vanessa to school, and languished between the sheets until I had to start preparing for my first meeting. I’ll pay for that throughout the day as I encounter the shoulda-coulda-wouldas that extra inactive time invariably results in. Oh, well.

The sky is clear with a scattering of cotton ball clouds, and the temperature is slated to hit 45° today (but 30° tonight…), so I expect the snow that, surprising, accumulated everywhere will be fairly short-lived. As, I hope, will be the blahs that came with it.

Wow! A gap!

Funny. It didn’t seem like this week was any busier than those since I started this blog, but there you have it: a three day gap! I did do a lot of yard work the past few days, plus, I wrapped up all the kids’ tax returns and started focusing on mine in earnest. Plus, I started another educational program, heaping it upon the several bible studies I’m currently waaaaay behind on…

I guess it was ripe to occur: one of my “coping” mechanisms seems to be stacking up so much to do that I cannot possibly get through it. (The other appears to have become late night snacking, which I need to work on eliminating before I reverse all of the hard-won weight loss I’ve achieved until now…)

The weather is playing its pure Michigan games – we were up to 80 a few days there, and then they were predicting a snowstorm for 20 April. Upon hearing this forecast, I predicted the snowstorm would fall off of their prediction (which it did yesterday), but it is still not as warm as I’d like for mid-April. Still: it was warm enough to follow up on some tree trimming I had begun last fall, and to clear a copse of “voluntrees” and some deadfall from the park along the fence bordering my yard. I still have to bundle and discard the trimmings (they’re neatly stacked along the fence line in the park), or, maybe, I’ll have a bonfire this week.

Kim’s tulips (or crocuses – I don’t know the difference) are in full bloom in the front yard, and a few in the side yard – yellows and pinks and one purple one. I don’t recall there having been any purple ones in the past, and it is only the one. Maybe she’s talking to me – after all, purple is her favorite color, and those purple ones I talked about a few weeks back were the first to pop on the scene. It is odd that there’s only one purple one out of the tens of yellow and red ones. Anyway…

I’ve started getting ready for summer – I’ve laid in 80 lbs. of charcoal for the smoker, designed a plate to incorporate a propane burner on the thing to sustain some of the longer cooks more readily, and have the lawn mower pulled out and the snow blower stowed away for the summer.

The TV in my bedroom was Kim’s and my “theater”. There are two easy chairs at the foot of the bed that we would sit in and watch movies when we got the time. Kim also liked to watch some of her old favorites – particularly “Murder, She Wrote” from the bed when she didn’t feel well. (Our middle daughter, Jessica, got her name from Kim’s enjoyment of that show!) Saturday night, for the first time since I left the bedroom in order to stay with Kim when she couldn’t make it up the stairs anymore, I turned on the TV in our room and watched a movie. I honestly don’t understand why I watched the whole movie, because it was pretty bad – probably the worst superhero movie since “Superman vs. Batman” a few years back, and that’s saying a lot: “Wonder Woman 84.” Until then, I just couldn’t turn it on. Besides: nothing really interested me. Now, it’s like having touched a hot burner: I probably won’t be turning it on again any time soon – thanks to either DC Comics, Patty Jenkins, the group of writers, or the producers – someone made some pretty rank decisions, particularly on bringing the inane storyline to “film”…

And, it was a “usual,” if a bit “long”, Sunday: 8:00 Mass with Jillian, popped over to Holiday Market for flowers, then to Kim’s Dad’s to take him to the cemetery. Nick wanted to go, so there were four of us. Upon arriving at the graves, I found the flowers from last week still intact and actually in pretty good shape! I added the new flowers to each, and then dropped Nick and Dad home. Jillian and I spent the rest of the day at Grandma Sue’s – a delicious “egg casserole” for brunch, then Jillian finished the puzzle they were working on last weekend. We then watched some crime shows on Oxygen with Grandma Sue – seemed like she really didn’t want us to leave, but we finally did at 6:30! Yikes!

All pretty “normal” stuff. But (there’s always a “but”), likely due to the vacillating thermometer, the vegetation is in a survival panic and cranking out pollen like nobody’s business. This brings on allergies, LOTS of congestion and – you guessed it! – my new friend, Vestibular Imbalance (no introductions necessary: you’ve met…). I can see it is going to be a challenging summer.

Another step forward

There was a *LOT* to be done today! First, a meeting at work, then I had to run up to Akron Tire to see about Jillian’s car. I took the opportunity, since I was so close, to stop by Mom’s to see her and Sharon, my sister, who had flown in from New Hampshire for a visit, then back home for more meetings, and, finally an Association meeting. Phew. It’s now 9:00 pm and I’m just now getting an opportunity to sit down to make my blog entry.

The owner at Akron had good records of the work he had done on the Escape when it was Kim’s. When I went down the laundry list, he basically spelled out how he would approach each one – it was refreshing to hear his approach is a lot like mine – rather than rip out the exhaust and replace it all, he will cut the tubes at each side of the failed flange, and then marry them with another piece of pipe. The brakes, he will assess – they were grinding when I drove it over, so I’m pretty sure it will be at least rotors and pads. Hopefully, the calipers aren’t involved. He offered his condolences over Kim, and asked me twice whether it was OK to replace her info with mine – he said some people are strange about that. In any case: nice guy. He said he should have something in three days because he is swamped (a sign of a good mechanic!). Hopefully, it will be a “quick fix” after that, so Jillian won’t be without her car too long. As it is, I expect it will interfere with her senior retreat Friday.

And it was great seeing Sharon. We had a nice talk in which she said that she recalled it being about a year before Mom had any sense of Dad “being around” after he passed – she, too, had no dreams of him or any “incidents” immediately after he passed, so maybe this desert will pass.

Over the weekend, I had met a new caregiver assigned to my mom. Mom really liked her, and she and I really hit it off – I think my mom was bored because she and I were talking on so many different subjects. In any case, when she was relieved by the next caregiver, she left her phone number under my windshield wiper before leaving. I saw it as an incredible ego boost, but an impossibility – I am easily twice her age. My mother, on the other hand, thinks we “made a connection”, and Sharon simply said that you never know, because “the heart wants what it wants.” I don’t think the kids would be very tolerant of me getting involved with someone younger than my oldest daughter, either. Still: finding that piece of paper under my windshield wiper was one hell of an ego boost 🙂

The remainder of the workday was uneventful. I had been contemplating exiting the Association Board for some time. It’s not overly burdensome, and I am pretty good at what I do for them, I guess – but, like other such roles in life: you learn things about people that you really didn’t need to know. It can be depressing, and I’m getting enough of that particular “Big D” just navigating through the loss of Kim. But, as seems to happen invariably when I get in this mood, we have a meeting, and I feel better about it – like a battery that gets recharged, and slowly trickles the energy away until the next time. Ah, well. I’ll finish the next meeting, and, assuming things go as expected, finish implementing the changes I’m working on. There is a break, the September board meeting, and then the next General Meeting in October. If I still feel this way, I will simply not submit for re-election at that meeting.

Well, it’s an early day tomorrow since I must drive Vanessa to school. Best wrap this up for the day.

Sunday, Sunday…

It’s funny. Some days, it’s almost as if everything reminds me of Kim. Little things would remind me of things she’d say or do. Someone will say something, and I can hear Kim’s “stock reply” in my mind’s ear. There was a lot of that today as Jillian sat with Grandma Sue at the dining room table working on a jigsaw puzzle – something Kim would have heartily joined in on.

After mass this morning, I shot across the street to the Holiday Market and picked up two bouquets of cut flowers; one with some purple flowers in it for Kim; another with some blue flowers for her mom. The headstone has arrived and is on the ground at the head of her grave. It looks like they followed my instructions to a “tee” and the stone looks great – though I can’t convey how strange it is to see my name on a gravestone.

Her dad rode out to the cemetery with me, as usual. He’s having more and more difficulty getting in and out of the car. I can see that it likely won’t be long before I’ll be making the trip solo as I don’t think he’ll be able to get in and out of a car if he continues as he has been.

This was a bit of a strange week for the Grandma Sue thing, too. The role of “organizer” has fallen to Jillian, and I knew she was polling her siblings earlier in the week, which she does concurrently with asking Grandma Sue if she is up for visitors. Then, in the hubbub of the week, I lost track of what was going on and didn’t know whether we were to go or not. Kim’s dad really likes to go and asked if we were going, but at that time: I had no idea. After I had been home awhile, I finally got ahold of Jillian, who spent the night at Jessica’s, and found that we were. It ended up being just Jillian and me with Sue and Larry but it was a good brunch, and Jillian and Sue worked on that jigsaw puzzle until about 6:30!

Jillian’s muffler fell off on the way to Sue’s, so I wired it up with a coat-hanger, and then Larry and I dropped it at nearby Akron Tire – it will need that, front brakes, alignment, and an oil change. Larry made a point of telling me how great he thought all of my kids were, and what a great job Kim and I did raising them. It was nice to hear. I like Larry. He seems to be very good for Sue, and he’s fun to kid with.

Tomorrow, I’ll need to go up to Akron to drop Jillian’s keys off and schedule the work. The last time it was there, it was still Kim’s, and they did the rear brakes for her. Maybe they’ll remember.

Prayers for Gramma Sue who is having eye surgery tomorrow.

Maybe they do speak…

A bit of an odd day today. I had an appointment with my PCP for a long-overdue physical. Leaving there, I got it into my head that, my doctor’s office being well over half way to the cemetery, I’d swing by and “see” her – the precise thought in my head: “I need to go see Kim.” So I did, enjoying my coffee and a bag of mixed nuts along the way since I had to starve and dehydrate myself until that blood was drawn for the physical….

On the way home, instead of my usual 8 Mile to I-275 route, I turned down 9 Mile, which yielded an unexpectedly more scenic route, oddly reminiscent of the drive Kim and I took after the doctor’s appointment during which she had decided she’d had enough of the chemo. Some of the scenery looked déjà vu familiar, but I’m sure I must have taken that path at least once back in my LIT college days, so no real mystery there.

Eventually, I made my way back to 8 Mile, and then onto Newburgh, figuring, for some odd reason, I’d stop at the Westland Meijer to get gas on the way home. The truck was almost 3/4 full, so I’m not sure why I decided that. As I approached 5 Mile, I was hit with an overwhelming compulsion to go to Kim’s Dad’s house which is along that route, and an urgent need to complete a “mission“ of intervention for someone I knew would be there, but whom I had already decided to let go their own way – I, frankly, had enough on my plate. I think that this “mission” may bear fruit.

Maybe it was just my conscience. Maybe. Or maybe it was Kim and her Mom, buried next to each other, making me an instrument to open someone’s eyes to what they were doing. Can’t say. I know I cried pretty much all the way home afterward – along I-275, as the desire to go to the Westland Meijer for gas disappeared…

If you are the praying sort, please say some prayers to strengthen the subject of my “mission.” And, while you’re at it, maybe a prayer for me, too. Thank you.

One flew over…

This is what it must be like for insane people.

I know Kim’s gone, but my mind fights against that reality at times. For instance, I would complete some non-mundane task that Kim usually took care of, and I would have the urge to go tell her to not worry about it: I’ve already done it. Or when I consider making changes in the house, and stop myself with the thought “No – Kim likes it this way.” Or, how when I go into her craft room to take care of her plants in the morning, I reflexively look over to her chair at her main table, half expecting her to turn around and smile at me.

Another week…

This week was spent in a training program at work (you can teach us old dogs new tricks..). It’s for a software package we use to assess the dimensional variability in assemblies – I’ve used the output of this type of software for 30 years but had never been trained in running the analysis myself. Until now. It really will have little impact on me in this career but may offer options for my upcoming “retirement” career.

That’s pretty much the highpoint of the week, though – that, and I moved all of the desks I had bought into my office and leveled them. I think this will work out well, though I have to figure out some “under desk” storage for all of the accoutrements of the various equipment I will be using in there. And remove the rest of the “stuff” that got “stored” in there while I was on launch…

I did have at least one dream with Kim in it this week, but that’s the most apt description for these weird episodes – Kim is there, but we really don’t interact, and the dreams are just weird.

I blame the stupid and archaic “spring forward,” but I’ve not felt anywhere as rested as I had in the months prior, and have been generally “out of sorts” ever since.

Pile onto this my mom calling today to ask me to bring forbidden candy to her tomorrow… Honestly: when you’re on the cusp of 90, you should be able to do whatever you like; however, I’m not the one who runs to the hospital with her with the health issue candy may be contributing to. But it does lay the guilt on me when she does that and I have to say no.

Sigh. It’s the weekend. Yay.