Have you ever been in a hot air balloon? The pilot uses a propane fire to heat the air inside the balloon, and since hot air rises, the balloon floats upward. As the air inside it cools, the balloon descends. The pilot can’t really steer, but he goes up and down until he finds a wind current that carries him in the direction he wants to go. The balloon can’t travel any faster than the wind – if there’s no wind the balloon just sits there in the sky. The passengers are carried in a basket made of wicker which is a fairly sturdy, flexible material, and can absorb some of the energy shock during landing. And speaking of landing, the pilot is improvising moment to moment. He doesn’t know where he is going to land until the end of the flight based on the wind currents he finds and the geography he sees. He needs a reliable ground crew to pick him up wherever he lands. Fascinating, right?
Neil and I thought so, too, so we celebrated our first wedding anniversary with an early morning hot air balloon ride. Continue reading →
Since Neil died, I am learning to appreciate solitude (at least sometimes), but I am still having trouble adjusting to all the work that goes onto caring for a house. I started keeping lists to remind me what needs to be done.
From indoor things like laundry and groceries and pets, to outside things like the yard and the heat pump and the car, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. The lists help me feel more in control and productive, and I admit I love the sense of accomplishment that comes from crossing things off when they are done. I should have known I was developing a problem when one of my friends invited me to lunch and I declined to go. I didn’t tell her it was because I had too many things on my list, but it was. Continue reading →
One Saturday morning, Neil was in charge at home while I went to the store. The baby was sleeping and Gina was visiting a friend’s house, so all he had to do was entertain four-year old Jacquelyn. I had the harder job. The grocery list was long, the store was crowded, and by the time I got home I was cranky.
I found Neil on the patio chatting with a neighbor. “Where is Jackie?”
“I think she’s in the living room,” he said, completely unconcerned she wasn’t planted at his feet. Continue reading →
One of the worst fights Neil and I ever had was the night of his 25th class reunion. In retrospect, the reunion was a recipe for disaster even before it started; there was no way things could have turned out well. I worked night shift the night before and never slept that day. I knew no one in Neil’s graduating class, and although I was flattered that he wanted to show off his family, I was exhausted by the prospect of an entire day nodding politely and smiling constantly. Continue reading →
When Neil and I first met, he ran a restaurant called The Bone. Not only did it have great food, it was one of the few places in our town where you could hear live music. There was a huge party there the night of our first New Year’s Eve. The tables were full, the bar was three people deep, live music blared and people danced as the countdown to midnight closed in.
Shortly before twelve, Neil found me in the crowd. He was working, but he wanted me to stay put so he would know right where I was to come kiss me at midnight. So sweet, I thought, as I watched him move back into the crowd. Every square foot of the restaurant was filled with people celebrating, and for a few minutes I was distracted taking it all in.
Continue reading →
I brought up the decorations and the tangled tree lights from the basement and faced the huge stack with melancholy. Neil loved Christmas and overdid it every year. Not an inch of our house was void of Christmas cheer; from bathroom to basement, it was all decorated. And when he ran out of decorations, he put bows on everything, including the pets and the dining room chairs. I sat on the floor staring at those boxes and remembered another time long ago when I found myself sitting on the floor. Continue reading →
It was time to sell Neil’s truck. I had a minor panic attack thinking about it, but I knew it was time. Neil never cared all that much about possessions, but he sure did love that truck, and letting it go was losing another piece of him.
I remember the day he bought it. It was priced higher than he had planned to spend, but it was in perfect shape, in his favorite color, with more luxuries than any vehicle we had ever owned. He and my mom and I walked around the lot, weighing the pros and cons. He was very impressed with the engine and four-wheel-drive; I couldn’t believe it had heated seats and sunroof. With a deep breath and a fair amount of anxiety, he signed the papers, and drove home like a little kid with a new favorite toy. Continue reading →
I pulled out the Thanksgiving decorations and planned the menu. I invited my brother-in-law and cleaned the holiday dishes. I prepared a centerpiece and baked the pumpkin pie. I made the pine-cone turkey place settings that have adorned our holiday table since the girls were little.
Everything was the same as all the other Thanksgivings, yet everything was totally different. In a somber mood, I sat down to read through Neil’s Caring Bridge website from last year. Continue reading →
A few weeks ago I noticed the photo albums lining our living room shelves. With a sigh, I pulled one down and settled on the couch to browse through it. It was of a trip Neil and I had taken to Italy years ago, just the two of us, our daughters having their own vacation back in the States with my sister.
As I turned the pages I smiled, a few times even laughed out loud, as I remembered the details surrounding each of those pictures. There we were, complaining about climbing the 463 steps to the top of the Duomo in Florence; snooping around in Sienna to find Frances Mayes’ house; playing around in a deserted Tuscan castle we found; pitching pennies into the Trevi fountain and giggling hysterically because it was so crowded we kept missing. Continue reading →
People respond to me in different ways now that Neil has died.
Some people pretend they don’t see me because they don’t know what to say. Others pretend nothing has changed. Some offer advice, and worst of all, some people tell me it’s time to move on.
I know they all mean well and want to help; they just don’t know how to do it. How do you help someone who’s faced a great loss when you don’t know what to say? It’s actually easier than you think. You don’t have to say a thing; you just listen.
Recently, a dear friend brought me dinner. We sat at the table long after the food had grown cold and she invited me to reminisce. Continue reading →