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.
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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 →
I used to worry myself sick about my children. All those years working in the emergency room left me acutely aware of all the dangers in the world: broken bones, lacerations, concussions, car accidents and all sorts of other harms.
Neil was almost the opposite. He didn’t want our daughters to grow up afraid of anything. He taught them swimming and rock climbing and caving and surfing, and whenever they got hurt he called their wounds a “fun badge.” They came home and told me all about their adventures, proudly showing off their fun badges to prove what they had done. Continue reading →
Have you ever noticed that pain has a way of distracting us from the peace that’s right in front of us? I was reminded of this recently, when my oldest daughter visited for the weekend, and we sat at the kitchen table, sipping coffee and catching up. Something caught my attention, flickering outside the window, and when I stood to investigate I looked right into the tiny face of a hummingbird. He didn’t fly away, but hovered there, watching me just as I watched him. And I smiled, appreciating in that moment a simple, joyful, peace. Continue reading →
Have you ever realized too late that you made a mistake? Maybe blamed your son for a broken vase, only to find out later your daughter broke it? Or criticized your coworker for an error, only to learn that it was actually your fault? I thought about this today as I noticed my jacket hanging on the back of the dining room chair. Continue reading →
Neil had a way of teaching me things. Sometimes I learned from him, other times I learned because of him, but in retrospect he was pretty wise. Here are seven of his life lessons we should all remember. Continue reading →