From the time our children were babies, we vacationed on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We rented the same house, No Egrets in Corolla, year after year. It felt like our own summer house, and in fact, until they were teenagers, our daughters thought we owned it.
We enjoyed visits from relatives who came to relax with us on the beach. We celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. Neil and I sat out on the deck every night and talked about life, shared our dreams and made plans like it was New Year’s Eve. One year we came home to Virginia and remodeled our whole kitchen so it felt more open and beachy. Another year we decided to put in a pool so it felt like we were on vacation all summer. Another time we planned to bike more at home since we enjoyed it so much there. Corolla was where Neil encouraged me to write and I encouraged him to find work he enjoyed. It was truly one of our favorite places.
The first summer after he died, I could barely face our own house without him, let alone the beach house. Last summer, I started to feel a yearning for the coast and the sand, but couldn’t bring myself to go. This summer I was ready. Continue reading →
I was finally at the writers’ conference I had anticipated all year. The first day was full of networking (which I hate) and learning (which I love). It was a long day, and coming on the heels of my trip to Ireland, I was tired. I was relaxing in my hotel room, sipping my nightly glass of wine and chewing Skittles, when the lights flickered and went out.
What’s going on? I thought. It had been incredibly hot that day – over a hundred degrees, with a high chance of thunderstorms. My first thought was a lightning strike, but then I realized it wasn’t storming. Next, the ER doctor in me thought, I wonder if a car accident hit a local transformer – I hope everyone is ok. Finally, the worrier in me thought, Oh no, what if its terrorists, or the end of the world?
I sat on the plump, comfortable hotel bed in pitch darkness, trying to decide what to do and how upset I should be. I didn’t hear any sirens or screams to suggest something serious. The bed was cozy and the wine was the perfect temperature. I could still feel the Skittles in their open bag on the bedside table. The power is probably going to come back on any second, I thought, After a few minutes it was still dark, and I knew I needed to investigate. After all, if it was the end of the world, shouldn’t I call my daughters? Continue reading →
It was one of those unusual days in the ER when nothing was going on. No car accidents, no sick kids, no broken bones – and the nurses left the department in a rare opportunity to relax at the cafeteria for lunch. Alone in the department I strolled around looking through the windows to the sunny summer day outside. As I watched, the glass ambulance doors opened and a man wandered through. He had a distinctive swaggering walk and blond hair that was long enough to fall in soft curls, but I couldn’t see his face behind the bloody towel he clutched
over it. Continue reading →
It was one of those negative days where everything was annoying. The birds were loud and woke me up early. The coffee didn’t brew on time and tasted stale when it finally did. The exercise class was harder than usual and I barely kept up. The toilet upstairs hadn’t stopped running after the last flush and used up all the water in the well. The cat and dog had gotten into a fight and as a result the cat got sick in the bathtub. Worst of all, Neil wasn’t there to listen to me complain. Continue reading →
After several weeks of enjoyable but hectic travel, I looked forward to a relaxing weekend at home. There was nothing I absolutely had to do except go to church. Oh, and maybe get some groceries, since the cupboards contained only some nuts and a few boxes of Fiber One. Come to think of it, I hadn’t done any laundry in a while either…
Before long, the blank page of my weekend was completely covered by my to-do list. Then a friend called and we talked about going to the movies. I was torn. I wanted to see her but I really needed to clean those toilets. Another friend texted to remind me about the exercise class I promised to attend. Sure, exercise was important, but my kitchen was messy enough I feared cockroaches might move in. And the litter box – don’t even think about skipping that! – I reprimanded myself. Continue reading →
I love honeysuckle. As a child I sipped the ‘honey” from the blossoms and wove the flowers around my head in summer crowns. When my daughters were little I showed them the joys of honeysuckle too, and if on a walk or drive we saw some, often stopped to collect a fragrant bouquet. When I worked twelve hour shifts in the Emergency Department, I carried blooming branches in with me to remind me of the summer day outside. Even now, I love to sit on the deck in the evening, enjoying the sweet fragrance of honeysuckle floating in the breeze while crickets chirp their summer song and stars shine gently overhead.
When we first moved into our house, I was determined to surround it with honeysuckle. I bought some tiny plants from the local feed store. When I feared I didn’t have enough, I literally dug it up from alongside our country road. My neighbor, Charlie, laughed and thanked me for weeding the neighborhood. Continue reading →
A tree has been in my front yard for the last twenty years. It provided shade to our front deck. It provided privacy to our windows. It provided a climbing spot for kids and cats, a home for birds, a job site for a woodpecker, beautiful colors in the fall. It grew from a little twig to a huge tree so quickly Neil and I often laughed that it reminded us of our relationship. One minute we hardly knew each other and the next we were married and raising a family!
But everything has a season and the tree was dying. It was breaking off in pieces and proving dangerous to my roof, my car, and anyone siting underneath. It was time to cut it down. 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 →
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 →