Monday, November 28, 2011

Bare Ruined Choirs

My favorite of Shakespeare's sonnets, number 73, but now it has a different and sadder connotation for me.  Not just advancing old age, but death itself.  On my walks with Maia, I keep noticing the trees with "yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang" and thinking of bare ruined choirs.  No more sweet birds singing.

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang

Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourish'd by.
This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Part One

I got through the first part of Thanksgiving, which is my first major holiday without Mark.  David came down and the three of us had fish and chips made by Michael.  I held it together but I know they could hear the tears just behind my voice: Dad made good fish and chips, Dad would do all the cleaning, Dad would know what kind of computer I need to replace this one.  Dad knew how to dispose of cooking oil.  David showed me how to check the air in my tires and of course, Dad always did that, so I didn't have to know how.  But it's easy.  I can do it.  Now I have to put air in them!

And I'm tired!  In addition to a 2.5 mile dog walk, I went to store twice, did innumerable dishes, made a pie, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and the "chips" for tonight.  Plus some laundry and all the dusting.  tomorrow I shall vacuum, clean the little bathroom, and make sure all laundry is done.  Hopefully, I can squeeze in a dog walk and a shower.  We also have to fetch Auntie Mary which is a major effort.  Then we'll have guests for our turkey and trimmings. I suspect then I will be very sad, despite Auntie Mary telling me, "Us big girls don't cry".  Oh yes we do.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


   I received a suggestion today from an in law.  Maybe I should consider repainting my bedroom or rearranging the furniture to make it more for "me".  Although well intentioned, it rankled.  What does that mean to me?  Mark's prioitiy was to make me happy,  so it's already for me.   It's been only six weeks since he died and I should repaint and move furniture as if that could fix things?  Or make me feel better?  No.  I'm not yet separated enough to be a "me" instead of an "us".  I can't even think of myself as widowed, single, or unmarried.   When I see the furniture the way it is, I still think of him as being part of that homescape.  I see his chair and I talk to him, which comforts me.  When I eat dinner, I sit in his place.  Right now, I'm wearing his cozy flannel shirt.  It's like a faint hug from his loving and comforting arms.   I sleep in the purple bedroom and I remember with a smile when we mistakenly chose that color.  I feel him, warm and protective, in the bed next to me.  Last night, I thought I felt him ease into bed with me, always so careful not to disturb me.  The wind and rainstorm outside made me ache for the comfort of his reassuring presence.  I always felt safe and loved when he was here.
   We had a deep and abiding love for 35 years.  A paint job, moving a few sticks of furniture is not going to heal the grievous wound of losing him.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Season of Grief

Now is the season of grief.  An ordinary season lasts about 91 days.  Look at the calendar and you can find the first day of spring, summer, fall, or winter.  It's usually the 21st of the month and if you are picky, you can find out the exact astronomical minute for the onset of a new season.  Not so, the Season of Grief.  Who knows how long it will last?  It's different for every bereaved person.  It doesn't depend on where the Earth is in relation to the sun; it depends on the heart.  For me, the Season of Grief comes at both predictable and unpredictable times.  A song on the car radio while I'm driving to work can move me to tears.  I can cry at the computer when I see an email that I think for one billionth of a second is from Him.  Rounding the corner to home after a long school day, I see his silver truck and the heart cries out, "He's home!" but the mind says, "No, he will never come home."  I know that I'll be sad during December because he always made me feel special at my birthday, and Christmas.  He made me feel special every day of every season.  This fifth season, the season of Grief has taken that away.  It hurts. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Sometimes the enormity of my loss hits me upside the head like a two by four.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


I ran across this poem by W H Auden today.  I felt like this five weeks ago.  How could the earth
continue its normal orbit, or women shop for shoes, or politicians squabble over stupid things when Mark lay dead in a Bellevue hospital room?  It's not like that now, still very sad but a quieter and and more accepting sadness.  Life does go on, even mine.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


I am now the custodian of our memories.  How many times did we hear something, see something and instantly look at each other, no words needed, to share a thought or memory?  I miss the intimacy of knowing somebody so well and of somebody knowing me so well.  Will I ever be able to sit at a restaurant table, have a busser ask, "May I take your plate, maam?" and not snicker?  Decades ago, a hapless young man took my plate, still  half full, and asked and I said, "NO", very sharply.  We were at a long gone Seattle waterfront restaurant., possibly before we were married,   Mark thought that was hilarious and often asked me after dinner here at home, "May I take your plate, maam?  Please don't kill me!"

Thursday, November 10, 2011

First Visit

Today I visited Mark's grave at Tahoma National Cemetery for the first time.  GPS helped me drive along the rural, tree lined roads.  If it had been another errand, with Mark there beside me, it would have been a wonderful drive.   It was a tearful, difficult moment but not as awful as I thought it might be.  Maybe the beautiful setting, the gorgeous fall colors and profusion of flags eased my  heart a little.  I drove into the cemetery grounds and all the way up to the flag pole and came back around.  As I drove back to the columbaria, where he is, the Mountain was brilliantly visible.  What a beautiful setting.  There were a lot of people putting flowers on their loved ones' graves in anticipation of Veterans' Day.  And I was one of them with my bright yellow chrysanthemums.  I'm glad that his niche (and one day, mine) is low to the ground.  I was able to touch it and talk to him.   An older woman put her arm over my shoulder,  "Dear," I lost my husband 10 years ago."  She was a volunteer and had helped me find his niche when I got confused.  I had been looking right at it.  It's like I just didn't believe that I could have a personal stake in that place.  This lady teared up too and said, "You never get over it, but it does get easier, it really does."   I'm going to believe her.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Walking and Talking

South on Monroe Ave, 4:40 PST

Maia and I hit the road at 4:22 this afternoon. I was tempted to take a pass, after work and stopping at the CPA for my tax form.  Maia was too eager and ready, so I thought well I'll do it, just don't think: change clothes, leash up the dog and get out.  Who is going to bother me with a large dog and later on, a bag of you-know-what? 
Lately on my walks I imagine that I'm chatting with Mark.  He would be glad to know that Maia is getting what she needs: walks, play, meals, and attention. He would say,
"Hiya Toots, how are you doing?"
"I'm okay, best I can do.  How are you?"
"Doin' more cancer, or chemo."
"That's good but I really miss you."
"You have to go on, right?  You're doing what needs to be done?"
"Yes, dear...."
"That's my line!"
"I know, but I REALLY miss you.  I wear your tatty plaid shirt, did you know that?  And your wedding ring, and your Cannon Beach jacket." 
"Are you crying a lot?"
"Not as much, but it comes and goes.  When I look at your empty side of the bed, I do cry."
"Well, stop it!"
"And if it were me??"
"But that's different....."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Good Marriage

On my way to work today, I heard a bit on the radio about marriage.  A study had been done and revealed the secret to a successful, til death-us-do-part marriage.  It wasn't whether the partners were good looking, or shared interests, or similar senses of humor.  It was commitment.  Specifically, commitment to the marriage itself, to seeing it through to the end.
Mark and I got engaged in October of 1977.  We were at a cheesy restaurant bar in Southcenter Mall; the world series was on the bar television.  He was adamant that once he got in, that was it.  He meant to keep his commitment.  He had lived through his parents' ill-fated marriage and subsequent years and pledged that he would not be in a marriage like that.  That was his word to me and I gave him my word in return.  We succeeded in creating a life-long, committed, solid marriage.  I'm proud of that.  I'm proud that we lived our March 1978 marriage vows: in sickness and in health, till death do us part, which it did on October 9th, 2011.  We kept our words to each other.