Monday, April 21, 2014

God chose him...


April 18, 2014- Birthday Girl rides a roller coaster.
So, okay, I turned 63 on April 18. Yet, another ‘first’ since the Hubs has been gone. I was three months older than Gary. He liked telling everyone he was married to an ‘older woman’ during that three month period. Cradle Robber was his favorite pet name for me during that interlude. I always breathed a sigh of relief when, on July 10, he turned the same age as his old lady. We had a lot of fun with this running joke the past forty-three years. Of course, I wished it could have continued at least until I turned 103 and he followed three months later.
Years ago, I bought the Hubs a sun dial engraved with Robert Browning’s infamous verse, “Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be...” It never crossed my mind that we wouldn’t get to grow old together. I don’t think it ever seriously crosses any of our mind’s that we’d be cheated out of that experience. Intellectually, we know death will happen and it will happen to one or the other first. Yet, emotionally, we hope we’ll be exempt, or that maybe the rules will change before it can happen to us. Or, maybe the Lord will come first and save us from the unthinkable.
I think that’s okay. We are nothing if we are not a people of hope, and a people who believe that our God will come, is coming, and will someday actually be here. I was hoping and praying that He would come before Gary and I had to say good-bye. He didn’t.
I’m the one left. Gary and I had many late-night conversations about this before he died. We even talked about this before he ever got sick, and we both agreed that I would probably be more capable to handle being alone than he would. At this point and time, I want to officially renege on that decision. I don’t feel capable at all. What were we thinking? Just because I can cook for myself and know what all the buttons on the washing machine do, does not make me the best candidate for roaming the earth without my soul mate. Gary was the spiritual giant in our family. I was the tag along. If it weren’t for his loving patience and gentle spirit, I would have gone off the deep end a long time ago. But, here it is: God chose him. And, He must think I need a little more work.
So, I’m now 63. Gary will not be catching up in three months. He is on a different timeline these days. It looks like it’s me who going to have to do the catching up now. He has seen God’s face. I’m only longing to. He knows the secrets and the mysteries of the universe. I’m still reading the Words and trying to figure out what they mean. He has found the Throne Room. I’m still trying to get the map open. He has kissed the Scarred Feet. I am still looking and trying to follow the footprints.
My birthday came and went. And, when I laid my head down at the end of the day, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that it had been a really nice day. Maybe Gary wasn’t wrong. Maybe I can do this. Maybe.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Every good moment...


The Hubs & me Anniversary camping in Door Cty.


This week Atticus and I are in Door County, Wisconsin—a tiny slice of heaven if you ask me. Gary thought so too. We came here just about every October for our anniversary. It offers the beauty of Lake Michigan, bluffs, trails, a little bit of shopping, and good food. Sometimes we’d camp, sometime we’d stay in a resort or motel, and for the last few years, we were fortunate enough to celebrate in a condo some friends insisted we use. That’s where I am now.

I came to write. The latest book needs some editing. But, there’s something else I felt I needed to do here. I call it reclaiming.  It takes time and great effort, and I am also discovering, it takes the fortitude of a Viking to glean what must be gleaned from a season of mourning.  I feel this urgency to reclaim things and places that meant so much to us. I don’t want to shun them, or ignore them, or allow them to become taboo or sad.  Of course, some places and things will be harder than others, but it all must be done if I am going to be able to eventually reclaim my own life.

The Cleveland Clan- Door County- circa1985-ish
Door County is one of those places. We started backpacking here thirty years ago. We brought our sons here to teach them about nature, camping and a tolerance for shopping. We dreamed dreams here, made plans here, laughed here, and loved here.

 On Sunday, I took Atticus on a hike on the shores of Lake Michigan. So many memories were made on these trails and camping sites. At one section of the park there are some huge rocks lining the shore. When the tide is out, you can hopscotch quite a ways out from the bank. I felt called there on Sunday. I needed to hear the water lap over those rocks and the melody that only that tide can sing.  Years ago, Gary and I stood on that exact spot, kissed and promised ourselves we’d one day repeat our vows there. We did eventually repeat our vows, but it wasn’t here. So, today I built a tiny Stonehenge-like rock pile in honor of us, our life together, and my life now. And, I thanked God for every good moment He gave us.  It just felt right.

Atticus having a romp in Lake Michigan
Earlier Sunday morning as I was walking into Al Johnson’s Restaurant, another of Gary’s favorite places, I passed a young couple holding hands. They were walking close and laughing. I was suddenly struck with the realization that I knew exactly how they felt. I knew because I had done that with Gary. We had held hands and walked so close together a broom straw wouldn’t have fit between us. I know that feeling and it is wonderful. For a brief moment, it made my heart glad. What a blessed life I’ve had to have been loved and to have loved like that. I breathed a quick prayer for the couple I had passed, that they would know, as I do, that when you love deeply, there is nothing to regret.
Me, Atticus & Door Cty.

Seeing that young couple together did not make me sad. It made me thankful for every good moment. God is indeed near.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

It was spring today...

Atticus- wet and happy
It was spring today. It may go back to being winter tomorrow, but today you could almost hear the soft, lime green tulip sprouts breaking through the damp thawed earth. It was glorious. It was all I could do to keep myself from scooping up a handful of mud and burying my nose into its mossy, cool, goopy smell.
 This is the first spring for Atticus the pup. Last week the pond was still frozen. Today, the ice is all gone and Atticus couldn’t figure out why he couldn’t walk on water. However, once he waded up to his chest, the call of the wild captured his soul and he realized that this was what he was born to do.
This is my first spring too. The first one without the Hubs. As I sat on the swing overlooking our pond, I ached to see him across the way on his tractor. I could almost feel his weight sitting next to me on the swing, the one that he had built. He loved putzing around this place. I could see him planting a tree across the pond, or sitting next to his burn pile in his ball cap, or gathering the limbs from under the willows that winter had coaxed down. I could hear him in his workshop tuning up his John Deere. Spring always got him chomping at the bit to get outside and work these three little acres of ours.
This afternoon it was just me. As the ground under foot yawned and rubbed the sleep out of its eyes, I missed Gary so much I could hardly walk. How he loved watching the earth wake up from the vantage point of South Moon. Yeah, that’s what we named this place. It’s taken from a book written by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, South Moon Under. This was our place. Our haven. Now what?
I sat for a long time watching Atticus romp like a schoolboy on a playground. As he discovered nature’s bounty in dead bullfrogs, damp sticks and open spaces, I pondered. I talked to Gary. I talked to God. I talked to both of them at the same time. I asked them what they were going to do with me. I wanted to know the plan. Neither one of them were real forth coming. A message is whispered through the willows and blown across the pond. Keep moving. Keep breathing in and out. Wait. Trust. Be still. Listen. Fear not. Go see if the tractor will start.
Gary would have liked Atticus, especially today, dripping wet, dried leaves stuck on his tail, and a soggy stick clamped in his jaws.
It was spring today. My first.