The Rhythm of Memories~

 

Here is the deepest secret that nobody knows.  Here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life….

I don’t know why the rhythm of this particular poem rings so deeply in my heart, around so much of what this widow life is for me.  Chuck kept a copy of this poem in his wallet for years;  I’d printed it out many years ago to give to him, and I read that copy at his memorial service.  The rhythm and flow of the words, e.e. cumming’s lack of capitalization, this poem above all resounds through my heart continually.

The words of e.e. cummings fit my soul as I think of Chuck today.  I think of him every day.  I think of him every minute of every day and every second of every minute.  I think of his life and our life together and his death and how it was for me, how it was for him, as he lay dying, and what this life is without him.  What my world is like without him. These are the things I think about as I go about my daily life.  I’m looking at you and talking to you and working and doing and I’m present in that moment at the same time as I am fully present in the life I live with Chuck in my heart.  Before he died, ten thousand years ago and 10 nanoseconds ago, I thought that a person could only have one thought in their head at any given moment but I’ve found that to be untrue.  I consistently and continually have 2 thoughts, 2 lives, in my mind and heart at the same time.

Here is the deepest secret that everybody who reads anything I write knows.  Here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of this tree called life…

 

I am still very much in Love with my husband.  I am still very much in Love with Chuck Dearing.  As much in Love with him now as when he was alive.  More, if such is possible, because I was very much in Love with him when he was alive, and I told him so daily and I showed him so daily, and now that he’s dead, he is the very rhythm of my life.

 

His absence has only made my heart grow more with Love for him.  Not in such a way that I’ve raised him to saint status, which is what many do when a loved one dies, but in a way of remembering him as he was, which was as a real man who walked on this earth and swept me off my feet for each of our 24 years together.  I don’t even have to dress him up…his life and his character and our Love speaks for itself.

I’m still very much in Love with my husband.  In Love with Chuck.  The only thing is about this is that…he’s dead.  I’m in Love with a dead man.

And I don’t believe that I will ever not be in Love with him.  How, after all, does one make oneself fall out of Love?

Distance isn’t enough.  People love over distance all the time; they have through the centuries.  Of course, this distance is incalculable, for I’ve no idea where Chuck is.  If he is.  Perhaps I’m in Love with a dead man who has no existence in any realm any longer.  I fully acknowledge this. And that is the fuck of widowhood.  Love with nowhere to go…

 

As these ten thousand years have passed, as each 10 nanoseconds pass in the here and now, I remember how he loved me, how I loved him.  I remember his calm spirit and his groan-worthy jokes.  I remember his dedication to the military and how glad he was to retire, having done his time.  His quiet rebellions that grew from holding his own counsel and just going about business in the way he knew he needed to do.  It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, he told me many times, and that carried him through his military service.  I remember how he not only read the Big Book of AA but read what it all meant, and the history of it; he gave context to AA and the 12 Steps and Tradition, and living a life of sobriety.  Chuck lived his sobriety as honestly as he could, every day.  Not perfectly, but as well as he could, and he earned the respect of many because of it.

 

His promise wasn’t given lightly, and I could count on his promises being kept.  His promises were his word, given as a gentleman of old times would have given his word.  It was his honor, and he held true to it, whether that promise was made to me or one of our kids or a friend or anyone else. 

 

He would, as knights of bygone days of chivalry and honor, have given his life for me.  Sometimes, in my mind then, as he was living, and now, since his death, I picture the two of us strolling through shadowed hills of a glade, or the bare red rocks of the West, and, if this were times of old, he’d have my hand in his, and a sword in the other.  It is as if, when he took his marriage vows, he not only promised to care for and cherish me, but to protect me with his body and his strong arm.  And I can hear those who are less romantic minded, scoff at such imaginings, but here’s the thing that will make you secretly drool with jealousy…Chuck was that man.  I knew he would protect me with his life.  He was a lover and a warrior both, and I was the most fortunate of women to be his chosen.

 

His kisses melted my knees and left me desiring more.  He was the loveliest of slow dancers, holding me firmly against him and guiding me around the dance floor, smiling down at me, sometimes humming along (in a voice that was kind of always off).  He was the most passionate of lovers and I returned that passion in spades.  We were well suited to each other in our strength and passions.

He was all that I’d never dreamed to be possible.  Until it became possible one day when he knocked at the door of my mom’s house and I answered it, wearing my military issue ugly frame glasses and holding a book in hand with a finger marking my place.  He remembered that moment to me often over the years.

And now my lover, my warrior, is dead.  And I love him, am in love with him, no less now than when he breathed the air I now breathe alone.

If this is all that I will have for the remainder of my life…the memories of his kisses, his arms around me, his glances at me across a room, the feeling of swaying against him in a dance where only he and I existed…if all that I have forevermore is the memory of his body and mine twined together before sleeping…well, then, that is more than many, if not most, find, and I will be content in journeying back to those moments of ten thousand years ago, ten nanoseconds ago.

Memories don’t keep me warm at night, but oh, they are such memories and I hold them close. 

Yes, I’m still in Love.  It’s just that I’m in Love with a dead man. And my heart aches.

Ah, well, we must each have our quirks, I suppose.

And that is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called…my life….

 

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I’ll Be at my Hotel~

I remember these words from my mom, spoken many years ago at a time when one of my younger brothers was dying.

Family and friends had gathered from around the country to say final goodbyes.  As it happened, he didn’t die until many months later, but it seemed like the end, so…there we were.

There were 8 kids in our family;  our folks were divorced, but we were all there that long ago weekend, and, as is normal at such a time, emotions were running high.  It’s funny to me, really, to think of my mom at that time.  She’d been alcoholic for decades but, as I came to recognize as I grew and matured, that was only one aspect of her personality.  Mom was also an intellectual, wise beyond wise, realistic, and she had a hugely funny cynical sense of humor that I totally loved.  She’d been an Army wife for 20+ years, a demanding lifestyle that took her overseas frequently, and around the USA, oftentimes as she was ready to deliver another child, or having just delivered a child.  The strength that was molded into her bones didn’t come easily or lightly, and there was much to admire about her, in spite of her alcoholism.  In the decades since her death (she died of breast cancer just 6 months after my brother Kysa succumbed to Hodgkins), I’ve come to admire her even more and sometimes wondered, given all that life pushed on her, why she wasn’t also a drug addict. (I say that with a sense of humor, because, really, looking at her life, who wouldn’t want to anesthetize themselves as thoroughly as possible?)

Anyways, back to the topic at hand…my brother dying and all of us gathered together to say goodbye and emotions running rampant, except that mostly it seemed none were being expressed (our family didn’t do emotions well, if at all). Which made for very dicey possibilities, none of which sounded good.

A meeting was called at a sibling’s house, to discuss…shit, I don’t even remember anymore what exactly needed to be discussed. I do recall that there had been a few angry outbursts and there was an air of uncertainty floating about, as if anyone in the area might need to take cover momentarily. Like the  heebie jeebie feeling that I imagine might crawl along one’s spine prior to a major engagement involving weapons (not that any of us were packing).  In any case, my mom, being the smart woman she was after raising 8 kids, beckoned me over to her and in a very calm voice requested that I drive her back to her hotel.  But don’t you want to join us at the meeting?  I naïvely asked.  Mom shot me this deadpan look as if taking my crazy temperature, and said if you think that I’m going to put myself in the middle of whatever is going on, you’ve got another think coming.  I’ll tell you what. You go and then come tell me all about it. I’ll be at the hotel.  Watching TV.

All of this to say, and why I’m telling you this, is that my mom gave the greatest response ever and I think of it whenever I’m with my kids and their spouses and their kids, when emotions are running high and it’s all kind of chaotic and undecided with the almost sure outlook of exploding fireworks and I just want to tell them, seriously,  I already did all this when I was in my 30’s and figuring it out and I don’t need to be part of all of your figuring it out, so thank you anyways, but…

I’ll be at my hotel.

I graciously extend the invitation to all of you, dear readers, to use this response, especially those of you who are parents with adult kids. Especially when the hackles on your neck rise in family situations that are beginning to sound explosive…listen to those hackles.

This is a mighty useful phrase to use at such times.

Thank you to my mom, Betty Catharine Miller~

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For Handsome Husband~

On Thursday, April 25 my family and I invite all of you, wherever you might reside, to join us in spirit at 5pm California time, in a “Universal Prayer of Peace for Chuck D”.  (https://www.facebook.com/events/112875865580426/).   Handsome Husband served honorably in the US Air Force, which made him, like so many others who serve, a lover of peace rather than war and friction.  So what better way to celebrate this man?

Wherever you, dear readers, are in this world, take a moment this evening, to meditate on love, light a candle, sing a song of joy, dance wildly-do whatever is in your heart, and send that love out into the Universe and join with thousands of others who loved this man.  It matters not whether you actually knew him or not.  I assure you that you would have loved him as we do.

And where will I be today at 5 pm?  At ocean side on Coronado Island in southern California, with my daughter Rachael-Grace and Chuck’s daughter Bronwen.  We take with us:  hula hoops, wish paper, music, our grief and pain, our joy and love, to create a circle of remembrance.  If you are somehow in that area, find us and sit with us, dance with us, and, with us,  send messages of love into the evening skies.

“i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart)i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet) i want no world (for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart.
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)”
e. e. cummings  IMG_7464

The Rhythm of Goodbyes~

Our lives, as we care for, and love, Handsome Husband, have taken on a new rhythm.   An awkward rhythm, but still…

Our two sons left for their respective homes in Arizona and Connecticut.  They didn’t want to, of course.  They want to be here when their dad dies.  Our two girls want the same thing, but we had the conversation with them yesterday that it’s time for them to return to their lives.  Jobs, children,partners..life.  Yes, life continues even while their dad is dying.

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Friends have come to pay their respects.  Not in a you’ve already died way, but in a very living way.  Handsome Husband  mentored many young people throughout his military career, and in his ordinary life.  Some of those people traveled from NJ and other places to tell him, again, of their love and respect for him. As I’ve observed them, I’ve also seen that they are, to coin a word, “representing”.   One person is physically standing in front of Handsome  Husband, but the spirits of hundreds are with him or her.  Thousands are standing here with him, writing to him, calling him, telling him how much he has meant to them, and thanking him.  Our younger daughter told me, after a day long visit from 3 of his friends, that it was like having a bunch of big brothers around.  What a comfort that was, she said.

Handsome Husband isn’t going to be here much longer, I sense.  His heart is still strong.  His heart will always be strong, because each beat of it only echoes the love he has always had for me, for his kids, for anyone around him.  No, he isn’t a saint, and he would laugh if you suggested that.  However, I can tell you honestly, dear readers, that his intent, upon meeting anyone throughout his day, was to leave them happier than when he said hello.  He’s a good man.  One of those men of honor and dignity (without being stuffy)!  A man whom many have looked up to.  (yes, that is a dangling participle or something and I find myself not caring in the least).

He’s a favorite with the hospice staff.  No surprise there.  Always polite, always appreciative of the slightest effort made on his behalf.  Each day more effort is required of him as he struggles to maintain a sense of self and freedom, but he  relinquishes small bits of  freedom on a daily basis.  For two nights he slept in a chair, striving to find a comfortable position.  That’s a tough call for him, as he has a tumor around the area of the base of his spine, and it pains him when he sits.  And yet, sit he must, or lose his breath entirely and be overwhelmed with pain from the tumors in his lungs and back.   Now he must sit upright in a bed, however.  In sleep the other night, his body slumped sideways, on his arm, and now his arm is full of lymphedema.  His body is breaking down under the stress of cancer.

Hospice is, thankfully, about pain management, and each day Handsome Husband accepts the increments of upping the levels of medication, as he surrenders just a little bit more to the inevitable.  He had a long career in the military and by training and personality, doesn’t know the word “surrender”.  I’ve suggested to him that maybe it isn’t so much “surrender” as “relax into”.  Take the necessary pain medications, even if it sends him into permanent sleep.  Yes, you’ll be sleeping, and not seeing us, but your sense of hearing will be more acute if not blocked by pain.  Your sense of touch, as we stroke your head or your arms, will be heightened, if you aren’t grimacing with each wave of pain that courses through you.  Your breathing will ease so you won’t be so anxious.

He will miss “us” he tells me, and I agree, my heart shredding to pieces at the thought. I miss him  and I miss “us” already.  The feeling of missing-ness is already acute and growing.  But for now, my love for him is so strong that I want only for him to be out of pain, freed as much from the emotional toll this is taking from him as much as the physical.

Handsome Husband has always been my protector, my defender.  Let me protect you now, I tell him.  I’ve got your back.  I promise you will be pain-free and comfortable.  I’ll be with you to the absolute last-minute until you walk through that veil into the next place you’ll go.  Ride with the lack of pain feeling.  See that open road in front of you.  Windows open, sun pouring through the open roof, breeze singing through you, tunes on.

I am summoning the Archangel Michael to be with my most beloved Handsome Husband.  To guard him now, to greet him as he takes his final breath.  As Handsome Husband has protected me, this angel will protect and guide him.  A strong angel for a strong man.  He is deserving of nothing less. 521720_4633848285294_1629378181_n

farewell to a friend moment~

Life is good, being Happily Homeless.  We’re out here, traveling, exploring our country.  Its good. But life happens too, the shit part.  The part that makes us pause and have to take a breath.  Handsome Husband’s cancer was certainly one of those moments.  And, this morning, here in sunny (finally!) Vermont, another moment.  A dear friend of ours, someone who meant so much to both Handsome Husband and me, died on Thursday. We just found out about it this morning.  We’d spent some time with Dave R while in NJ recently.  He’d been fighting lung cancer for a few years-successfully, it seemed.  And we don’t know what it is that killed him, only that it was very sudden.  Have you ever felt that initial reaction of being sucker punched, when you find out that someone you know and love, has just died?  And you didn’t expect it at all?   I know you have-its what most of us feel when such a thing happens.   That’s where my gut is now.

Dave R, years ago, took me aside after I’d shared something with him, and said, in no uncertain terms “Alison, you can’t afford resentments.  Get over it.”   He said it powerfully, and he said it in a way that has stayed with me all these many years.  He was right, and I dealt with those resentments, and moved on to create the life I only ever dreamed of having.

Thank you, Dave.  You shined briefly in my life, but you shined strongly.  Godspeed.

May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind be ever at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face
and the rain fall softly on your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.