A bittersweet day

Today would have been our 43rd wedding anniversary – it still IS our 43rd wedding anniversary. I miss Cedric every minute of every hour of every day. I would have been showered with gifts. He was always generous, and not just for anniversaries. I would find lotions and potions and creams and candles in strategic and non-strategic spots, sometimes not finding the gift for several days, which amused him no end. He has, however, left me with the most precious gift of all – his family: my dear daughter-in-law, Virginia, her daughter, Rachel, and granddaughter, Iyla, who all live in England; and his granddaughter, Bethany, and her son, Gethin, who live in Wales. What gifts he bequeathed me! Thank you, my darling – these are the gifts that will keep on giving.


It’s hard to explain grief. Trillions of words, millions of books and countless blogs have been written on grief. I’m simply adding to it. And with Covid, millions of families are experiencing a cruel grief, unable even to mourn in the traditional way.

Grief washes over me with no warning. I see his handwriting and it brings me almost to my knees. I look at photos and cannot believe there will be no new images added to the album. I cannot distinguish between sadness and grief – and it doesn’t really matter anyway. Death is so final. I never knew that. You can be lonely and yet live with the hope that the loneliness will fade, but the loneliness of grief is overwhelming. I know I have to go through it to get over it; I know it will take time; I know I have to give myself grace to deal with this one day at a time. But grief is like another sense – it prickles my skin; it tastes; I can hear it.

It’s not been four months. He would be proud of me, though. I have pumped my own gas twice – OK, the first time I poured gas all down the side of my Jeep. No one told me I had to let go of the trigger when I pulled the nozzle out. But I didn’t do that the second time. Although when I filled up last week, it took me several seconds to figure out how to replace the nozzle in the pump and I stood there poking it up and down until it found its home.

There is comedy in grief. He would have found that funny, too, and laughed out loud. I miss his huge laugh like I miss a lot of things.

Let me tell you another story

It’s actually the end of a story … the end of a love story. Or is it? Does a love story ever really end? My beloved husband, Cedric Pierre Marie, died on Monday, February 1, 2021. He was 90 years old and we were married for 42 years. All of my (three) readers know this but I wanted to update my blog for posterity. He died at our home in Atlanta, Georgia, where I took care of him on home hospice for four months. I won’t sugarcoat it – it wasn’t easy for either of us, but we had plenty of time to prepare and say goodbye. Of course, you can never really be prepared but the time together gave us the opportunity to watch the sunset, look at photos, listen to our favorite music and tell each other how much we loved each other.

I miss him more than words can describe. It’s the little things: The way I used to kick the New York Times inside the door when I took Savannah out and when I came back if the paper was not on the hallway floor, I knew he was up. Or he would turn off the porch light. And I would sing, to the tune of Johnny Cash’s hit, “I saw the sign, I saw the sign.” And we would laugh. And we would laugh, and we would laugh.

We laughed a lot over the last four months. No one can take that away from me.

Yes, I will miss him – his deep voice; his sparkling blue eyes; the crossword puzzles he designed just for me; his wicked sense of humor; the way he loved me more than I could ever have imagined being loved, and probably more than I deserved; his sense of dress; his fun spectacle frames; his loud wrist watches.

But we will be together again one day. We will dance and laugh and the love story will continue. Does a love story ever really end? No, it’s just moves to the next chapter of the story.

I love you, darling. Wait for me.

Let me tell you a story

Cedric uses an oxygen concentrator to help his breathing. It has a 50-foot tube, which means he can move all over the apartment and even sit on the porch. But it’s connected to power, so when the power goes out we have a problem. At 4 this morning, a truck hit a utility pole on the road, knocking out power over a large area. The concentrator shrieks to warn us of a power disconnection. That woke me up. I grabbed a battery-powered lantern that a neighbor kindly bought for me after the last power cut and connected the tube to the oxygen cylinder. Easy peasy – I’ve done that before. But I knew there was not a lot of juice left in that cylinder. I went back to bed for a bit but knew it wouldn’t be long before I had to connect to the next cylinder. I hadn’t done that before – taking the connection piece off one cylinder and connecting it to the next with a series of lug nuts, twisty things and levers. The vendor, when he delivered the spare cylinders said that you simply popped it off and popped it on … uh huh!

I’m not practical in terms of lug nuts and screws – Cedric always teases me that I can never turn the light bulb in the correct direction. I kept saying, Lefty Loosey, Righty Tighty – and when I heard the hiss of oxygen, I was mighty relieved. With all the activity, Savannah decided it was time to get up so I took her out navigating the hall and stairway in the gloom – there is emergency lighting for a few hours but it was pitch dark outside and I’m glad I had grabbed a flashlight. I think we then got another hour of sleep before getting up and dressed as best we could with no power. I called the emergency number to request more oxygen; each cylinder lasts about two hours so I had about three hours of oxygen left. They confirmed the vendor would call me to confirm delivery.

On the neighborhood text chain, everyone was updating the group with news and my neighbor, Kay, called to ask if I needed anything – COFFEE!!! I took Savannah out again timing it to meet Kay driving into the square with my coffee which she handed through her car window with assorted croissants for sustenance – what a friend! I then navigated back into the building holding precious coffee. By this time, it was pitch dark in the hallway. I had to drag Savannah along – she evidently does not like the dark. Halfway along the corridor, my phone rang. I put everything down to answer it thinking it was the oxygen vendor. It was Kay saying she had left me the wrong muffin! I think I said I’ll eat it and we continued our way to the stairwell and I got up to the 4th floor without spilling a drop of coffee! The latest text indicated the power would not be reconnected until the afternoon.

Finally, I sat down with Cedric in his study and then changed his tubing to the final cylinder. He watched in amazement as I connected the correct pieces and turned the knobs the right way. I even told him I was reducing the oxygen to make it last longer … how did I even know what I was talking about? I looked at him and said, “They say that you find an inner strength when you need it.” I had kept myself together since he came home from the hospital but then I broke down – I was sobbing and saying that I couldn’t do this, that I didn’t know what I was doing, that I’m not wired like this and I was worried I was doing it wrong and all I could think of was that I would be harming him by doing the wrong thing. And then, just like that, the lights came on! At that exact moment when, like the Psalmist, I was crying out from the depths of my despair, the Lord answered. I fell to my knees and sobbed in Cedric’s lap. We were both crying by then.

And now the sun is out and all is well. We have some extra cylinders and we know we can do it. We are strong and we are surrounded by love.

The Silent Spring: Farewell, hummers!

Farewell, hummingbirds! The hummingbirds have gone … correction, the one hummingbird has gone. This year, however, we barely said, “Welcome, oh hummingbirds.” They never really arrived. My unscientific theory is that the gorgeous, abundant, succulent spring resulting from less traffic and pollution meant the hummingbirds didn’t have to venture to our porch feeders – there was simply enough nectar for them on every flowering plant. It’s bittersweet – they didn’t have to work so hard to get their fill each day; but oh, we sure missed their antics. We had one or two the last few weeks and a couple even hovered right in front of us and one found its favorite perch on our weather stick (that’s another blog to come.) But compared to last year, there were far fewer and the feeders stayed full.

Our hope for more hummingbirds next summer goes hand in hand with our (and everyone else’s) hope for a return to a normal and safe environment in 2021. Both would be a blessing.

The Silent Spring: It’s unconscionable

Once a cancer patient, always a cancer patient. I’m almost 10 years cancer free – my 10-year anniversary is October 2, but I am still a patient of The Piedmont Cancer Institute and have an annual follow-up with my oncologist.  It was, therefore, distressing to receive a letter from the Institute advising me that all their patients’ personal information and medical histories had been compromised. The letter encouraged us to place fraud alerts and security freezes on our credit files. The letter was well worded and included an apology. But after spending some time in several credit agencies’ voice mail systems this morning, I am more than upset.

It’s unconscionable. We’ll never know whether a laptop was stolen from an employee’s trunk or even from their home – something that can happen to anyone; we’ll never know whether the “unauthorized individual” in the incident was an employee or a hacker; we’ll never really know anything. And not that it matters. What does matter is that some very sick people are now having to take time out from getting well to focus on identity theft. It’s not easy having cancer. Chemo and radiation are strenuous treatments and many people during the pandemic do not have the family or community support that I had.

Shame on whoever has caused this extra stress on cancer patients. It’s unconscionable and unfair. But life’s unfair, which is why some of us get cancer to start with. Life is unfair, which is why some people have lost their homes recently in wildfires or hurricanes. Life is unfair, which is why some people have caught the coronavirus. Yes, life is unfair – there’s no denying it. I send good thoughts to all those who need extra good thoughts this week. I’m sorry you are going through this and I hope the sun comes out tomorrow.

The Silent Spring: What the what?

We’re all Zoomed out but we better just get used to it – Zoom’s not going to go away any time soon. So I thought we should upgrade our Internet to the fastest speed possible, especially since I’m doing many classes on the Zoom platform and it’s frustrating enough without super speedy access.

I called Comcast. The agent was very nice and read beautifully from the script. It sounded as if she was working from home and sitting on her balcony overlooking breaking waves and with a family party taking place at the same time. I could even hear her dog barking. We upgraded the system and the new super duper router arrived – I won’t say “in a box” because there were no corners left in the packaging. Inside, with the router, which fortunately was not damaged, was a letter to Dear Customer headed, “Please pardon our appearance.” I couldn’t follow the logic exactly but basically to limit contact between customers and employees, Comcast are encouraging people to self-install. They didn’t want to delay the procedure by producing traditional packaging so to get items into customers’ hands as quickly as possible, they evidently bought the cheapest and flimsiest boxes they could find. You gotta admire Amazon even more.

They emailed us a nice video outlining the steps to instal our router. Good start. We watched the intro, assuring us several times that we were almost there. The next step was, “Unplug your router …” OK, we did that. Bleep … no more video showing the step after that. Yep, without Internet, we couldn’t watch the video. Where is the logic in that? Doesn’t anyone at Comcast think? Or call their customer care line (which was our next step and you know how long that took – we never did get out of voice mail hell.) Fortunately I was able to pull up the next steps on my iPhone. Cedric doesn’t have a smart phone so it’s lucky we had at least one with a screen.

It’s working – more by luck than judgement I believe. I have used the original packaging to send back the old box. I covered it from edge to edge with duct tape and it’s much stronger now than the original. I know we all have Comcast stories and I know I’ll have many more. Meanwhile, back to Zoom.

The Silent Spring: Sew, sew, sew

Sew, I sew … I think I was born with a thimble on my finger. I remember as a very young child turning the handle of my mother’s treadle machine as she sewed clothes for me and my doll. I still have those doll’s clothes. I also still have the clothes that I made for that same doll. She was definitely better dressed in some outfits than others!

Sew, I decided, with Cedric’s blessing, to turn our living room into one huge sewing room. My sewing room was the dining area off the kitchen and that worked out very nicely but I was constantly swapping machines, lifting one off the table and replacing it with another. I looked at the open space that an absence of visitors has made even emptier and had an aha moment – sewing space!

In came two 6-ft tables creating a massive sewing area. Next, we assembled a rolling chair. Interestingly, many colors weren’t available because so many people are buying chairs for their home offices. A portentous snafu by the online furniture company validated the sewing area decision – two days later, a second chair arrived. When I called the company asking what to do with a chair I had not ordered, they thanked me for my honesty and said I could keep it and not ship it back. So the matching chair sits on the other side of the tables. I had already thought that it would be nice to have two matching chairs – serendipity indeed.

I only have five working sewing machines. Plus an antique one that acts as a piece of furniture to display tchotchkes. One machine is now back in its box waiting to be picked up by a friend whose young girls are learning to sew. That leaves four – an electronic Bernina; an old Bernina with a British plug that needs a transformer to work in the U.S.; a 1935 Featherweight Singer; and a BabyLock serger that is fairly new. When I retired, I went in to the sewing machine store to trade in my old Bernina; I saw a gorgeous fabric bag and when I was told it was sewn on a serger, I walked out with a serger and a new Bernina. A serger does an overlock stitch – look at any seam in your clothing and you will see how the stitches loop over – that’s an overlock. But my serger only does serging … duh. But other machines do what’s called coverstitch and boy do I need a coverstitch machine. Sew, guess what I’m getting for Christmas? Yep, a new BabyLock coverstitch machine. They are so new that the dealer hasn’t got them in yet, but I’m third on the list and as soon as they come in, I’ll get my Christmas gift very early. Well, I’ve got 30 square feet of sewing table to cover with something!

Happy sewing!

The Silent Spring: Looking forward to the past

I looked longingly at a rack of clothes this morning. Every item was in my style and size, sorted by type – shells, short-sleeved T-shirts, longer sleeves, palazzo pants, regular pants, jeans, skirts, suits, jackets, dresses, casual wear, track suits – bottoms and tops hung together. In fact, sadly, I was in my own walk-in closet. I haven’t worn real clothes for so long, it was like seeing them anew.

Some days I decide to wear something other than crops and a shell … but the moment doesn’t last long. Like many of my neighbors, sorties are reserved for taking our dogs out and walking to the mail room.

It’s the absence of anticipation that is so dispiriting. There’s nothing tangible to look forward to because we can’t make plans. Yes, we can hope to take a vacation or visit friends and family … one day … but my favorite craft festival is postponed and I suspect will be canceled and who knows what 2021 will bring. But if we can’t look forward to the future, let’s look back to the past. I’m having a blast looking out old photos and posting them in my high school Facebook group; I’m sending copies of family photos to other family members around the world; I got out my mother’s recipe binder and plan to make an old-fashioned refrigerator date cake that I loved as a child; and I looked at my retirement to-do list and checked off several items as completed. As I’ve said before, they can’t take memories away; we might not be making many new memories but there’s nothing wrong with the old ones.

The Silent Spring: The astronaut will see you now

I had my routine annual physical yesterday. I knew my doctor would be wearing a mask, as was I, but I didn’t expect her to come into the examination room suited up in PEP, mask, gloves, cap and visor. I took it in good faith that it was my doctor, but it could have been any short person impersonating my petite doctor.

The examination was, in fact, mostly complete when she came into the room. The protocol has you call from the parking lot where the medical tech completes check-in and reviews your medical history by phone; one of the questions is always, “Have you recently felt sad or depressed?” Yep, like the rest of the world right now, don’t yer think? You then wait until they call you to permit you to leave your vehicle and walk into the building. It was hot and humid in Atlanta yesterday, typical July weather. I melted in the car for 25 minutes – they were running late – because I didn’t want to risk putting on the air conditioning and running down the battery that has barely had a charge since March. I was concerned my body would evidence a high temperature, which sent my blood pressure up.

The nurse meets you at the door, takes your temperature (normal fortunately) and you follow her immediately into the examination room. I noticed that all the magazines have been removed from the rack – I never liked touching them anyway. After a few more questions, she took my blood pressure (slightly high, not surprising) and because it’s a formal age-related (65+) examination left me the cognitive behavior paperwork to complete. She has given me three words to remember and to write down on the sheet. I know the drill now; the first time I only remembered two out of three, but now I make up a sentence and keep repeating it to myself so when I am given the test, I quickly go to page 3 and write the words down, before going back and filling in the rest of the form. You have to draw a clock face and put the hands at 8:15. Sounds easy, but when you start overthinking it, it’s hard to remember which is the little hand and which is the big hand. I make them sort of even so it could be 8:15 or 3:40 just in case.

Then you wait until the doctor calls you from her office to review your answers over the phone, which means when she finally enters the examination room, she need only listen to your heart and lungs, prod your tummy a bit and you are all done. It’s efficient but soulless. I keep thinking about patients being given bad test results or serious news. I remember it was in that exact examination room that I was given the news of my breast cancer diagnosis in 2010. My doctor at the time didn’t exactly hold my hand, but at least I could see his face.

Yes, life is definitely different now, doctors look like astronauts and who knows if they are smiling. I hesitate to change the current title of my blog to The Lost Summer but sadly I think we are headed in that direction. But we continue to be blessed, unlike so many others and count our blessings by the hour.