47 Days

I changed the title of this blog to celebrate the new direction of my life. I spent the last 47 days relearning how to live alcohol free. I even changed my hair color to blond to match my new outlook. These before and after pictures taken two years apart illustrate the new me.

After — August 7, 2020
Before — August 7, 2018

It is very satisfying to see the progress I’ve made in these pictures of me taken two years apart. My posture is different now. I look more confident and happier than in my slouching posture of 2018, when even though I’m smiling the sadness shows through. The before picture came up in my Facebook memories from two year ago—which is a punch to my gut because my then boyfriend took the photo during a hike on the Blackcreek Greenway. He was very important to me for several years and is no longer in my life.

My life is so much simpler now than it was in 2018. I have no responsibilities for anyone but myself. Although I still have grief, I have little stress in my life. That may seem strange in the middle of a pandemic, but it is true in comparison to 2018. Then I was working twelve-hour days, in a broken relationship, and the sole support both financially and emotionally for my grandson, who died a little over a year ago.

My friends have made a huge impact in my life. I go to at least one support meeting a day—the fellowship has increased my wellbeing and happiness. I’ve also worked hard on my health. I’m buying clean food and cooking several times a week. I indulge myself in wonderful healthy meals that I make just for me. My latest concoction is beans, chilies and chicken in the crock pot. I make enough for several meals and freeze small portions so I can have a variety in my freezer to pull out and reheat. I also have frozen yogurt and the occasional pizza, my favorite food.

Exercise has literally saved my life. I swim three days a week, work out three days a week, and walk Dutch several times a day. I replaced Dutch’s 4:30 pm walk with a daily trip to the dog park. I have met new friends who love dogs as much as I do—this has been a great social outlet for me. Instead of having a glass of wine after work, I get outside, and Dutch gets to go to his favorite place. He runs and wrestles with the young pups. The other dog owners think Dutch is much younger than six, the age the vet placed him based on his teeth.

Dutch on his daily romp at the dog park

It hasn’t been easy to get back to healthy living. I experienced some depression one weekend at the end of July that stalled my progress. It started with a Colposcopy, a cervical biopsy to screen out cancer. (Fortunately, I am cancer free). That biopsy sent me back into full grief. Again! I had a scare like that several years ago when my late husband Harry was still alive. Memories of him comforting me while I lay in bed in pain after the biopsy sent me back into fresh grief. When some little thing reminds me of my daughter, my late husband, or my grandson, it is like they died today. I am right back there sobbing and freshly wounded.

Thoughts of Harry comforting me created an intense feeling of loss that overwhelmed me. So I cried and ordered wine on Instacart, lay in bed and drank through my tears — all weekend. I thought, I can’t go on living like this. I simply don’t want to be here without them. I didn’t want to die but I had no desire to get out of bed. No desire to eat or even walk Dutch. I used two boxes of tissues and still the tears came, while ambition to even shower stayed tamped down.

Dutch jumped up on the bed, put his head under my hand and pawed me. I felt guilty for not walking him and making him live this boring life with me. Somehow Dutch got through to me. I had two choices. I could keep doing what I was doing and let grief keep me from living or I could find help. I went that morning to an alcohol support meeting. That was 47 days ago.

It has been hard work to change my life. But the pictures show the difference. Two years ago, I was emotionally drained. I had driven my grandson Erik from New York to his dorm in Lima, OH. I was his sole support for college — both financially and emotionally — and his go to person for all things academic.

Erik settled in his dorm room in Lima, Ohio, after assembling his gaming desk.

Erik set up his put together his gaming desk in his dorm room the first night he was there. He was determined to put it together himself with no help from me or any of his roommates. He also refused to read the directions and so spent several hours on it. But he did it and was so proud. That was a wonderful day in his life. He was so full of hope and pride and so was I. You may notice his mom’s obituary hanging on the wall. He also kept her My Little Ponies from her memorial service.

We went out to dinner with several of Erik’s roommate’s parents. He told them how he and his dad played tricks on each other. One night he put firecrackers under the toilet. When his dad sat on it they exploded and he jumped into the bathtub. Looking around at the parents at the table I read shock in their eyes. Who was this kid that would be living with theirs for the next year?

So in able to support Erik in school, I was working hard to keep the high stress job I had a Questar Assessment. I had also just moved into a townhouse after a delayed closing that almost didn’t happen. Packing my late husband’s books before the move stirred up fresh grief for him. And I was in a broken relationship with a man I had been seeing since 2016. (I’ll call him A, since he was my addiction). He did not want a commitment, but I kept seeing him anyway hoping he would change his mind. I felt inadequate and alone even when I was with him. It was not a good feeling and it shows in the photo from 2018.

The stress overwhelmed me. I stopped taking care of myself. I replaced my regular workout with drinking, ate comfort food and gained weight, which made me even more insecure. But unlike the me of the present, I dwelled in the depression and grief and used alcohol to numb the pain. I did not find support and help.

Below are my journal entries leading up to the October 7, 2018. It smacks of desperation that I don’t have today. Even the pandemic does not cause me this much distress.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

I can’t shake the eating at night thing. Stress and loneliness. Not going to even try to get on a healthy diet until after I move. Too hard.

Doing all this move alone! And getting Erik to college. And heavy workload. Now seller may not fix things! But I move on Tuesday.

I got up at 4 am the last couple of days. Did my workouts then worked 12-hours. Today I slept in until 5:30. I’m not sure how I’m holding it together with this move next Tuesday, then Apple Valley, Minnesota, for my company wide yearly meeting on August 7th and Erik’s trip for orientation on the 16th.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

I am so stressed I can barely function. There is the batch 1 triage (reviewing teacher written questions) deadline Wednesday that is impossible because these endless emails from the realtor with docs to sign are keeping me from working. I have to look at the inspection report to decide which repairs I should ask the seller to make. I need to talk to the realtor. But I don’t have time. Less than a week until I move.

It’s too much!  There are empty boxes all over that I need to pack. I found out last night that this house I’m selling won’t close until Thursday or Friday. So I can’t move before I leave for my company wide meeting in Apple Valley. When will I move?

As I’m sorting books and CDs to keep or give away, memories of Lynn and Harry keep flooding me. I can’t fight the tears. Harry and I watched Random Harvest every Thanksgiving. He cried every time, the big sap. I want what I had with Harry. I miss my daughter. Damn it. This is too hard! I just want to crawl in a hole, watch movies and drink! My friend C’s coming at 3 so that will help a lot!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

I’m not doing well, grieving for Harry all over again with this move. I am edgy, sad, jittery and can’t focus on anything. Everything irritates me. An overall sense of sadness is like a shadow surrounding me. Yesterday the president of the homeowner’s association rang the doorbell around 1 pm to welcome me. I’d had a couple of glasses of wine and I’m sure did not make a good impression.

I don’t want the responsibility of a house. I wanted to sell my house and rent an apartment, but I bought this house instead because of A. He wanted me to buy a house instead of living in an apartment. I wanted a place where he would come see me, so I bought a house. What I really wanted was for us to move in together and start a new life. I hate this!

I got my eyelashes done at 10 this morning in preparation for my work trip. Once home, I cried while packing Harry’s books and rubbed my eyes with a tissue–basically rubbed off the new eyelashes. A couple fell right off in the tissue! Damn it.

I keep forgetting basic things like where my phone is when I’m talking on it.

I’m alone and doing this move alone. I can’t wait until the move is done, I’m back from Apple Valley and taking Erik to Ohio. Just get through one thing at a time!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

It was a hard trip in Apple Valley because the remote people didn’t have cars and the meetings were both at Questar, the zoo, and the hotels. We had to find rides. I squeezed into the back of a van one of the managers had rented to and from the big meeting in the zoo, to Questar, then to the Grandstay hotel. It was exhausting. A said I looked tired yesterday. I imagine I aged years.

I can’t make myself do item triage (reviewing questions written by teachers). I need to work but my concentration is nonexistent. I am tired of endless unpacking and Questar workload. My friend C is coming at 1pm. I am helpless to get the house in order for her visit. Boxes are everywhere. I did unpack my suitcase and part of a kitchen box at least and I put away laundry.

I spent the morning setting up autopay for the utilities. I’m resentful because I do not want to be a homeowner. It’s too scary and expensive when things break. I’m sure these feelings are partially why I broke up with A again yesterday. He got here late for our hike–after 10 am. It made me mad. I am tired of being not important and told him how I felt. He says he can’t commit to being exclusive but he’s not seeing anyone.

I really need some time off to rest but I’m not going to get it. I’m taking Erik to North Western Ohio for college on Thursday. I will try to enjoy that and be happy for him and get him settled in. God give me the strength. Please put your hand on me and help me be a good example and support for Erik.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Just got back from Lima, Ohio, last night. I flew to Syracuse at 6:30 Thursday morning, picked Erik up in Homer, New York, loaded the car and drove to Lima from Syracuse, an 8-hour drive. We got there after 11 pm. I got back here a little before 7 pm last night. I’m in shell shock from the trip.

We set up Erik’s dorm room. Got his key to the dorm room from administration. Brought his stuff into the room. Went to Spectrum. Bought him a bike. Went to Walmart multiple times. Bought his books, got his hair cut, put his chair together. Met his roommates and parents. Went to dinner Sat with two of his roommates and parents.

I did stupid things yesterday. I dropped my glasses at the airport. Looked all over, in the bathroom stall, back at the restaurant, and then found them under the chair I sat in at the gate. Then I thought I left them in the Uber after searching all over the house. My glasses were on the dresser.

I felt so alone when I got to the airport and on the way home. I am alone but I did all this by myself! I am strong. Drove Erik to Lima, moved, handling the work, I hope. Deadline Monday for all triage.

I am very concerned about money and getting Erik through school. Maybe I should ask my sisters and Mom for financial help.

The Close Heart of the Afterlife: life of a short story

I started writing “The Close Heart of the Afterlife” in 2014, the year before Harry died. It is narrated by a ghost who is drawn from the afterlife to help his twin brother cope with his wife’s downward spiral into Alzheimer’s. Told from both heaven and the earthly realm, the reader experiences the desperation accompanying a loved one’s cognitive decline.

The story grew from my experience with my late-husband Harry’s dementia. It was the hardest time in my life, in many ways harder than when my daughter was in jail for heroin use. Harder because there was no break from Harry’s cognitive demise. It was difficult watching the man I loved slip away.

One of the ways I coped was to write in my journal. The release I got from putting words on the electronic page helped me process my emotions. Some of my best stories have come from the words in my journal. I spin a painful or uplifting experience into a story. Following the 80/20 percent rule, these stories are only 20 percent fiction. This is true of this piece. I still cry when I read it.

I originally wrote about a wife caring for her husband who had dementia, based on my care of Harry. It was depressing, much like my journal below. There was nothing to hook the reader or keep them reading. So I used a trick Stephen King suggested in his book On Writing, to switch the gender roles of the characters. I tried this partly because I was afraid Harry might read the story and know it was about him. And he was in denial of his dementia. He thought the doctors were all wrong and he was fine. Hence, I reversed genders so the husband was the caregiver of his wife. It was still pretty sad and not very engaging. So I put it aside not intending to do anything with it. It was just too painful.

Until I read The Lovely Bones, which has one of the best descriptions of heaven I’ve ever read. The novel gave me the idea to add a brother from the grave. I decided to make the ghost the narrator and it worked.

I submitted my rewrite it to my writing critique group and got some great feedback. Although the dementia seemed real, the story was choppy. It had a lot of breaks with poor transitions and went back and forth in time. And didn’t hold their attention. I could not face the rewrite of the story because I didn’t want to think about that time in my life. I needed some distance from it.

Sunday I had some time and decided to take the story apart based on the feedback from my writing group pictured above. I moved scenes around and put them back together in a more chronological order. We work shopped it again Wednesday. The said they had a better sense of the wife’s dementia and were drawn into the characters relationship to make it more hard hitting and emotional.

Harry was a marketing writer and good at writing tag lines and titles so he came up with the title for the story before he died. I had told him a little about it, without telling him it was about him. So the story is very much Harry’s story. I hope my love for him shines through. My effort is a legacy to his brilliance, his talent, humor and love of language. I’m submitting it to literary magazines for publication, so hopefully you can read it soon.

This is the Harry I remember–our wedding day in 2003.

Following are thoughts from my journal when I started to lose the Harry that I loved due to his cognitive impairment. I have not shared these thoughts until today. My desperation in these honest words created “The Close Heart of the Afterlife.”

Harry’s decline started on August 8, 2011 after he had a seizure– I didn’t know it then but he was missing nearly a centimeter of his frontal lobes at that time. Brain damage from football concussions combined with alcohol abuse likely caused his dementia and seizures.

 Saturday, September 17, 2011

It is cold and rainy outside. I’m worried about Harry. Tuesday was a bad day. He had a bad episode with his seizure medication where he was so euphoric it was like he was on speed. He woke me up at 4 am telling me I couldn’t help him, that Doctor Yaremsetty couldn’t help him. His doctors were all wrong. He was a broken record, repeating over and over that no one would listen to him. He wouldn’t quit talking. He read the sports scores and the articles from the paper aloud to me. I cried several times. I went out on the deck and just stared off into the yard.

Finally I called Yaaremsetty and got his meds switched.

It has been so much pressure on me since Harry’s seizure. He is just in denial that he should be on seizure meds. He’s scared and drinking too much. I don’t have a job and I’m worried Harry will lose his job. How can he keep it when he sleeps until 11 am, works an hour or two, then takes another nap?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

I’m still worried about Harry. He fell asleep while I cooked eggs. I guess it is his seizure meds making him so tired. He was up again at 3 am. I hope he’ll be able to work tomorrow.

Monday, September 19, 2011

I don’t know what to do. Harry is really off. He is forgetting things. Has mood swings and concentration problems. I think he has dementia. 

He woke me up at 1 am and then at 6 am. He doesn’t remember talking with me either time. He’s scared about his meds. He keeps saying he doesn’t understand why he’s being treated like he has seizures every day instead of once every decade. I’m really concerned something is wrong with him like Alzheimer’s.

I got him up at 9:30 for work. I made him an egg sandwich and brought it up to his office. He came downstairs, saying he couldn’t remember how to put his password in and work. He didn’t know I’d made him an egg and brought it up to him. He went back to bed without eating or logging into work.

I have a call into Yaramsetty. I’m afraid it is not just the meds that is the problem.

What do I do? Even if I find a job will I be able to work with Harry in this state? What if Harry loses his job because he’s not working? We won’t have insurance if he’s not working.

He is sleeping during the day and has insomnia at night. He says biting comments to me. Says I don’t understand him and then the next minute he apologizes and says how much he loves me. I don’t think I can live with him through this.

If he would at least let me sleep at night, it would be helpful. I just feel groggy and drugged out all the time.

Should I look into hiring someone to care for him?

Should I look for a job? Will I be able to work? At least I would have something to do to occupy my time.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I am going out of my mind. Harry is sick to his stomach. I got home around 3 pm after swimming and lunch with Cathy. He said he was going to take a nap. He’s been coughing and sleeping since I got home. It is depressing trying to watch TV while he’s sleeping. I feel trapped.

I talked to Cathy about Harry and realize how miserable I am. Harry is sick or verbally abusive most of the time.

I think the 100 mg of Zoloft is too strong. I think I’ll try 50 mg tomorrow.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Harry was vomiting all night. Finally about 4 am he took an Adivan and was able to sleep. I feel exhausted. Dumping his puke bowl and trying to make him comfortable. I feel really bad for Harry and am worried about his health.

I have lunch with Anne at noon. I wanted to get some resumes out before that but I don’t think that’s going to happen. I’m just too tired.

Harry ate an English muffin and is now sleeping. I certainly hope he feels better. I have not had an entire night’s sleep since Harry’s seizure. I’ll try 50 mg of Zoloft today and see how I feel.

I feel so confused, or maybe lost is a better word. For the first time in my adult life I am jobless. I have no direction, no schedule, no sense of purpose that a job would give me.

 

Strategies to build new habits

We develop habits as a way to conserve mental energy. With the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, chances are that some healthier habits have been interrupted. This was the topic of a workshop my trainer Jake Onrdorff led last week. You can contact Jake by email for more information.

I work out now with Jake at UNC Wellness Center in Cary two mornings a week. Even though the gym is not open, social distanced personal training is allowed outside. Jake wears a mask and we stay six feet apart. The heat is brutal even at eight in the morning, but a little sweat is worth it. I told Jake that I can make myself go to the gym because I have an appointment with him or a reservation to swim, but I cannot seem to make myself workout at home on the off days I’m not at the gym.

Jake came up with a suggestion that I would not have thought was even a good idea. He said instead of doing a 15-30 min workout at home, do one thing instead. Do just one exercise like ten table push ups. And that’s it. This will build a habit of doing an exercise—just one—that takes only a minute or two. And since I walk Dutch four times a day—each for one half to three quarters of a mile, Jake suggested using the walks as a trigger and do one thing after the walks. It’s working. I feel so much better since I’ve been doing this. I row 1000 meters after his 6 am walk—that takes me only seven minutes. After the second walk around 11 am, I do a single set of exercises, like squats, lunges, table push ups or crunchies. I sometimes row again after his 4:30 pm walk and sometimes skip that set. I’m losing half to one pound a day.

Jake also suggested that I post a picture of me when I looked the way I want to look now. So I printed this picture from Jan 2018 taken at Lifetime Fitness when I had met my goal weight of 160. It’s hanging from a magnet on my refrigerator. I see me at my goal weight of 160 pounds every time I open my refrigerator. I’ve got 14 pounds to got to get there. I have hope I will make it and stay there.

Back when I was at my goal weight in the pre-Covid world, I had a gym habit. I worked out six or seven mornings a week at Lifetime Fitness. I was at the gym every morning from 6:30 to 8:30 because I also ate breakfast at the café with friends. And I enjoyed it. I did a leg, chest or arm workout followed by one hour of cardio every day. I either I split the hour up with walking on a steep incline on a treadmill, the elliptical machine and the rowing machine, or I swam for an hour.

Until I broke my awesome gym habit. It happened slowly over several months. Last July I took my old job back at Measurement Inc. Instead of working from home, I drove to Durham every day. I worked long hours. I quit working out at all and gained 15 pounds. I was just starting to put the gym back into my routine again in February and March when Covid happened and UNC Wellness closed. This was devastating for me.

The gym closing sent me into a downward and self-destructive spiral. I lost my newly found momentum on nutrition and exercise. The isolation took a toll on me. And then my daughter Lynn’s birthday on April 27, followed by her six-year death anniversary, and then my grandson Erik’s death anniversary a week later hit me hard. When phase 2 of the Covid shut down continued into July, I gave up. I drank every day and didn’t exercise much except for walking Dutch. I kept up with my work, but little else. I felt sad and unhealthy.

Then in June when personal training was allowed outside, I started working out with Jake once a week. This helped my attitude tremendously, but it wasn’t enough. Last week I bumped up my workout with Jake to two days a week. It’s the best money I have spent — I’m building back the gym habit. Three days a week I swim for the half hour that we are allowed per swimmer. So now I’m at the gym five days a week, building back my habit. It’s not perfect.

When I was at my goal weight I swam for an hour on the days when swimming was my cardio. The thirty minutes of swimming we are allotted each day is not enough, but it is better than nothing. There is one shower at pool side, so swimmers rinse off and then change in the changing room. Since the locker room is still closed there’s no bathroom for the outdoor workout days. But I’ll do socially distanced exercise over no exercise.

Working out makes me hungry. So I eat small clean meals several times a day. This requires food prep, planning and cooking. I’m treating myself to good food. I made cauliflower pizza last weekend. This week I made Parmesan chicken and yesterday broiled tuna steaks. I’ve been eating salad for one or two of my meals each day–with protein. I got salad kits at Harris teeter to make it easier and Kale and spinach. I am starting to make good nutrition a habit. This habit had totally fallen out and I’d been eating junk. Late night snacking on ice cream, cookie dough and chips had become my habit.

My sleep was sporadic as a result of the poor diet and lack of exercise. I would wake up between one and three am and then couldn’t fall back to sleep. I’d read or watch TV. Sometimes I’d fall back to sleep, but usually not. I was tired and grumpy all day and then the cycle of eating junk, drinking too much and not sleeping would continue. I was ruining my immune health. It is especially important to get a good night’s sleep and exercise during this pandemic. Those two things alone can boost our immune health. With exercise and good food I’m sleeping thought the night now.

Jake and I also talked about missing work because of children—he has two school age kids. I mentioned that I missed about two months of school my first year of teaching because my daughter had surgery to remove her spleen. This was to treat the hereditary blood disease we both have. Spherocytosis causes about 1.5 percent of our red blood cell’s membranes to be imperfect. Back in 1989, her doctor and surgeon did not want her to have the surgery until she was eight. So for much of her seventh year she was sick. Her red cell count was off, so her white count was off, and her immune system was weakened. That was a hard year for me. Watching my daughter get sick and feeling helpless to do anything was heart-wrenching. I didn’t know then that a harder time would come, the day that I got  a phone call from a NY police detective. “You called us to check on your daughter,” he said. “She passed away.” He was blunt. I didn’t know then that Lynn had been dead for four days. I think the detective’s lack of detail was a kindness to me.

Jake said, “You have been through a lot. You should write a book.”

I had not considered writing a nonfiction book. Not since I first started writing nearly 20 years ago. The first thing I wrote was my autobiography. I sent a hard copy and floppy disks to my family and friends—never do this. The book was terrible because I didn’t know anything about writing. But I made those close to me read it. I even sent it to a few agents. One rejected it with a note that asked if I was famous. He said no one would publish my autobiography unless I was. But now Jake gives me something to think about. Maybe people would be interested in my story of overcoming three terrible losses.

I’m going to start a new habit of getting up at five and writing for an hour before my first walk with Dutch. I think I can make that habit stick and maybe write that book.

The good old summer time

My short story The good old summer time is up in the April issue of  the Dead Mule.

I may not be a moonshine drinkin’, sweat-drippin’, pickup drivin’, yankee hatin’ redneck who eats greasy bacon, runny eggs fried in lard with grits, and sits on my neighbor’s sagging porch drinking beer and smoking cigars, but I like to write about them, and I do enjoy an occasional meal of shrimp and grits.

That’s only part of my southern legitimacy statement. Click on the Dead Mule link to read more. 

Harry has five poems in the April issue. The husband and wife team strikes again! The last time we were together was in Chiron Review in 2008. I saved the envelope our acceptance letters came in.

The good old summer time is set in spring, not summer. It’s about change: coping with loss, winter turning to spring. I wrote this story two years ago after my mother-in-law passed away unexpectedly. Her funeral was on the first day of spring–see my previous post: March

Because Harry’s mother had been sick for quite some time, I wondered how she could have hidden it from her family and friends. Connellsville, Pennsylvania is,  after all,  a small town. And then I realized, maybe she was aided in the deception. Perhaps the entire town played a part in the conspiracy. So the original title of The good old summer time was Conspiracy of Silence.

As stories often do, this one took a different course than I had planned. It veered from a town conspiracy to two men finding friendship through grief. Throw in a piano playing spirit and you’ve got The good old summer time.

Enjoy.

March: one year later

Today is the one-year anniversary of my mother-in-law’s passing, so in her honor, I’m reposting March.

Sometimes, life has a way of reminding you that there’s nothing more important than being with the ones you love. I want to offer my sympathy to everyone who’s had a loved one pass away suddenly. And I want to thank friends and family who comforted my husband Harry and I. When your world is turned upside down in a minute, it is hard get beyond the emptiness to find a way even to grieve.

It’s been a long, hard week. I was too emotionally drained to work, even today, although I sat at my computer and pretended that I was able, while my mind drifted to the events of the past week. If I’m in a state of emotional overload that has left me exhausted, I can only imagine the grief that my husband is feeling.

Harry’s mother, Beulah M. “Snooks” Calhoun, passed away Monday morning, March 19, 2007, from a cerebral vascular accident, a stroke.

I met Harry’s father for the first time as we walked across the hospital parking lot late Saturday afternoon and then met Beulah Calhoun where she lay in a hospital bed, an oxygen tube in her nose. She opened her eyes and looked at my husband, made noises, but nothing that resembled words. She didn’t recognize her son. It is the worst thing I’ve ever witnessed, or ever hope to.

Days followed: funeral arrangements, the viewing, financial matters and family dinners. Each day ran into the next and ended with Harry and I falling into bed exhausted and numb. When we came home on Saturday, although we had been gone for not even a week, it felt like an eternity.

I noticed on the drive home from the airport that in our absence winter had departed. After the cold and rain in Connellsville, Pa, the sights and sounds of spring in North Carolina were a welcome sight. Tulips had broken ground, pushing through the hardy daffodils. Pink and red azaleas now dotted the hedges, seemingly overnight. The oaks hung heavy with seedpods and cottony dogwood flowers rained pink and white petals, joining maple seed airplanes on the recently cut grass. The sight of gold finches fighting for seed at the bird feeder made me cry. We were home.

Beulah’s loved ones describe her as being most happy out of doors, so I think it fitting to end this entry with “March,” written by Hal Borland. Although I never knew her in life, the narrative seems to fit the mother of my husband. So, in memory of Beulah Calhoun, whose funeral was held on the first day of spring, and for her son:

March is a tomboy with tousled hair, a mischievous smile, mud on her shoes and a laugh in her voice. She knows when the first shadbush will blow, where the first violet will bloom, and she isn’t afraid of a salamander. She has whims and winning ways. She’s exasperating, lovable, a terror-on-wheels, too young to be reasoned with, too old to be spanked.

March is rain drenching as June and cold as January. It is mud and slush and the first green grass down along the brook. March gave its name, and not without reason, to the mad hare. March is the vernal equinox when, by the calculations of the stargazers, Spring arrives. Sometimes the equinox is cold and impersonal as a mathematical table, and sometimes it is warm and lively and spangled with crocuses. The equinox is fixed and immutable, but Spring is a movable feast that is spread only when sun and wind and all the elements of weather contrive to smile at the same time.

March is pussy willows. March is hepatica in bloom, and often it is arbutus. Sometimes it is anemones and bloodroot blossoms and even brave daffodils. March is a sleet storm pelting out of the north the day after you find the first violet bud. March is boys playing marbles and girls playing jacks and hopscotch. March once was sulphur and molasses; it still is dandelion greens and rock cress.

March is the gardener impatient to garden; it is the winter-weary sun seeker impatient for a case of Spring fever. March is February with a smile and April with a sniffle. March is a problem child with a twinkle in its eye.

Hal Borland: Sundial of the Seasons, 1964

March

Sometimes, life has a way of reminding you that there’s nothing more important than being with the ones you love. I want to offer my sympathy to everyone who’s had a loved one pass away suddenly. And I want to thank friends and family who comforted my husband Harry and I. When your world is turned upside down in a minute, it is hard get beyond the emptiness to find a way even to grieve.

It’s been a long, hard week. I was too emotionally drained to work, even today, although I sat at my computer and pretended that I was able, while my mind drifted to the events of the past week. If I’m in a state of emotional overload that has left me exhausted, I can only imagine the grief that my husband is feeling.

Harry’s mother, Beulah M. “Snooks” Calhoun, passed away Monday morning, March 19, 2007, from a cerebral vascular accident, a stroke.

I met Harry’s father for the first time as we walked across the hospital parking lot late Saturday afternoon and then met Beulah Calhoun where she lay in a hospital bed, an oxygen tube in her nose. She opened her eyes and looked at my husband, made noises, but nothing that resembled words. She didn’t recognize her son. It is the worst thing I’ve ever witnessed, or ever hope to.

Days followed: funeral arrangements, the viewing, financial matters and family dinners. Each day ran into the next and ended with Harry and I falling into bed exhausted and numb. When we came home on Saturday, although we had been gone for not even a week, it felt like an eternity.

I noticed on the drive home from the airport that in our absence winter had departed. After the cold and rain in Connellsville, Pa, the sights and sounds of spring in North Carolina were a welcome sight. Tulips had broken ground, pushing through the hardy daffodils. Pink and red azaleas now dotted the hedges, seemingly overnight. The oaks hung heavy with seedpods and cottony dogwood flowers rained pink and white petals, joining maple seed airplanes on the recently cut grass. The sight of gold finches fighting for seed at the bird feeder made me cry. We were home.

Beulah’s loved ones describe her as being most happy out of doors, so I think it fitting to end this entry with “March,” written by Hal Borland. Although I never knew her in life, the narrative seems to fit the mother of my husband. So, in memory of Beulah Calhoun, whose funeral was held on the first day of spring, and for her son:

March is a tomboy with tousled hair, a mischievous smile, mud on her shoes and a laugh in her voice. She knows when the first shadbush will blow, where the first violet will bloom, and she isn’t afraid of a salamander. She has whims and winning ways. She’s exasperating, lovable, a terror-on-wheels, too young to be reasoned with, too old to be spanked.

March is rain drenching as June and cold as January. It is mud and slush and the first green grass down along the brook. March gave its name, and not without reason, to the mad hare. March is the vernal equinox when, by the calculations of the stargazers, Spring arrives. Sometimes the equinox is cold and impersonal as a mathematical table, and sometimes it is warm and lively and spangled with crocuses. The equinox is fixed and immutable, but Spring is a movable feast that is spread only when sun and wind and all the elements of weather contrive to smile at the same time.

March is pussy willows. March is hepatica in bloom, and often it is arbutus. Sometimes it is anemones and bloodroot blossoms and even brave daffodils. March is a sleet storm pelting out of the north the day after you find the first violet bud. March is boys playing marbles and girls playing jacks and hopscotch. March once was sulphur and molasses; it still is dandelion greens and rock cress.

March is the gardener impatient to garden; it is the winter-weary sun seeker impatient for a case of Spring fever. March is February with a smile and April with a sniffle. March is a problem child with a twinkle in its eye.

Hal Borland: Sundial of the Seasons, 1964