Saturday, August 6, 2022


Dear John,

I feel like I'm waiting. I'm not sure what I'm waiting for, but I am stalled and I don't know why.  I mean, I'm waiting to hear about adding my dependent to the DIC from the VA. And I'm waiting to hear from ChampVA.  And I'm waiting to hear about your Social Security Disability. And I'm waiting to hear about your stock account with the contracting company.  But none of those things affect my daily life.  So I don't know what I'm waiting for.  Am I waiting for retirement, so I can leave this house and start over somewhere new?  Am I waiting for some sort of sign that it's time to get rid of more stuff?  Am I waiting for you to return, because it feels a little like when you where in Afghanistan and didn't have access to the satellite phone or the phone bank that you had in Uzbekistan?  

I know you're not coming back. I keep seeing your face as it was when I got home that day. I can't remember what you looked like sometimes, but I can see that expression.  It was sad and resigned, but also a little peaceful.  A few weeks ago, I felt like you were near - like you had your hands on my shoulders.  I don't feel you any more though.  Maybe that feeling will return.

Your daughter is doing well. I'm glad she's seeing the therapist. I don't know if she talks about you, but she has someone besides me to complain about her peers to.  I wish I could read her better - I have had to tell her that I think maybe she does come across as mean rather than sarcastic.  It's hard for me to tell and I know her better than anyone now. She doesn't bring you up, but doesn't seem to mind when I do.  I hope she'll be OK.

Missing you a lot today - maybe because it's my mom's birthday and you died in the same date as her.  I don't know, but it's rough.


Thursday, August 4, 2022


 Dear John,

Another week has gone by.  I went into your watch room today.  I'm overwhelmed by the amount of work that will entail.  10 years of pocket watch acquisition - parts and watches and tools - It's so much.  You spent so much time on those watches.  It was great to watch you learn - figuring things out for yourself and working with mentors whenever you could find them.

Of course, I also got to see people trying to take advantage of you.  I knew you weren't dumb from the moment I met you, but apparently you gave that impression to some people.  You were a negotiator - you always knew what you could get out of something you were buying so you had a good idea of what you should pay for it.  But so many of the watch guys thought that they could con you into letting them get the majority of the profit...or make you take a loss on something.  Dave and Jared and Tom - all thinking they could put one over on you.  I think Jared may have texted you the other day, but since you didn't save any contacts in your phone, I'm not entirely sure it was him.  Only Paul knows you're gone, and that's because you left me something to mail to him.  He said he'd help me sell your stuff, but I just can't do it yet.  First, because I can't find the key to that safe.  Second, because I would have to organize it all and I just don't feel up to it.  Third, because that was such a large part of you.

I finally sold that giant pocket watch clock at the garage sale.  I sold it for a loss, but it's gone from the garage.  I was actually pretty cool when I plugged it in - which doesn't mean I wanted to keep it.  I also gave the H's your Hard Lemonade bar light.  We never got around to hanging it, and they actually use their bar.  I think you wouldn't really mind, especially since SH has been helping me a lot since you left.

I was working on my paint-by-number picture at the bar, the other day.  I couldn't stop thinking about how you would be working across the way in the watch room.  I started doing those paintings to have some reason to get away from you and S when we were all stuck at home during the pandemic.  But then, over the last year, you started coming down to work on your watches while I was painting.  You'd play music and work on watches, and you'd get mad at me if I went back upstairs without you - "Never leave a man behind!" you would say.  It was nice to spend that kind of time together and I miss it.

Today, though, I went down and played the piano.  I was more terrible than usual, as it's been a while since I played last.  You found my playing both annoying and amusing.  It was the annoying part that kept me from playing too often.  Next up, I need to find a piano tuner.  And get the gas for the grill refilled.  And straighten out your stock thing with the contracting company.  There's always something else to do.  Ah, well, it keeps my mind occupied.



Sunday, July 31, 2022

2022 is THE WORST

 Dear John,

It started with my uncle - but I wasn't too surprised when Covid got him.

Then, you - obviously devastating.

Then, my gynecologist - he was my favorite doctor ever.  He actually listened to things I said.  It is believed that he also took his life, due to unbearable back pain, even after surgery.  He was buried the same day you were.

Then, one of the guys from your hometown - M was good friends with him.

Then, this weekend, the nephew of one of my blogger friends.  Only 17 - I'm so sorry, Lori

I hope that's all 2022 has in store.  I've had enough, thanks.



Monday, July 25, 2022

The coroner

 Dear John,

The police called the coroner to the house to investigate your death.  I didn't have the will to make everyone take their shoes off.  Now that we've got dogs, I wonder if it's worth it for anyone.  I'll have to ponder that.  We were ready for new carpet last year.  Maybe I'll actually get some soon.

I didn't look around much when I got home that day.  I just saw you, grabbed our daughter, and waited for the police.  They also brought EMTs who tried to revive you.  The coroner brought a chaplain and called the funeral home.  When they took you out, the chaplain took our girl into her room...and then sat on her bed.  For the first time in forever (you may recognize that as a lyric from a song from Frozen), your child was happy to change her sheets.  We may have let her develop a bit of germophobia.

Anyway, as people were milling around, I was pacing and trying to stay out of the way.  As I was wandering the kitchen, I saw the beer bottles by the fridge.  They're still there, by the way, 4 months later.  I can't bring myself to put them in the recycle bin, but I will get there.  Then I paced some more, and noticed all the pill bottles.  Anything you had in the way of painkillers was there and empty.  

I feel responsible, since I had suggested to you that there were some drugs that could help with anxiety.  You asked the VA psychiatrist for some valium and he sent it to you.  You took the whole bottle.  I had 15 year old leftover drugs (percocet?) from my c-section.  I had 10 year old leftover drugs from my hernia operation.  You had migraine medication.  You took all of that.  And probably smoked some weed - the kid said she smelled it.

It took 6 weeks for the toxicology report to come back - for some reason, they sent it to Pennsylvania.  They called and confirmed that all of those things were in your system.  But then, they wanted to know where you got the vicodin that was also there.  I was irritated because...what did it matter?  I failed to remember that they wouldn't have known that you weren't out and about buying drugs.  I told the investigator that it was probably from one of my surgeries and that you had just combined bottles.  She wanted to inquire further, I think, but I changed the topic.

The police took your note.  Once the coroner completed your death certificate, I called to get it back.  And then I promptly forgot about arranging to pick it up.  I showed up 3 days late.  I've been having lots of memory issues since you left.  It's starting to get better, bit by bit.  

Since I've had your death certificate, I've been able to manage most of the paperwork.  I still have to go and change the deed on the house.  I did go to the bank, where Barb was so angry and sad.  She said her brother had also taken his life about 10 years ago.  If she had known, she would have helped.  I told her that you only showed what you wanted people to see.  I wish you had known that she cared about you.  I also need to get your stock options from that contracting company that you worked for - it has been, without a doubt, the largest pain in my ass of all the paperwork I've had to file.  

One of the new people at work interned at the coroner's office.  She said your favorite neighbor said something racist in front of the only black employee at the coroner's office.  I told her about the spite berm that you built.  All the trees are still alive and blocking the neighbors out nicely.  Those people put a sympathy card in the mailbox 3 months after the fact.  Maybe they think that I'll let bygones be bygones, but everyone underestimates me and my grudge-holding ability.  

Speaking of grudge-holding, your sister K invited us to a family gathering in August.  Not sure yet if we'll go, and if we do...will I warn her that they might feel awkward when I refuse to acknowledge the existence of S and her family?  Hmmm, we shall see.



Saturday, July 23, 2022

Let's talk about sex, baby

 Dear John,

It's Saturday night.  Saturday was the day we usually had sex.  It freaks me out a bit to think that we will never do that again.  And that I may never do that again.  

My grandmother was widowed in her 40s.  My mom was widowed around the same age I am.  My grandmother never dated again, but she apparently wanted to be a nun before my grandfather talked her into marriage.  My mom dated someone after my dad died.  He was 20 years older than her, which was not that weird - may dad was 17 years older.  But it made things weird as he was farther along in aging. 

I can't imagine dating.  I will never marry again - that was a one-time only deal.  Not only do I not want to be married to anyone else, the financial impact would be significant.  I doubt I will date either.  I don't have the energy to contemplate it.  First, by the time I would be ready to date...I would be in my mid-50s.  At least.  Second, I would have to move - I'm in a land full of Trumpers, and there's no one less likely for me to want to date.  But it's scary to think that in just a few years, I will be alone as my girl goes off to college.  That was not the plan.  It was supposed to be us, fighting with each other, forever.



Friday, July 22, 2022

A musical interlude

 Dear John,

The radio was playing The Fray's "How To Save A Life" as I was driving home today.  The chorus hit me pretty hard:

Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

I should have known something was wrong when you were holding my hand while I was sleeping, Monday and Tuesday nights.  I woke up to it and squeezed back just a little.  You never liked to hold hands, but you did it a few times this year on our walks.  I guess you were trying to hold on and stay with us, when you had sort of already decided to go.  

I also wish I had stayed up with you all night - but you knew that was impossible.  When I decided it was bed time, I got in bed and went to sleep.  Unlike you, who would walk around and check the house, adjust the temperature, do a few minor tasks, check the kid, and an hour later finally go to bed, I would say "I'm going to bed" and then be in bed within 10 minutes and asleep within 20.  When you were able to get in bed at the same time...or if you were already there when I got always wanted to talk.  I just wanted to go to sleep, so you would talk, and I would try to listen, and then I would fall asleep.  I'd usually wake up after a few minutes, usually when you had gotten everything off your chest.  You didn't really need me to listen; you just needed to talk.  I called it your lullaby. It put me to sleep every time. But that last night...when you asked if I had heard what you said...I suspect I missed something very important.  I don't know whether you were disappointed or relieved.  I do think you had decided to go through with taking your own life (depending on what the stock market did the next day), and were sort of looking for me to talk you down.  But you didn't give me your usual signals.  And I fell asleep and I think I missed your statement of intent.  I did feel you hold my hand and I wish I could have held on tighter.  I wish it hadn't been a Tuesday, when I was at work for 13 hours and thoroughly exhausted.  I wish you had talked to me earlier.  I wish you could have made different choices and stopped doing the things that made you feel so terribly bad about yourself when you were already anxious and depressed.  I wish a lot of things. 

I also can't get that Glass Animals "Heat Waves" song out of my head - of course, it's on repeat on the radio, but also:

Sometimes all I think about is you
Late nights in the middle of June
Heat waves been faking me out
Can't make you happier now


I just wonder what you're dreaming of
When you sleep and smile so comfortable
I just wish that I could give you that
That look that's perfectly un-sad

You were the music afficionado.  You were always on YouTube, looking for songs, complaining about the ads.  I just listen to what's on the radio - I don't usually seek out particular songs.  But these, and some of the lines in Juice Wrld's "Lucid Dreams" are playing in my head a lot lately.  I wish the iPod that you used all the time could tell me what you listened to the most.  Of course, those weren't your favorite songs necessarily; they were just whatever could drown out the ringing in your head.  I hope you have some pleasant silence, and can access music solely for enjoyment now.  

We did listen to what I have always thought of as "our song" on our recent
trip.  "Shake the Disease" by Depeche Mode - your daughter thought it was a good song.  I'm glad she agrees.  



Wednesday, July 20, 2022

An obvious play for sympathy

 Dear John,

Your family has been...your family.  C has been in contact with me the most.  She texts me whenever she needs comfort.  Your SIL reaches out, but I haven't spoken to your brother since the day you died.  K has some regrets, I think, but is her usual self.  Unless you're directly in front of her, you don't really matter.  E has expressed some sorrow that there was distance between you.  I have completely blocked S, and will never speak to her again.

There was, as usual, a clear division of my family vs yours at the funeral.  Not one of your siblings spoke to any of my family.  My family would have been receptive, if cool.  My sisters told their kids to surround our girl and make sure she was never without one of them.  She and I sat with your mom.  The rest of your family sat together on the opposite side of the aisle.  I know you didn't want a funeral.  And I wouldn't have done it at all, but I felt bad for your mom for a minute.  She needed a ritual to say goodbye - I think our daughter sort of did too, even though she hasn't been raised in church.  It rained so hard that day until everything was done - I said it was you expressing your disapproval of the proceedings.  On the plus side, I applied for, and received, additional burial benefits from the VA, so it brought down the cost of the proceedings.  Your mom paid for the mass and the musicians - I didn't offer to do that.

So, why am I never speaking to S again?  I stopped by your mom's a day or two after the funeral to drop off some cards.  S was there and they were asking me questions about you.  I told them that you had been struggling for a long time.  I didn't want to violate your privacy, but I thought they needed to know that I had mentioned your issues.  Your mom saw it as me making an excuse for your behavior rather than as a signal that she needed to get closer to you and try to help.  That may seem like a harsh judgement on her, but I think it's true.  Anyway, later, S texted me for more information.  I gave her a slightly longer version of how you had withdrawn from everyone.  It was a fairly neutral response - I am not here to absolve anyone of their guilt, but I wasn't blaming either.  She replied with the following:    

    "He did speak to M and D the weekend before.  No one noticed anything unusual.  I know John is         private but I can't believe you wouldn't want to tell us that he was suicidal.  He's our brother &             you're his wife.  If you cared, you would have told somebody, that he was talking about it, even if         he didn't want you to"

Let me tell you, I was HEATED when I read that.  I replied very coolly, though, reminding her that her actions were a main factor for why you were distant from your family.  I told her that saying anything to her or anyone else would have been a major violation of your trust.  I told her, more or less, that I didn't owe her anything, and she should not pursue that line of thought with me.  So, of course, she doubled down and told me that other people were hurting too.  BLOCKED.  She's still on the family group text, but I don't see what she says.

In true (Your Family) style, though, I have sent a few passive aggressive messages out.  I may have married in, but I have the name and I will use some of the traits when it suits me.  To E, I send an occasional picture of the many drawings or notes she sent you when she was younger.  Am I deliberately reminding her that you adored her and were very hurt when she pushed you away?  Yes.  Yes, I am.  I send C photos of you and her and D having fun - a little reminder that she also withdrew from you.  I'm mostly avoiding your mom - still waiting for her to follow up on her idea to come up here to see us.  I think it's going to be a long wait.

Your daughter has inherited the worst of us, though, as far as grudges go.  She has no interest in seeing any of her aunts/uncles, cousins, or grandmother.  I think she was really hurt that your mom forgot her both for her last birthday and for Christmas.  So, now, as far as she's concerned, they don't really exist for her.  When I mention any of them, she sort of sneers.  I can't blame her.  I will probably try to attend some sort of family gathering and drag her along.  She may need that connection someday.  We shall see.  We did go to see A when we were in Chicago.  She continues to be a delightful person.  Cousin K had a major faceplant bike accident and did some serious damage to his cranium.  I sent him some Legos for entertainment, because he has to take it easy for a while.  D had surgery for Deep Vein Thrombosis - that's kind of scary.  C says he's doing well, but has to wear his compression socks all the time.  E just posted something very curious on FB, that appeared to be an ad for an orthodontist.  Weird.  That's all I know for now.