Thursday, December 29, 2022


Dear John,

To round out 2022, S's hamster died tonight. In a way, it's a relief, so we don't have to find a hamster-sitter when we go on vacation. You took care of him when we went to Chicago. I had to drop him at my friend's house this summer.

He had a good life, except for the last few months. He was almost 3 years old. He got an eye infection in May or June, and then he had a big sore on his neck. Then he started losing his hair. Poor little guy. I fed him sunflower seeds all the time. You liked petting him, even though he preferred biting us. You called him your little buddy. Or if you wanted to irritate S, you'd call him Hammie. His name was Wiley. Or was it Wylie? I don't even know.

We're going to have a burial tomorrow on the back of the berm, where Gills the betta fish and your friend's puppy who had distemper are buried. It's becoming a bit of a pet cemetery out there.

I hope that's the end of all the bad news for a long time.



Monday, December 26, 2022


 Dear John,

The September I was 22, my dad died.  I was pretty distraught for several months.  I was interviewing for a job, and was thrown by a question about travel.  I was concerned about leaving my mom alone.  My answer left the interviewer confused, but I did get the job.  By Christmas, my sisters and I were all missing dad at our holiday celebrations, but we were mostly OK.  My mom was still very much not OK - I think in the new year, she joined a grief group.  By the next year, she got a boyfriend.  We did not care for that at all.  It took a number of years before we accepted him.  We were still sort of surprised when my sister's kids were so upset when he died - they thought of him as a grandfather, while we definitely did not.  All that is to say, people process loss differently.

Yesterday, S said "Best Christmas Ever!"  I was a bit taken aback by that.  In terms of gifts, I bought her everything she wanted, which wasn't really that much.  Some clothes, some snacks, a few other small things.  But I was surprised she said that, because I was definitely missing you.  Look, you were not an ideal partner or father on Christmas.  You refused to get up early to watch S open presents.  You would usually stop her in the middle and tell her she needed to wait until later to open the rest.  You rarely bought anyone else gifts, unless prompted.  You thought I was too extravagant with S.  All you wanted to do was have a normal day but with better food.  I would have preferred getting together with family or visiting my sisters.  But you wanted to stay home.  You wanted to not "waste money" on gifts for all your nieces and nephews (to be fair, there are 15 of them), so I could not buy gifts for mine.  I did not get to do holidays my way.  It was easier your way, in terms of work, and cheaper.  But it didn't meet my way of spending holidays.  To top it off, last year, S came to wake you up, jumped on you and you dropped your phone on your face.  You had a black eye and you were really angry.  (But you brought it on yourself, as your favorite activity was wrestling with people who did not want to wrestle with you.)

So, I guess I understand why this would be the best Christmas ever for S.  But it makes me feel sad and guilty for acknowledging what a huge downer you could be.  For admitting that Christmas is easier and more fun without you.  For making plans to please myself, knowing that you would not approve.

So, I will give you credit here.  You always appreciated that I was able to get S things that made her happy for Christmas.  You encouraged me to take her to see The Nutcracker every year and you would not care what the tickets cost.  You didn't care that I would take her to lunch and spend silly money on expensive cupcakes (that we would bring home to share with you).  You loved whatever I made to eat for Christmas dinner.  We always enjoyed watching A Christmas Story and other Christmas movies together.  I still miss you, even if S finds holidays easier without you.  I don't blame her.  But it's painful to say that.  It feels disloyal, even though it's true.



Thursday, December 15, 2022

Wrapping up

 Dear John,

My Goodreads stats are in - so far, I read 31 books this year.  That's half what I read last year, and a little more than 1/4 of what I read the year before.  I don't feel like I have time to read, and I don't feel like reading.  Many of the books I start end up on my "Gave up" shelf.  

You used to love that I was a reader, while at the same time harassing me for wasting time reading.  You appreciated my vocabulary and were often surprised when I would be informed about random things that you didn't know I was reading about. You couldn't sit with a book for any more than a few minutes.  It's funny how you wanted your mom to sit down and read a book or watch TV, but you couldn't do either one.  You often asked for philosophical books about the origin of the universe and things like that, but you couldn't read more than a few pages before you had to get up and do something else.  We did watch a lot of movies, though.  

I am having a hard time watching TV lately too.  We signed up for Hulu/Disney+ because it's really cheap right now.  $5/month for a year.  So far, we've watched...Frozen.  For some reason, our smart TV is super dumb and can't be updated enough to get the Hulu app.  And the AirPlayer that we would otherwise use also can't download Hulu.  Disney+ works, but no Hulu.  The smart Blu-Ray player also doesn't work.  I put the app on my phone, but I don't have headphones (at least, not until Christmas, anyway).  Today, I bought a Roku - it was pretty cheap and will load all the apps for all the channels.  Plus, I can also get a free month of HBOMax, so I can have another streaming service I won't watch.  😒😒 It's no fun to watch things without you.  S has been subjecting me to Gilmore Girls.  I have to say that I think it's the worst show I have ever watched.  I hate EVERY character.  All of them.  All the time.  They are all terrible, and I do not understand how that show was renewed for 7 years.  But the kid likes it.  So I sit through it with her sometimes.

The weird Christian neighbors have invited us over for coffee and cookies.  They were so...not for us when they moved in.  Going around to people's houses in the middle of Covid was definitely a choice.  But, as it turns out, they're from up north. So I have that in common with them.  They're still deeply weird - I consider all homeschoolers odd - but they do express concern for us since you're gone.  I mostly prefer to have brief conversations that I can cut short because the dogs need to move along.  But if she picks a day when we don't have something going on (which...there actually aren't many of those), I suppose we'll have to go over and be social for half an hour or so.

We're going to see The Nutcracker next week.  It's been a couple years since we last went.  But that is a tradition that S wants to keep, so we're going this year.  I wish you would have joined us once or twice.  But you liked to call it "our thing," so you didn't have to participate.  You were generally a Scrooge on Christmas - you never wanted to get up early to let S open her presents.  You always insisted she needed to take a break when you got bored watching her open gifts.  You'd get mad at me for spending too much.  You'd be irritated by at least 1 gift I'd gotten for you and insist that it needed to be returned.  

I remember the year when I finally had enough of that terrible blanket that you had forever.  It had holes in it.  It was scratchy.  I bought a soft fleecy blanket to replace it, and you did not want it.  You seemed to enjoy punishing yourself with that terrible blanket.  But I kept the fleecy one for our bed anyway (since you also decided you hated my comforter and refused to use it).  Then you would complain that I was stealing it from you.  You still refused to throw that stupid blue blanket away.  So, guess what I had them put in your coffin?  Your blue blanket - holes and all.  I also apparently had you buried in your work pants, because I couldn't find your good ones.  At least S picked out one of your favorite shirts.  As all the men in your family seem to have one stop on the color wheel, it was only fitting that she chose the blue shirt.  (Your stop on the color wheel was actually army brown/tan, but you also had a lot of blue shirts.)  Anyway, I wonder if they just tossed all that stuff in with you or actually arranged it nicely.  We didn't have any sort of viewing, because I know you would have hated people staring at you like that.  So I'm left wondering what the funeral home does when they know no one is watching.

Anyway, Christmas preparations continue.  I wrapped a lot of presents today.  I don't know exactly what we're doing yet, but I do know we're staying home.  The weather has gotten colder and they said it might snow.  S has a lot of appointments, so there's no time to go anywhere.  We'll be missing you, but not your bad attitude that was usually present at Christmas time.  



Sunday, December 11, 2022


Dear John,

It only took...12 days to decorate the tree.  S did a fine job.  Neither of us were super-enthusiastic about getting it done - she was playing incompetent by pretending not to know where the ornaments were.  I just wasn't feeling it.  But it's done now.  I will have to start wrapping all the gifts.  I probably went overboard, but that's fairly typical for me anyway.

I had to pick S up from school on Friday because her stomach hurt.  Once home, she proceeded to throw up a few times.  I had to resort to the old standby from infancy - feeding her the juice from canned fruit to settle her stomach.  It worked when Saltines weren't doing the trick.  I'd give her a bowl with crackers, which she would put down.  Then the dogs would eat the crackers.  She slept from 6 pm on Friday until about 7 or 8 am Saturday - she never does that.  We're probably both run down without you to take care of us.  

This means we haven't been up for eating our Cheese Advent calendar.  The last piece I had was tomato based, and I do not like that.  It's very strange how particular everyone is about the way they'll eat tomatoes.  You weren't a huge fan of fresh tomatoes, unless it was on a sandwich.  But you loved them in everything else - soups, stews, sauces.  S doesn't really like them much at all.  She will occasionally eat marinara sauce or fresh tomatoes in salad.  I prefer them fresh, and I like red sauce, but please do not put tomato in anything else or it makes me gag.  I wonder what it is about tomatoes.  They're very divisive.

I am finished working for the year.  My vacation began last Thursday at 7, and I won't be back at work until Jan 2.  I hope to get some stuff done around the house.  We shall see.  I don't have any Christmas plans yet.  Maybe we'll host.  But I fear inviting your family over, due to their grasping natures and that one sister who I never want to see again.  I sent your mom a gift of dried fruit - I think she'll enjoy it.  

The window in your watch room has some issues.  The bottom part is cracked, and the mechanism broke today.  I guess it's fine, since I don't really need to ever open it again - I only do so for fresh air.  Speaking of watches, I'm going to try and start inventorying the watches and stuff while I'm off.  I signed up for that show in May, so I need to figure out what to take and how to price it all.  Meanwhile, some guy in California is looking for a case for one of his watches.  I found a really nice one down there, but I don't know if the attached price tag is legitimately what I should ask for the case or not.  I'll have to consult with someone on that score - according to eBay, that price seems reasonable for what it is.  The watches are going to be a nightmare.  There's just so. much.

I found a tiny (real) Christmas tree to tuck into the wreath your SIL put on your grave.  You would love it because you liked having a Christmas tree, but you would hate it because it was covered in glitter.  But the glitter throws some light off, which is really the part you enjoyed.  Of course, I dropped the tree off on a flower clean-up week.  I hope they only take the dead stuff away, and if it looks like it's still alive, they leave it.

I don't cry every day any more.  I usually do feel sad once or twice a day, but there's a lot less tearing up.  I am totally failing at maintaining the house, though.  The lawn is full of leaves and pine needles.  The counters are a mess.  The dogs are tearing up your floors.  But it's fine - I'm getting annoyed by all of it, which means I'll be working on it.  That also means my depression-driven sloth is starting to recede.  I hope I have more energy next year.  Or I get rid of all the stuff that's causing me problems. It's a process.  I'll figure it out eventually.



Friday, December 2, 2022

Always for her

 Dear John,

Now that Thanksgiving is over, your girl wants to decorate for Christmas. She put lights on the porch yesterday - she says she's going to do bushes too, as well as the light projector. She told me that she would do the lights if I would put the tree up. I know you remember that until she came along, we didn't even have a Christmas tree. I would put a string of lights on the mantel and hang my grandmother's icicles, and call it enough. I went out on the Black Friday, when she was 6 weeks old, to get a pre-lit Christmas tree because I thought she would like the lights. And we needed to have a tree to put her presents under. 

You ended up enjoying the Christmas tree and the lights as much as she did. You couldn't have cared less about Christmas or gifts or anything. But the tree and the annual viewing of A Christmas Story were your things. I guess they put out a sequel this year. I don't know if I'll watch it without you. We did watch Spirited - you would have tried it, since it has Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell. But you would have hated it because it's a musical. S and I thought it was cute.  

When I'm out Christmas shopping, I feel bereft not having you to buy presents for. You were about impossible to shop for - you didn't want or need anything. And you hated waste. Most of your gifts were food. And almost everything I would buy, you would say you didn't need. But you did, and you would eventually appreciate things like comfy socks, and soft blankets.  

Your brother's wife put a wreath on your grave. I may go out and take a look next week. Seems like something I should be doing - I do bring you flowers on occasion. I don't really want to stay in this area once S goes to college, but I really don't want to leave you either. I know I'll join you eventually, but it would be so strange to be apart from you.

I put the tree up last Monday, but we still haven't decorated it. I am having a hard time with follow-through lately. Maybe tomorrow.

S got a cold this week - I made her soup, gave her my cure-all (Advil and orange juice - works every time), and she stayed home from school. I forgot to give her your cure-all (the sock with Vick's VapoRub on it around her neck) until the second night. I did give her a zinc drop, though. I saw some Airborne in the cabinet and thought that I should have made her have some of that. You would have. She's better today, but she still has a cough. I don't know if I'm getting it too, or if I just have my cold-weather-induced bronchitis. But, with you in mind, I took a zinc drop and had some Vitamin D. Your mom invited us to a craft fair at her church tomorrow, but I had to decline due to the illness. S took a Covid test and it was negative, so I'm glad it's not that. It was a home test, though, so it might not be accurate. But she was in the thick of chills and a cough, so it should have been detectable if it was Covid.  

I found a meme that I think is hilarious - I have started using it on people. It makes them really uncomfortable, which you know I find amusing. If I'm going to be dealt a shitty hand, I might as well turn it into comedy for myself. I know we liked to say that if you're the only one laughing, it's probably not funny, but, sometimes... Anyway, here it is.



Monday, November 28, 2022


Dear John,

You know how your family gets - relentless positivity is always preferred. Let's talk about what we're thankful for. Well, I could absolutely not do that this year. It's not that I am unaware of all my advantages. I am grateful for so many things. But I am also terribly sad to spend my first Thanksgiving this century without talking to you. Even when you were in Uzbekistan, I could still talk to you. And I resent that this year has brought the deaths of 5 people I know...and only one of them was from Covid. So I was not going to be able to muster up any positivity at all.

The problem was that none of my other choices were attractive either. I couldn't stay home and make a turkey and mashed potatoes for 2. I didn't feel like driving 3-5 hours to my sisters' houses. (I should have gone to my oldest sister's though. My niece's boyfriend, who is 46 to her 25, came to dinner.) I thought about volunteering, but didn't have the energy. S finally said "When are you going to decide what we're doing for Thanksgiving?" So we went to my closest sister's. 

It was nice.  We had a basic dinner.  I made apple & pear crisp for dessert.  S had a good time with her cousins - you know how she and E like to irritate each other.  I appreciate that you were open to E coming to visit when she was in college here.  You were always good to the nieces and nephews, even when they were working on your nerves.  We also did a couple touristy things.  You would have liked visiting the town we went to see.  

Your friend B sent a text - he was missing his mom on his first Thanksgiving without her.  I don't' know if he managed to get anything out of her husband or if he's still fighting.  He's a good guy.  

I'm about to be off for most of December.  I'm going to start going through your watch stuff.  That's going to be a chore.  I wish you were here selling that stuff and messing with it.  Keeping me company while I paint.  I miss you.



Monday, November 7, 2022

Veteran's Day

 Hmmm - maybe that's the reason I'm kinda down this week.  Veteran's Day was the only day of the year where you were guaranteed to make a plan, get out of the house, and sort of enjoy yourself by taking advantage of all the free meals available to veterans.  We'd have a trip for breakfast and a trip for lunch.  You'd get White Castle sandwiches, and coffee from everywhere.  You'd get Little Caesar's pizza, Chicken Salad Chick selections, vouchers from Freddie's and Texas Roadhouse, and every year you'd even dine out - something you almost never did - at Red Robin to get your Tavern Double Burger.  You would definitely be telling me to take your ID and collect your vouchers and pizzas and stuff while telling the businesses that you couldn't leave the house.  You were determined to get back everything you had given to the Army, however you had to do it.  

I'm getting the house power-washed today.  My friends recommended a guy - he seems nice in spite of his apparent political leanings.  S asked if we couldn't find someone more like-minded to do the work, but I told her it wasn't likely.  I had my Planned Parenthood postcard in the window when he came to do the estimate, so I'm sure he knows where I stand.  I hope he gets all the crap off the side of the house - he says he has a telescoping brush, but you know...been there, done that, and still had to get the ladder out to get as high as we could reach.  We shall see if I have to renegotiate the price after the fact.  Sigh.  I also took out all the screens - he said he'd wash those as well as the window sills (which are quite filthy, I have to admit.  I am slacking on cleaning.  You know I hate that stuff.)

Meanwhile, I got into it with the village again.  They told me in June, right before we left for Chicago, that they couldn't see the fire hydrant.  So, in July, I cut back the grass that was "in violation" - although it was planted outside the radius, it was drooping over.  I saw the utility markings and flags the other day, and then they pulled up in their truck while I was out raking up pine needles for the third time.  (I finally just put them all on the spite berm, since the mulch won't stay and I'm tired of paying for more mulch to disappear.)  They just said "Hi," in a really snide manner.  So, after they left, I went and got my phone and a tape measure to show that I was in compliance with their ordinance.  I cut down additional grass for good measure, and then started emailing people.  "Shane" responded to say that since they hadn't heard from me, they were going to go ahead and clear things up and charge me for it.  I told them I was in compliance, and if they wanted to remove anything outside the 4 foot radius, they could go ahead at their own expense.  Or maybe paint the fire hydrant a different color since they can't see it in the constant shade.  I also threw you and BW under the bus, complaining about how I told you that I didn't think planting things there was a good idea, but you went ahead and did it anyway.  Now I get to pay for your poor choices.  

I am also signing up for a watch show that your associate PD is throwing.  It's about halfway between our house and his.  I think it will be a good place to let go of some of your stuff.  First, I have to get an idea of what the stuff is, and what it's worth.  Then I'll have to cart it all down there.  It's a 2 hour drive, so, not terrible.  And some of the guys from the FB group are already sniffing around.  PD shut them down - he seems like a good guy.  

Power Ball is up to almost $2 billion.  You know what would be nice?  If you could pick the numbers on my ticket for me - I would like to be a billionaire (at least for the 15 minutes before I started spending it.)



Saturday, October 22, 2022

Driver's license

 Dear John,

S passed her driving test with ease and got her license.  I don't know if she was correct that the test was easier in Town G as opposed to Town E.  But there was certainly a lot less traffic there.  In fact, the only person on the street was the dude who was walking along yelling at someone I couldn't see.  

You would definitely not be letting her go places on her own already.  You'd let her drive to work or send her on errands for you.  But I let her take her friend home, and take another friend to McDonald's, and take yet another friend to Target.  You would bemoan the waste of gas.  You would be concerned about accidents and liability.  Of course, you might also have sold her the Altima already.  I'm not sure.  

While she was working today, I took the dogs to the library.  My favorite librarian likes to have them visit, since she's a dog (and cat) person married to a cat person.  My other favorite librarian quit working at our library - I'll have to go visit her at her library one of these days.  I miss chatting with her - she's fun and funny and earnest.  

After the library, I came home and sorted baseball cards for a while.  Then I had to go out and do some yardwork.  The pine needles are covering everything this year.  Yesterday, I swept two bucket loads off the driveway.  Then the wind changed direction, so today, I took 4 wheelbarrow loads collected from the driveway, and off the grass, down to the back.  I wish it would rain so I could burn the yard waste.  If I tried it now, the whole stand of trees would catch fire.  Sigh.  Climate change.

I also had to spray weed killer on all the stuff growing in the grass.  You would never have let it get as far as I did.  The grass looks terrible since it's been so dry.  I hope for some rain so I can throw some seed out there and hopefully help the lawn recover.  We have a mole in the back again this year.  I can't be bothered to care about it.  The lawn guy hasn't been in the neighborhood in 2 weeks, and I haven't had the lawn mowed in 3.  It's in sad shape.  I'll probably have to do it one more time, with the bagger.  You know how I love doing that. 😡😡😡

I think tomorrow, since the weather is supposed to be warm again, I'll try to power wash the house.  I did it in spring, but I can't get very high on that one side.  I know you didn't mind leveling the ladder for yourself, but I'm not confident of my abilities. Even if I were, I still can't reach as high as you could.  My friends have a guy who does their house, but I don't know.  Maybe I'll see if he's available this week.  I know I could do some of it, but not all.  So maybe I'm better off having someone else get all the mold and dirt off, instead of doing the half-assed job I'm capable of.  

I really hate worrying about this kind of thing.  Who has to wash their house?  I grew up in an all-brick house.  Tuckpointing once every 40 years was all that was necessary.  Siding that collects mold and dirt?  No thanks.  If it were possible, I would get the rest of the house bricked up.  Hmmm, I wonder if that's possible?  I don't think you had a brick ledge put in on the other 3 sides when you did the foundation, so I would guess it's not possible.  Power washing, it is, I suppose.  

S's puppy is asleep on his back next to me right now.  It is absolutely the cutest thing (I mean, aside from being able to see his junk).  He looks so relaxed and comfy.  I think you would like him - he's a lot like you.  He barks at anything unfamiliar.  He wants everything to be unchanging, so he doesn't have to adjust.  And he prances when he walks - he reminds me of you imitating your nephew E.  I guess I just look for you in everything.



Monday, October 10, 2022

Sweet 16

 Dear John,

I didn't realize how hard today would be for me.  I've been crying off and on all day.  I didn't know how much S's birthday would make me face how much I've lost.  You were the only one who was there to see her right after she was forcibly retrieved - she refused to come out after 24 hours of labor.  You were the first to hold her.  You changed her and fed her and comforted her.  You saw all her silliness and sunny personality (before she became a non-stop complainer.)  You cleaned her up every time she threw up on me, so I could clean myself up.  You took her to school and were there when she came home.  You had epic wrestling matches and ambushed me when I got home from work.  You fought over phones and chores.  You went on late night missions (to take the trash out or search for wildlife).  And now you're gone, and I have no one to remember with.

I have tried not to dump this all on S - I wanted her to have a really great birthday.  It's her 16th, and that's such a milestone.  My sister J (the older one) and T and E came over to spend the day yesterday.  We went to the Botanical Gardens and walked around for the afternoon - and then we went to The Hill for dinner.  I guess I didn't realize, but S doesn't actually like Italian food much.  Today, we had a few presents to open, and in the afternoon, she went to play volleyball with friends.  She didn't take a key, and didn't tell me until late that I didn't need to wait for her.  So she was stuck sitting on the driveway while I finished shopping.  I made twice-baked potato and filet mignon for dinner, with a salad.  I hope she has had a good birthday. 

We were talking about cars, naturally, since she's excited to get her license.  She asked if we got the first Maxima because of her.  I got very upset, because we sort of did, but also because we got it just after our first two miscarriages.  I told her that I'd tell her about it one day, but not today because I'm pretty emotional.  She was all "Ooookay..."  Then we talked about the cars you had when I knew you and she made fun of your Titan.  Apparently, she's not a fan of Nissan trucks.  I told her about that Mustang you bought for your brother, who never came up with the money, so you sold it after a couple months.  She said "Uncle M is kind of a flake, isn't he?"  Yes.  Yes, he is.

Speaking of which, your sisters all sent texts wishing her a happy birthday.  Her older cousins did too, and one apparently is sending a gift.  Your mom just sent some pictures and birthday wishes at 8:45 this evening.  Love that very vague "Let's get together soon."

We're going to go Friday after school to try and get her driver's license.  She wants to go to one particular place, since she thinks the driving test will be easier there.  I'll have to pick her up from school, so she can get through the line...or else we're getting up early on Saturday morning.  Then she's got a hair cut, and then we're having another birthday party in the park.  It's a little bigger this year, but no boys were invited.  I can't make up for you not being here, but I hope I can provide some happiness for her.  

I can't tell how much she misses you.  She never says, which I think is because she doesn't want to upset me. But I know it's a lot, because she's started trying to wrestle with me the way you two used to do.  

This is really hard.  Because there's no way to fix it.



Saturday, October 8, 2022

Heart issues...

 Dear John,

I went to the cardiologist yesterday.  I wasn't much pleased with the nurse-practitioner that they set me up with.  The doctor I liked left, for Tennessee according to my internet stalking skills.  That's a little too far to drive, even though I thought she was really good.  Anyway, although the NP had a good grasp of my SVT issues, her approach was the standard "take blood pressure medication which doesn't actually address the problem or have heart surgery which will cure it."  While I know an ablation would fix the problem (in theory), there are 2 things holding me back.  First, if this didn't show up until I was about 40, how do I know that another pathway won't misfire once I take care of this one?  And second, it's heart surgery.  That's inherently hazardous.  But I did make an appointment to talk to the electrocardiologist.  We'll see if he can persuade me that it's in my best interests to get the problem fixed.  Then, of course, I had another incident last night.  It was relatively short-lived; only 4 hours this time.  

While I was in the office, I was reviewing my records of incidents.  I didn't remember having one the day before you died.  The only time I told you about the incidents was the one time I had you take me to the hospital, after 36 hours of palpitations.  I probably should have shared the incident on March 22nd - maybe that would have changed your mind about leaving.  Of course, discovering that made me cry in the doctor's office.  Always my favorite thing - being emotional in front of other people.

S's birthday is on Monday.  She's turning 16.  I know that was an important time in your life - your love of vehicles of all sorts was legendary.  And at 16, you gained access to owning anything you could pay for.  I wish you were here to share that with S.  She's so excited to get her driver's license and has been pestering me about it at least weekly.  She already calls the Altima her car.  Then she asks when I'm going to get a new car so she can have the Maxima.  I think I'll pick up a cookie cake for her once I drop her off for work today.  We have some plans, so we'll see how we get through this weekend...



Friday, September 30, 2022

I don't even know how this came up

 Dear John,

We were watching Abducted in Plain Sight (you would have hated it and turned it off, because these people are unbelievable naive and stupid).  And somehow, S started telling me about the time you were in JC Penney's and your mom wouldn't take you to the bathroom and you ended up pooping your pants.  Then you described walking along, shaking out "rocks" from your pants.  I don't remember you telling this story, but it sounds like something you would have said.  Anyway, we got a good laugh from it.

I was drinking a glass of wine, which seems to have interfered with my vision.  I feel like I don't have binocular vision right now - I can see individually from each eye, but both together don't seem to work.  I wonder if this is how your vision was working at the end.  You complained for a couple years that you couldn't see out of both eyes at once.  I wish the optometrists could have figured it out.

Speaking of which, I have to make appointments for S and me for eye exams.  I tried to make one, and once I had gone through the process with one company, I got an email saying they don't take our insurance.  Sigh.  On to the next place, I guess.  S said she wouldn't mind going back to the lady she saw last year.  I didn't like her, but if S does...I guess I don't mind.

When my sister A was here, we made some headway on organizing the baseball cards.  I'll be continuing to work on them for a while.  I can see why you chose not to deal with them - it would have been very depressing to you to face the lack of return on your investment.  I'm not sure what to expect when I try to sell them, but it will probably be far less than I think today.  Fortunately, one of my online friends (the one you thought was completely full of shit all the time with his Army proclamations (but also felt a little comradery because he is Army) has had some suggestions.  I hope he will be able to hook me up with a decent/honest dealer.  We shall see.



Thursday, September 29, 2022


Dear John,

We survived homecoming.  There were a few blips - which wouldn't have happened had you been here, because you would have objected to the expense.  We went to get our nails done, and I expected it to take 2 hours, but it took 3 because they were understaffed and overbooked.  That meant that S and her friend missed all the free food at the tailgate party, so I had to get them some dinner.  At that point, S was upset but ultimately decided to skip the football game.  It had gotten cold overnight, and it was drizzling, so she decided she didn't want to sit outside in that.

The next day, we got up early to get her hair done.  I was unsure about the hairdresser - she has the same last name as a former CSI who left rather suddenly and ignominiously, so I was concerned that it would be his wife.  Fortunately, it wasn't.  I liked her, but the hair style she created kind of made S's head look a bit like a football.  But it was fine - the 8 am appointment meant that her hair fell into a beautiful look by 4:30, which was picture time.

We went to the park by the library to take photos with the group.  (I went in to the library to pick up my movies.  The librarians were busy peeking out the windows and discussing how short many of the dresses were.  I showed them a photo of Selah and they approved of her dress.  It wasn't too short and she looked absolutely beautiful.)  I forgot to mention that my sister A came down - ostensibly to help with the baseball card issue, but also to be there for us during the first significant event without you.  She came to the park, and we were marveling at all the well-dressed and made-up moms who appeared to be reliving their high school days through their daughters.  

It was really weird, though.  All the girls would see each other and coo over each other's dresses and hair and shoes, but with S, they didn't do that.  There was no "I love your dress!"  Or, "OMG, your hair looks great!"  I hate that for her - other girls seem to think she doesn't need the same care and attention they give to each other and it's hard to watch her disappointment in not receiving it.  I did tell her that one of my friends in high school used to ask me "Why are you so hostile?" So maybe we share that quality.  I'm sad for her that she doesn't have a best friend like M, who I have known since we were 8.  But I hold out hope that she will find a friend like (other) M, who I met in college.  The both check in with me a lot since you've been gone.  It helps to know that I have people who know I need them and step up to be there for me.  I hope that I will be available for them if they need it, and I hope S finds her Ms sooner rather than later.  

After pictures, I drove S and two of her friends to a restaurant.  S was irritated with me that I didn't find a place to park while they waited for the rest of the group.  Instead, I kicked them out of the car.  My sister and I went to your favorite Mexican restaurant for dinner.  It was nice.  S then went to the dance, and then stayed over at one of the girl's houses.  Initially, she thought her two "friends" would be too annoying for her to tolerate.  But she adjusted, and had a good time at the sleepover.  As usual, she was super-cranky when she got home.  

We all went out to brunch with my sister's friend who lives locally.  It was fun.  After that, we went to Kohl's to shop for S's birthday present.  She ended up getting 6 shirts with her aunt's discounts and budget.  A gave them to her immediately, but there's another gift that we picked up while S was at the sleepover.  

I'm not sure how we're going to get through her birthday, but her solution is to go somewhere.  I'm trying to figure out where to go.  I don't want to fly anywhere.  We might go to my sister J's house - I'll have to check with her.  Or maybe we'll take a little road trip.  I don't know - especially with the dogs.  It's going to be a hard thing to manage.  I wish you were here to celebrate this particular milestone.  16 is a big day, and your presence will definitely be missed.



Saturday, September 17, 2022

It's a rough one

 Dear John,

I'm not sure why today has been rough.  I know it has something to do with Italian Fest.  I always wanted to experience that with you - you went once to watch S on the bungee trampoline thing and refused to sample any of the food or drinks.  For 17 years, I thought you'd enjoy celebrating your heritage and eating some fun street food.  You never wanted to go, so I would take S.  And because she is just like you, she would visit the firehouse, jump on the bungee trampoline thing, refuse to try any of the food, and be ready to go home.

This year, S marched in the parade.  One of the gold medalist volleyball players from the last Olympics went to high school here, so she came and marched with the volleyball team.  Since S is managing the team, she was with them and got to hold the gold medal.  I guess, since the medal is actually solid gold, there were many cops around, in case someone tried to steal it.  

I didn't stay for the parade - just dropped S off and went home.  There was no point in wandering around by myself.  I don't think I'll bother with it again.  It has never worked and it's time to stop trying.

I got a book from the library today.  I wish you were here to talk about it with me - it's a memoir of someone who was in my high school class.  She has a particularly notorious ex-husband.  I would enjoy talking about how I'm not buying her story about her lifestyle growing up, and you would enjoy talking about the ex-husband.  I don't know if we have any Olympic gold medalists in my graduating class, but we certainly do have some illustrious people.  My 35th reunion is next month.  I won't be going - S wants to have another park birthday party that weekend.  She'll be 16, and trying to get her driver's license as soon as she can.  

My sister is coming next week to help me organize the baseball cards.  I have made a small dent in them, but it is a daunting project.  I will have to ask S if she wants any of it.  She always says yes, but I'm not sure she's thinking clearly.  I am glad my sister will be here, as next week is also Homecoming.  That's going to be another rough one for me.

I'm glad you got to go to your 30th reunion.  I think you really enjoyed meeting up with many of the people to see what they were like now.  As usual, I was a little hurt that you didn't take me with you.  I guess doing everything on my own will pay off in the long run.

On the plus side, I received the paperwork to say that the VA has finally acknowledged that I have a dependent.  Extra $$$ for the next 2 years!  



Friday, September 9, 2022

Survey says...

 Dear John,

I spoke with a VA rep about you today.  It was a survey for people whose family members have committed suicide.  Aside from this blog, I guess complaining to the VA about how ignored and dismissed you felt is my other form of therapy.  I'm pretty sure you did not want me to talk to her, as the calls kept mysteriously dropping.  I spent an hour telling some young woman that you weren't acting any differently in the month before you died.  It was just that, for previous incidents, you talked to me about your wish to die, and I could anchor you in some small way.  This time, if you had wanted to talk about it, I didn't see the signs.  I do have some guilt over that, but I also know that I could never stop you from doing anything you were determined to do.  

Betsy, the VA rep, asked if I had any thoughts or opinions on how this could have been prevented.  I had a lot of thoughts.  I told her that when the military is conditioning young men and women to be mentally and physically strong, they're also preventing them from seeking help when they start having mental health issues.  How can you expect these people to admit to not being mentally tough when you spend all that time telling them they need to be tough?  There really isn't a solution there, except for, perhaps mandatory therapy when returning from deployments.  I also mentioned the VA policy of only having so many sessions with particular therapist before switching.  I understand the idea behind the policy, I think.  But there's no good way for people like you to establish enough trust with someone to actually explore the traumas behind your anxiety and depression.  And I imagine there are plenty of people like you.

It's almost September 11.  The bright spot of this year is that I don't have to yell at you to stop talking to me about how 9/11 was a huge conspiracy brought on by the US government.  That drove me up and down the walls.  I hope that death has brought you that ultimate knowledge that was promised, and I hope you're now saying "I hate to admit it, but she was right."

Tomorrow, I'm going to the electric co-op for something.  All I know is there is an opportunity for $30 in bill credits available, and I'm gonna get 'em!  Turns out, though, since the bill is in your name, I could change it to mine, and collect money from them.  I'm going to inquire about that too.

S is still talking about her ex-friend, the one you referred to as Green Teeth, or, when you were feelings nicer, Chef Boyardee.  I think she's jealous, because the girl gets lots of attention from boys.  S is getting attention, but not as much because she's not dating.  I don't think anyone has asked her to homecoming, but she was planning on going with friends anyway.  She is much more social this year, though.  She's even asking people for rides instead of completely depending on me (she still mostly depends on me). It's only a month til she can get her driver's license.  I'm so sad you're not here to see that and celebrate it with her.  Her birthday is going to be so very hard this year.  

I watched a terrible movie today.  Licorice Pizza.  You would have hated it.  Then I watched a documentary about Attica, and the 1971 massacre that occurred there.  That one would have made you angry.  Injustice always did.   I miss you and your opinions about my movie choices.



Monday, August 29, 2022


 Dear John,

September is going to be a busy month.  My oldest sister is coming to help me go through the baseball cards.  S is going to homecoming.  I have to schedule various beauty appointments for that.  S will be working, but she also has started managing the volleyball team.  And she wants to go out with her friends.

Last weekend, she went to her 3rd Quinceanera - I would never have thought she'd go to one, let alone 3.  This weekend, she wants to go to the Goodwill outlet to go through "the bins."  I guess it's a TikTok trend, but she's been wanting to go for a while.  I'm just glad she has someone to go with - I am not a huge thrift store fan, and she loves to spend time there.  Speaking of which, this boy who's been trying to flirt with her for months wants to go thrift shopping with her.  He wants to change his style, but needs encouragement.  S says he's a player, so she's not interested, but I don't know whether she is or isn't.  She said she doesn't really want to continue flirting with him, because she might start having a crush and then end up disappointed.  I guess she's inherited her parents' approach to romance, which is...don't bother.

Your prediction of the chaos in the house has come true.  However, in my defense, I'm very sad and that makes me unmotivated.  It took me a month to take the gas container for the grill to be refilled.  In the middle of summer.  I need to finish the laundry and sweep the floors, but I will probably only get one of those things done.  

We went to the dentist last week.  I don't know if you remember, but our hygienist's brother-in-law died in a manner similar to yours.  If I remember correctly, her sister went wild after that.  She was very sad to hear about you, and it was hard for me to go there.  Whenever I see her, or the receptionist you went to high school with, I'm just so overcome.  But then I saw a picture of the hygienist's younger son, who is sporting quite the mullet, and I laughed.  Then we talked about how her older son is on the golf team and that is not exactly the path she thought he would have taken.  Now she has to hang out with country CLUB types instead of country types.  It's definitely different.  We were supposed to have dinner with your mom afterward, but she said she wasn't feeling well and put us off.  She had dental work done in the morning, I guess.  Anyway, S and I went to the expensive wood-fired pizza place and got a potato and bacon pizza and some wings.  I suppose it's good for us to do things that you would never have done.

The dogs are doing OK.  The puppy keeps running into the couch - I think he's going to give himself a TBI, if he hasn't done so already.  They bark a lot - you would hate that.   But they're very funny and the pup is cuddly.  S cuddles the old man too, but he gets a frightened and pained look on his face when she does.  

R, next door, passed away.  Not sure what the fire department EMS is going to do, now that they've lost their best customer.  I am surprised that he lived as long as he did, especially through Covid times.  But it's good that he's no longer suffering.  I hope that means there will be no ambulances in the cul-de-sac for a long time now.  I did not like seeing that one ambulance here.  On the plus side, the VA seems to have paid their fees, since I haven't heard from them again.

Wishing you were here to discuss all this in person...



Monday, August 22, 2022

Good thing I can recognize when I'm being ridiculous

 More song stuff - but in relation to reading signs from the universe...

I keep hearing that Shaggy song, Angel, on the radio.  It's pretty old, so there's no good reason for me to have heard it 3 times this week.  So, there I am, this a sign or is something else going on?

Today, I started watching The After Party on Apple TV+ (free for 3 months with my daughter's new phone).  Now I know why Angel is have a resurgence in popularity.  It takes a bit to go from streaming to TikTok (I assume) to the radio.

The After Party is dumb, predictable, and yet still worth a watch.  I gave up on The Morning Show, really enjoyed CODA, and am going to finish Ted Lasso without my daughter if she doesn't get back to watching it with me.  We've only got another 5 weeks!

Saturday, August 20, 2022


 Dear John,

I've dreamt about you the past couple nights.  I used to have dreams about my dad like this, but never about my mom.  I wonder why that is. 

In the first dream, you came back like you had been on vacation.  You were checking all your things, and when you got done, you were so angry about me spending so much money.  That's a pretty good estimation of how you would react to my spending.  But, first, I'm done spending, and second, my typical response to your annoying actions was to spend more of your money.  The more you would harass me about...anything, the more likely I was to go buy a new sweater or something. So I guess you can imagine how much money I've spent since you have made me angry by leaving me.

I don't really remember much of the second dream, except that a condom was involved.  That was really weird.  But still, you were alive again - like you had been away somewhere.

When I had these kinds of dreams about my dad, he was always very distant and different from how I remembered him.  The ones I have had about you, you're more like you were when we first dated.  Happier.  Lighthearted. 

I've been having the SVT episodes - this time it was only a few weeks between them.  I hope that's an anomaly, or I'm going to have to have the ablation surgery.  I don't want to do that to S - she would worry.  I can tolerate every couple months, but 3 weeks?  No thanks.  I do have to set something up for her care in case something does happen to me.  My sisters will take over for me - she would not want to go with your family.

Speaking of which, we went to K's for lunch the other day - almost everyone was there.  Just a few of the boys didn't make it.  It was OK.  S seemed so light afterwards - it was so strange.  I think she was just relieved that no one brought you up.  I, on the other hand, felt so sad when I saw the photo of all your siblings and your mom together.  It was so incomplete.  

I miss you - and I hope to see you in my dreams again soon.



Friday, August 12, 2022


Dear John,

I'm watching a movie tonight.  I tried to get S to join me, but it's rated R and has nudity.  She wandered off to talk to her friend on the phone.  You would have been bored by the movie.  Now that I can watch whatever I want...I don't want to watch much of anything.

S and I have been watching a show lately.  Somewhere in the middle, maybe the end of the 3rd season, the main character's husband died.  I almost burst into tears.  I remember how you would always say "Are you crying?" during sad movies - and you would laugh at me.  It was rare that I was crying, though.  I might tear up for a moment, but that was about it.  You never cried at movies.  You only cried a couple times, when talking about your family.  I wish you hadn't held so much inside.

I guess yesterday was the 8th anniversary of Robin Williams' death.  He was kind of a touchstone for you.  You met him when he came to your camp in Afghanistan.  I put the photo collage that my brother-in-law made for you with the autograph and your photos with him on our bedroom wall.  You were very upset when he died.  And then you went ahead and duplicated his manner of death.  It's hard for me to hear mention of him because of that.  And yet he was one of my favorite performers.

Anyway, the movie is bad, and I'm watching it anyway.  Nothing is as terrible as that Chloe Grace Moretz WWII movie that we had to turn off.  Maybe the latest Matrix movie will be better.  But I doubt it.



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.



Monday, July 18, 2022


 Dear John,

Your stock trading made our taxes so complicated.  I did the easy parts, and left the investment stuff to you.  I always assumed you were not doing them properly.  We hadn't yet filed when you died, so the first thing I did was file for an extension and then send all the info off to my sister's friend, who is an accountant.

I am just the tiniest bit irritated today to find out that the accountant is going to do the taxes the exact same way you did them.  He said that the people who usually do that kind of filing work for companies with accountants who track that stuff.  I don't know how much I'm paying him for this yet, but I guess it's worth it, since I don't have to be the one to answer correspondence from the IRS this time.  Sigh.

In other news, I went to visit your grave today.  The VA finally got your headstone done properly.  They have the correct rank this time.  I still don't know what Arcom is, but I guess it's not important.  They did not mention anything about your service in Enduring Freedom - they left it as Persian Gulf.  That's probably where many of your problems started, so I guess it's fine.  You're between an Army guy and an Air Force guy.  Most of the graves around you are WWII vets, but the Air Force guy served in Vietnam.  I suppose you would probably give him a break on all the grief you would usually heap on Air Force vets, since Vietnam was difficult on everyone.  I left you some roses - I was hoping for a colorful bouquet from Aldi, but red roses were all they had.  I think those were your favorite flowers to receive anyway, and the red ones are for love, so it was most appropriate.  I'll take the kid back soon - we'll find something else, and maybe get a container to put them in.  

I was going to get gas while on that side of the river, but that's a state with an abortion ban, so I'm trying to limit my spending there.  Plus, the gas isn't any cheaper there than at home, for some reason.  I'm going to make the kid fill up the car, though, as you had intended for her to do with her first paycheck.  It's way past that, but I will get it done.



Saturday, July 16, 2022


 Dear John,

Today has been hard.  I'm having a garage sale to pare down some of the stuff in the house.  I've got a bunch of your clothes and shoes and military stuff for sale.  The military stuff is selling well, but as usual, not much else is.

It's so difficult to give up your stuff.  I don't want it here any more, but it feels like letting you go too soon.  You don't need the stuff, and you would definitely be in favor of getting rid of it.  But it makes me cry.  You hardly wore anything but sweatpants and sweatshirts (or t-shirts and shorts, depending on the weather) the last 10 years, but I look at your clothes and remember times when you wore them to work, or for family celebrations.  You wore those corduroy pants all the time.  I'm keeping your cashmere sweater, obviously.  It will complement my collection, since I didn't have a chocolate brown one.  

I'm glad to get rid of your military stuff.  I don't know if I resent the Army for making you the way you were or for not figuring out how to keep all the veterans with suicidal thoughts alive.  But I don't need the 5 American flags, assorted uniforms, random specialty pieces, or anything else.  I know you were proud of your service, and very harsh when talking about anyone who hadn't served who wanted to determine US policy.  I'm just sort of indifferent to it all now.  I'm sure I will be angry later.

I got into an argument with your daughter, as John Jr. decided to tell me how to do something that I was already in the middle of doing.  🙄🙄🙄  She left me to do all the work for the garage sale.  Little does she know that she's on duty tomorrow.  Maybe she will also inherit your ability to sell stuff along with your annoying habit of assuming I'm incompetent.

I still have all the baseball cards, tractors, and pocket watches.  That's going to take a while longer to disperse.  I'm more than a little irritated that I have to deal with all that stuff.  It's very distressing to have a bunch of things that you want to get rid of, but can't just give away because you know they're worth money.  So, thanks for that.  

I did sell that stupid vacuum you chose.  Sure, it was only $60, and it worked well enough, but the hose came off every time I tried to vacuum.  I'm hoping the new one I ordered will make it easy to vacuum the stairs and keep the dog hair under control.  It also claims that it won't get hair wound up in it.  That will save us a lot of trouble.  It will (supposedly) also vacuum the bare floors with ease, so maybe I can get rid of the other vacuum too.  Why do we have 4 vacuums, anyway?  

As I type "supposedly," I suddenly miss hearing you say "supposably" even though it drove me up a wall every time you said it.  



Friday, July 15, 2022

I did what I said I would

 Dear John,

We got a dog a couple weeks after you left us.  I always said I would do it, but it turns out that the shelter got a dog that we weren't allergic to on the day of your funeral.  His owner died, and the family didn't want him.  I saw him the Sunday when he became available, and brought him home the same day.  Our girl tried to get him to sleep with her but he started following me around immediately.  Plus...he's 9.5 years old.  He used to cry when I left, but he's better now.  He sleeps with me, loves walks and car rides, and wishes he had access to food all the time.  He's also partly the same breed as one of the dogs I had when we were first dating.

Since he loved me so much (or, you know, had shared trauma), our girl wanted her own dog.  So I looked around for a puppy for her.  I found one near where my sister lives - we went to visit them for my niece's graduation and picked up the dog then.  He was an adorable black mop - the same breed that your oldest sister has.  Hers is white, and our little guy seems to be slowly turning white.  He's hilarious and pounces on his toys.

We took them to my other sister's house for our annual visit.  There were a few fights, but mostly everyone got along pretty well.

I wish you would have agreed to get a dog.  Old man would have followed you around instead of me.  Little man would have snuggled up to you and made you laugh.  They would have got you out and about going for walks.  They also have made messes and cost me lots of money.  But it's worth it.

The floors are holding up OK.  Maybe there are some scratches.  And Old man scratched up the bathroom door when I left him locked in.  I painted most of what he tore up, so you can't even see it.  Little man keeps destroying clothing - mostly underwear.  But they're both so worth it.



Wednesday, July 13, 2022


 Dear John,

You would be so proud of your girl today.  She is attending something she calls "manager camp" because her boss decided to promote her to assistant manager already.  I'm glad you got to see her start her first job.  She is so much like you when it comes to working.  She loves getting paid and watching her bank balance grow.  She's so reliable and hard-working that after 3 months, her boss decided to let her, a 15 year old with no previous work experience, be responsible for helping run 2 different venues.  

Of course, you would not have let her work as much as I have.  You would have complained about driving back and forth.  You would have bemoaned the price of gas.  You would have said she needed more down time, though she doesn't really have anything else to do.  You would have been really irritated by the fact that she often gets out so much earlier than she's scheduled.  But you would still have been impressed with her work ethic and enjoyment of being employed.

She has made a few frivolous purchases so far - she got her iPhone.  That one is kind of funny, since she got a job to buy her own phone and pay for her own plan so you couldn't take her phone away from her again.  Too bad she didn't realize her plan would never have worked.  The thing is...she's not on it as much as you assumed she would be.  But she also succumbed to peer pressure and then found that her peers still criticized her for getting a phone that was too fancy.   She also paid ridiculous amounts of money for a pair of shoes.  

I wish you understood how your anxiety fed her anxiety, and that's why she rejected your offer to drive her to work that Saturday.  She didn't know where to go, and when you expected people to know something and they didn't, you would get upset.  She knew that, and didn't want you to be upset or have to manage that when she was already nervous.  It wasn't a rejection of you, just of your reactions to things.

We miss you every day.  She's in therapy to talk about you, but she's also there complaining about her friends and classmates.  There's a boy who seems to be trying to date her, but she's very suspicious of his motives.  You'd be proud of that, too.



Tuesday, July 12, 2022


I met my husband at work.  We shared an office, but that is a story for another day.  In addition to our profession, my husband was also an Army Reservist.  He was deployed multiple times, including to the First Gulf War (Desert Storm) and to Uzbekistan/Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom).  Due to his experiences there, he experienced a variety of physical and mental issues that caused him to be completely disabled 9 years ago.  He was frequently obsessive, entertained many conspiracy theories, was too anxious to leave the house (although he managed a few 3 day vacations over the years), and didn't like to go anywhere new.  This was quite a change from when I met him - 25 years ago, he was adventurous, silly, appreciative of life, and always trying to be positive.  We got married upon his return from Afghanistan.  I sometimes think he wasn't sure I would wait for him, since his deployment was almost a year long. Over time, he became joyless, relentlessly negative, and very much down on himself.  I operated as his therapist, because he didn't trust the medical systems to treat him properly (with good reason).  Our daughter was his only source of happiness and that happiness was fleeting.  As she became a teenager, he had a more difficult time navigating a relationship with her.  He wanted discipline and respect, but he also wanted to act like the sibling she never had.  She found that incomprehensible and unpredictable, and so they would butt heads a lot.  

My husband was an amazing man.  He could figure out how to do almost anything.  It would drive me a little crazy when he would call for estimates for projects and then decide he could do it himself.  He built our house.  Sure, he was the general contractor, but he also helped the framers build, assisted with the siding, worked with a friend to do the roof, installed the hardwood floors on his own, made me help with the insulation and painting (and the tray ceiling in our bedroom that was completed after much swearing), helped his friend do all the wiring, and completed any repairs necessary.  He would also figure out how to fix anything by YouTube video.  And once he qualified for disability, he stayed home and kept the house clean, delivered the kid to school, and generally made my life so easy that I couldn't even believe it.  In the pandemic years, he also started experimenting with cooking.

He was really excellent at buying and selling things for a profit.  He had a great head for numbers and a good eye for things he could buy cheap and sell for more money.  It started in his teens with cars and motorcycles.  But over the past years, he took up collecting, repairing, and selling antique pocket watches.  But he was also obsessed with the stock market, which was a huge source of stress and misery for him, and was one of the main reasons he decided that he could not live any longer.  

I miss him every day.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

I decided against the really inappropriate title that first came to mind

 A few months ago, my husband died by suicide.  He died on the 9th anniversary of my mom's death.  Our 15 year old daughter found him.  While she is seeing a counselor, that's not the right thing for me.  It occurred to me that I could write what I'm thinking about, so I have decided to dust off ye olde blog.  I'll be changing the name - I think it will mostly be like writing letters to my husband, so I am going to rename this space to Dear John.  (Let me tell you, Are You Kidding Me? still fits very well, because this was definitely not supposed to happen.  But there are things I want to tell him, and saying them in my head seems inadequate.)