Extended Family

I watched game two of the World Series alone.

Maggie was invited to watch the game somewhere else so I made dinner – a soup from oyster mushrooms and corn – and sat down to watch the game alone.

That’s not quite true. Annabelle watched it with me but it’s not the same.

At least it was a home game. She’s pretty smart for a dog but I think a double switch would have been beyond her.

Friday night was different. I was invited to a Halloween party and Kim’s cousins’ house. Maggie had to work and I almost didn’t go – I’m so glad I did.

I walked in to find a house filled with little kids in costumes. So cute. It was a house filled with life and love and family. Kim’s family always serves good food and lots of it.

I worry about making other people feel uncomfortable. I feel as if I bring the memories of death with me. Sometimes I make things worse by saying something awkward – not quite inappropriate, but awkward. Fortunately, Kim’s cousins (and their cousins) were so nice and welcoming.

 

Gametime was something else.

They have a huge television hooked up to a speaker system.

The screen was beautiful but the sound was disconcerting. I had no idea that Fox was sweetening the sound. There were sound effects and music under almost every element. It’s, unfortunately, like being at the ballpark. Now there is music or some activity in between every pitch at the ballpark. The game doesn’t breathe the way it used to. We don’t talk about the game with the person next to us like we used to. Television coverage is following suit.

None-the-less, the mute button was hit during every commercial break. We talked easily about the game, about each other, and about nothing in particular.

The game came back on and the mute button was hit again.

After four innings I looked at my watch.

I should head home before Maggie gets back from work.

Wait, you can’t go without this.

Without what? We’d had barbecue, cheesey potatoes, cole slaw, chips, many kinds of dip,…

I hadn’t had the lava cake.

They packed me a big plate to go so I could split it with Maggie.

I got home and turned on the game. I took half of the lava cake. Maggie came home a half hour later and finished the lava cake and watched the rest of the game with me.

The Indians won game three.

Kimmy, it’s looking like the Indians might win the World Series.

Published in: on October 29, 2016 at 12:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chili

Kim and I used to host a chili and fudge party in our old house.

 

Way before we ever met I worked in urban contemporary radio under the name of Fudge.

For the record, I didn’t come up with that name, but I embraced it and worked at WDMT for many years and then briefly at WZAK under that name.

I always volunteered to work on Christmas Eve and Christmas so that co-workers who celebrated those holidays could spend it with their families.

My tradition was to make a whole bunch of different flavors of fudge, box it up, and deliver it to friends and family so that it was on their doorstep when they got up on Christmas day.

I kept the tradition when I went to work at WMJI and later the Wave, even though I was working under my own name by then.

When Kim and I got married, that tradition had to end.

We started going to our dentist’s house for a Christmas Eve seven fish dinner and we spent Christmas Day at her parents’ house for Christmas dinner.

We decided to have friends and family over for a party but figured you can’t just serve fudge. That’s when we decided to host our chili and fudge party.

The week ahead I’d make batches of fudge and gallons of chili. On the night of the party we’d keep a crockpot filled with chili and surround it with bowls filled with various fixings.

We’d have trays of fudge set out. Most people would be too full from the chili so they’d take the fudge in the to-go boxes we’d set out.

Whenever people come over for a meal, I encourage them to bring containers to take left-overs home with them.

This year Maggie and I decided to host a chili party for game one of the World Series.

The five people that joined us had come to the chili and fudge parties years before. I’ve known two of them twenty-some years, two of them thirty-some years and one of them more than fifty years. I averaged the time I’d known them (I know, of course I did) and came up with 36.6 years.

We put the chili down on spaghetti and topped it with onion, peppers, cheese, sour cream, and oyster crackers.

The only thing missing was Kim.

I was surrounded by people who had known me longer than I knew Kim. Only two (and one of them was Maggie) had known me for less than the twenty-four years I knew Kim.

We ate chili and watched the game.

A room full of Indians fans who remembered the trips to the World Series in the 90’s. A room full of fans who remembered plays and players from decades before that.

One of them was at my bachelor party twenty-three years ago. The bachelor party was an Indians game at the old stadium. It was a day game. A beautiful day. Twenty of us walked up on the day of the game and got seats behind home.

The Indians won that game and these Indians won  game one of the World Series.

So many memories between that day and this.

Tonight Perez had a great day behind the plate and at bat. I love when someone unexpected steps up to win the game.

All in all this was a fun chili party.

I packed up the leftover chili in to-go containers and sent it home with our friends.

Great food. Great company. Great game.

The only thing missing was Kim.

Well Kim and five flavors of fudge.

 

 

Published in: on October 26, 2016 at 9:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Rules

Annabelle likes to play fetch.

Not fetches – fetch.

She rubs up against my arm with a ball in her mouth or her stuffed fox until I stand up and follow her.

She runs up the stairs and waits for me to follow.

There are rules to this game. She has carefully taught me the way this game is to be played and I follow along.

She teases me a bit before allowing me to take it from her mouth. I turn and toss it down the stairs and she bolts after it and tracks it down.

Then she lays down and plays with it. No amount of coaxing can get her to play a second time. Maybe in an hour.

I love this game. I think she does it for my benefit more than hers. It forces me to get up and walk up a flight of stairs.

We play fetch then she goes back to sleep and I go back to work.

Those are the rules.

Kim used to think the game is crazy but I think Annabelle is keeping me young, making sure I move now and then.

Now I have the benefit of thinking about Kim every time Annabelle comes over to nudge me into action. It makes the game even better.

The fox was originally a squeak toy but Annabelle finally chewed it open and removed the squeak toy.

Kim sewed up the fox but soon Annabelle had opened her up again and pulled out the stuffing.

Kim stuffed in an old (clean) pair of underwear and sewed the fox up again.

Annabelle chewed the fox open and pulled out the underwear.

This was the game that they played.

Kim must have re-stuffed and sewed the fox back up every few weeks.

Last week I found a pair of Kim’s underwear in the middle of the living room.

I looked around and there was Annabelle lying next to the fox which was much skinnier than usual and had a hole chewed open in its neck.

I stuffed the underwear back inside but didn’t sew the fox back up.

Annabelle trots around the house with the fox in her mouth but she hasn’t ripped the stuffing out since.

There are rules to this game. If I won’t play it right, she’s not playing.

Published in: on October 25, 2016 at 8:26 am  Leave a Comment  

Last Cup

Two months ago the covers tugged a bit and I looked over at Kim as she sat on the edge of the bed.

“Good Morning Kimmy.”

“Morning honey,” she said and she lifted her hands above her head in a big stretch that she did every morning before standing up.

She got out of bed and turned to straighten the covers behind her like she always did.

She had no idea it would be the last time she would ever do it. Even if she knew she would never come back to that bed she still would have taken the time to straighten things up before she left.

She headed to the bathroom.

The dog flopped back down. It wasn’t time yet.

The toilet flushed. Kim wandered back into the room.

“Do you want coffee?” she asked.

“Yes please,” I answered, “I can make it.”

“That’s ok, honey,” she said.

She asked me every morning and every morning I said yes. I didn’t offer to make it every morning. She always said “no”. She made better coffee than I. I have no idea how or why.

Every once in a while I would beat her out of bed to let the dog out. Then I would tell her I’d make the coffee. If she was really tired she’d let me and lay back in bed. Otherwise she’d say, “that’s ok, honey. I’ll be down in a minute. I’ll make it.”

If we’d known two months ago today that that morning’s coffee would be our last, would we have done anything differently?

I don’t think so.

I handed her the beans and she scooped out two scoops in her blue scoop that she kept in the utensil drawer just for this purpose. She’d always used this scoop to measure out the beans for coffee. Somehow when I used the same scoop the coffee wasn’t as good as hers. I have no idea why.

She ground the beans in the grinder I’d bought after Elena died. The water in the coffee pot on the stove began to boil. She attached the top half and poured in the ground beans and set the timer to four minutes.

I went to the living room and started to check my email.

She wandered over and I told her about someone we’d heard from who wanted us to visit.

“That sounds nice,” she said, “we should go.”

And we would have.

About three and a half minutes after starting the coffee she headed to the bathroom.

I looked up a half minute later when the timer rang. I stood up and walked to the kitchen and turned off the coffee and turned off the timer. The dog was jumping against the back door. I let her in and wiped her paws.

The dog headed to the living room to sit in her chair.

Kim was still in the bathroom.

How does she always do that, I wondered. She always wanders off just as the timer is about to ring. On the other hand, it meant that really we often made the coffee together. We had our roles. I handed her the beans and put them away and she ground them. She started the pot boiling and I took it off.

The coffee sucked back from the top of the pot back down to the bottom.

Kim got back from the bathroom and looked over.

She got her container of old grounds from under the sink. It was full.

“Be right back,” she said.

She took the container outside and dumped the grounds in the garden around her flowers.

She came back in and dumped today’s grounds into the container and placed the container back under the sink.

She looked at the mugs carefully and selected two.

She poured the coffee.

“Which one is yours?” I asked.

The mugs looked identical to me but I knew better.

“That one,” she pointed.

I sipped from my cup. “It’s good,” I said.

“Thanks,” she said.

I opened the refrigerator and handed her the half and half. She thanked me, poured some in her coffee, and handed the half and half back.

I headed back to the living room. She went to the dining room and went through her mail.

We sat in silence for a bit. Then she wandered into the living room.

We discussed the day. She was going to all three hospitals then to a wake. We talked about going out for dinner as a late celebration of our anniversary.

Just the sort of conversation you have every day – even if it’s the last conversation you’re ever going to have.

She looked at my near empty cup of coffee and asked, “do you want another cup?”

“No thanks,” I said.

I finished the last cup of coffee that Kim would ever make for me.

She put her hand out for the cup and took it to the kitchen.

 

Published in: on October 19, 2016 at 7:36 am  Comments (1)  

Writing Prompt

I write this blog for me.

It is my way of trying to work through everything and try to heal.

I know that other people read it – and so there are some topics I don’t write about – but mostly I write this for me.

When I write books and articles for others it’s completely different. In those cases I spend a lot of time thinking about what I’m going to write and thinking about who I’m writing for and why. I may sketch out an outline – but I always have an idea of what my story arc is and what points I want to hit.

Here, it’s more like starting with a writing prompt and seeing where it goes.

The other day I woke up thinking about Kim and I wanted to reach for her.

In the morning we’d be next to each other in bed, both of us awake but neither one ready to move and I’d reach over and put my hand on her forearm.

She’d reach over with her other hand and give my hand a squeeze.

We’d just hang like that for a bit, holding hands, smiling quietly.

Then the dog would notice we were awake and she’d stand up and shake herself and walk over to the door. If we still didn’t move, Anabelle would jump up on the bed and nudge Kim into action.

So after having that memory, I opened my laptop to write about touching Kim on the arm.

Instead I ended up writing about touching her arm in exactly the same way while she lay in her hospital bed.

I hadn’t consciously made the connection. I didn’t understand where that story came from and why I told it.

I started with the simple writing prompt of my hand on Kim’s arm and ended up in her hospital room instead of our bedroom.

Honestly, I hadn’t intended to tell this story just now.

I sat down to write about writing prompts because I received a writing prompt from the Garfield Heights Municipal Court to write a victim statement.

I’m also invited to deliver it in court but I don’t think I can.

The date is exactly two months since the last full day of Kim’s life.

I am invited to write or appear to address four issues. The first is “The effects of the crime upon you”.

I talked to Maggie about this last night. I said, “I don’t know where to start, mom was everything to me.”

Maggie said, “start there.”

So I’ll start there. I don’t know where to end.

It feels endless.

So I have this writing prompt: “The effects of the crime upon you”.

Go.

Published in: on October 16, 2016 at 9:21 am  Comments (2)  

Comfort

I’ve had trouble with the high holidays since Elena died and it hasn’t gotten any easier with Kim’s death.

How, I’ve asked before, can a six year old’s name be left out of the book of life?

And now I wonder the same thing about my Kimmy.

The world is not a better place without her. It was so much better with her.

Religious teachings are rooted in practices and traditions that help us live our daily lives as individuals and member of tribes.

Many of them are designed around big moments in life.

A great many of them are centered around death and loss.

Our views of heaven or whatever comes next are to comfort us when a loved one dies.

I’m not comforted.

Perhaps I’m just too selfish.

I don’t know what happens when we die.

Kim knew that she wanted her organs, her skin, her eyes to benefit others. She was as unselfish as can be.

She didn’t know what happens when we die but she knew she wanted others to benefit.

When Kim died, people tried to comfort me by saying “she must be needed in heaven.”

Kim would roll her eyes and sigh.

I know this because at funerals after Elena died she would do just that if the priest would say that the dead person is “in a better place.”

Kim thought there was a time to let go. If a person is in a great deal of pain or is old and ready to die, Kim thought it was selfish of us to keep them here for us.

Let them go.

That Friday morning, Kim was funny and active and too young to die.

The semi-driver changed that.

By the time we made the decision on Sunday there really was no decision to make. Kim was gone.

She had coached us that there was a time to let go.

It was time.

To leave her name out of the book a year ago? Then it wasn’t near time.

Many have told me that Kim is reunited with Elena. The two of them are together.

That’s a lovely image.

It wasn’t time for either of them.

It wasn’t time for a six year old child ten years ago.

It wasn’t time for her vibrant fifty-five year old mother two months ago.

It’s comforting to think of them reunited in heaven. It’s a reunion of mother and child. It’s Kim sitting down to Sunday dinner with her grandparents.

I assume that if you can find your loved ones in heaven, you can eat pasta with them.

It’s a lovely image.

Perhaps I’m just too selfish.

As lovely as the image of them together in heaven may be, I’d much rather another image.

I picture Kim and me watching Elena graduate from high school this coming June with her classmates.

Now that’s a lovely image.

Published in: on October 12, 2016 at 8:51 am  Leave a Comment  

Little Things

A friend checked in yesterday to see how I’m doing and what I’m doing.

“Little things”, I texted her back. “Little things that require little concentration.”

I roasted a pound of coffee and half a pound of decaf.

I made a 24 hour cold brew from the decaf.

Last week I mixed up a bunch of shrubs.

Earlier this year at a conference in Yosemite, one of the speakers talked about new things she was trying. She wanted to drink fancy cocktails but didn’t want to drink alcohol. So she’d been buying bitters and shrubs and using them to flavor soda water. Bitters are often intense flavors extracted in alcohol. You only add a few drops to a cup of club soda so you don’t need much. A shrub uses vinegar instead.

I bought a book and mixed up five different flavors of shrubs: cucumber, ginger, concord grape, cranberry apple, and apple pie.

The book explained that after about two weeks the flavor changes dramatically and the vinegar and sugar mix in such a way that neither is so forward. I’ve been drinking the cucumber one while I wait – I figure the vinegar flavor matters less in the savory one than the sweet one.

Every sip reminds me of my time with Kim in Yosemite. It was one of her favorite places on earth.

Yesterday, I also started a new batch of sourdough. I mixed up a rye starter and a wheat starter. It will be about a week before I can bake with either one.

If you’re not baking, you need to discard about two thirds of the starter or you’ll have gallons before the week is out.

Kim hated throwing out the unused starter. She thought it was stupid and wasteful.

I tried to explain why it would be more wasteful to keep it – you’d need three times the flour to feed it this afternoon, nine time tomorrow morning, twenty-seven tomorrow afternoon…

Treat it like feeding a pet. Feed it twice a day and discard two thirds of what is in the bowl.

I hear her exasperated sigh when I throw out the cup of starter each feeding.

It was a beautiful fall day yesterday so I made a pot of chili and had some people over for the Indians game and watched them sweep the Red Sox.

Kim would have liked that.

Twenty-some years ago we went to playoff games and even a World Series game together.

One night we fell asleep during a long Indians – Red Sox playoff game. It was 1995 and the Indians would go on to sweep the Red Sox.

At that time we had a television set in our bedroom. We didn’t have a remote – we just had a long extension cord with an on-off switch that we used to turn the tv off before going to bed.

This game started late and went long. Game one was a home game just like this year.

Kim and I fell asleep around midnight.

For some reason we both woke up about 130 and the game was still going on.

We were both awake and watching after 2 am when backup catcher Tony Pena hit the game winning home run. Pena was not a home run hitter. He ran the bases with such joy. It was the Indians first post season win in my lifetime. More than that, I just looked it up, it was the Indians first post season win since 1948.

Kim and I watched the replay over and over. Pena hit a home run every time. We weren’t just glad for the team, we were so happy for him.

Kim said, as she often said of people she only knew from tv, “he’s such a nice man.”

And last night the Indians swept the Red Sox again.

It’s funny every memory ends up back at a Kim story.

I do little things that require little concentration and my mind wanders back to my favorite little thing.

Kim.

 

Published in: on October 11, 2016 at 8:39 am  Leave a Comment  

Care

During the three days that Kim was in the hospital on life support, I’d walk by her bed and squeeze her foot and say, “Hi Kimmy, it’s Daniel.”

As people would walk into the room, I’d walk up to her side. I’d rub my fingers down her right arm and say, “Hi Kimmy, your brother Tommy is here.”

Through it all, her mom sat on her left side in a chair as people came and went.

Her left side was the tougher side to sit on. That was the side that showed the biggest effects of the accident. The left side of her head had been shaved. Much of the left side of her brain had been removed on impact and more of it had been removed in surgery.

The first night it was covered in a towel as the nursing staff tried to make it easier on us to be there with her. By the next day there was little visible blood.

While people visited I would move to the foot of the bed and touch her foot trying to stimulate her somehow. Trying to bring her back.

The visitors were wonderful.

They talked of fun times they’d had together.

They looked at Kim and talked to her as if they couldn’t see the respirator.

They talked to her like we were out somewhere together for fun.

Her aunt loaded a picture of Kim and Maggie from the week before onto her iPad and put it near the foot of Kim’s bed. She wanted the staff to see Kim as the vibrant, smiling, fun-loving person she’d been before the semi hit her – and not as an anonymous patient on a respirator.

It worked.

The staff was wonderful.

They felt who Kim was through all of us.

They comforted us when she was being kept alive and wept when she was no longer with us.

The trauma doctor and the nurses in the ICU at Metro were just wonderful.

Kim had been in the health care profession.I’d never really thought about that word “care” in that context.

I’d guessed these people care for their patients health as in they take care of them.

But they also care for their patients and their families and friends as people.

I don’t know how they do it. Day after day. Night after night.

I am so thankful that they do.

I am thankful for the care and for caring.

Published in: on October 5, 2016 at 9:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Be Nicer

A couple of years ago I got an email from a former boss saying that all of their payments would be converted to electronic payments instead of checks and I would have to sign up for one of two payment options.

I wrote back to explain why I was uncomfortable with the options.

He wrote back to told me that it was not negotiable. If I wanted to be paid I would have to choose one. He said that the safer of the two options would take me less than an hour to set up at my bank.

I have since done that but at the time I wasn’t comfortable and I told him I would prefer to still be paid by check.

He told me it wasn’t an option.

I wrote back that I wasn’t litigious and I wouldn’t sue him, but that he owed me money and he would either pay me or he wouldn’t.

He asked me what it would take to pay me so that he never had to deal with me again.

I estimated what my royalties would come to over time.

He said I was off and offered to pay me half the amount in a check.

 

He wrote me an angry note about how I was a bully and how I had done horrible things to him, his partner, and one of his employees. He told me never to write to him again. He wouldn’t read it.

I was shaken.

He’d bullied me. He’d treated me badly for years after treating me so well. I’m sure he was angry and upset with me for leaving his company – but really it was the best thing for all of us. We just couldn’t agree on anything and there was no sense in continuing.

But that didn’t mean I hadn’t behaved badly as well.

 

I had.

I think of that this time of year because each year on the New Year I think about how I can become a better person in the new year and it almost always involves treating others better.

Be nicer.

Be more attentive.

Be patient.

Listen better.

Be nicer.

I know. I said that twice. It needs to be said at least twice.

I’ve learned I can’t fix what I’ve done. It’s done. I can apologize but the other person may or may not accept the apology and it doesn’t undo what I did.

Kim and I hardly ever fought these past few years but it always came down to one or the other of us saying to the other one “you’re being mean.”

We’d gotten so sensitive to this that it didn’t take much meanness to qualify.

Usually the response was, “no, you’re being mean.”

Usually the truth was, we both were. We weren’t being very mean but we needed to stop.

Usually we would.

You know how to make life better?

Be nicer.

Published in: on October 3, 2016 at 8:44 am  Comments (1)  

Statistics

I taught statistics the summer that Kim and I got married.

People often confuse math with arithmetic. They think of what I do as just numbers. How boring. Math is not boring. It is pretty and creative. It helps you understand the world around you and invent new ones with different rules.

We chose to get married in August because we both were working and we were both in school. We figured we’d get married between the summer term and the fall semester.

That summer was pretty busy. Kim worked during the day and was putting in student hours in speech therapy in the afternoon and some evenings. That meant that I had to go over to her parents’ house every day to train our puppy.

I loved teaching statistics in the summer term.

Statistics is so much more than numbers. It can really come alive.

A lot of classes are so intense in the shortened time of the summer term but stats seems to come together when students see how everything fits together.

That fall, Kim took Statistics at Case as part of her speech program. I taught a semester at Oberlin.

One night Kim was frowning over her homework.

“What?” I asked.

“I can’t show you,” she said.

“Why?”

“My teacher explicitly asked me not to show what we’re learning to you.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, she said ‘please don’t show this to your husband.”

“Is she afraid I’ll help you?”

“No, she’s embarrassed that the statistics we’re learning isn’t rigorous enough.”

Anyway, Maggie and I were driving together on the highway this weekend. It was our first time driving past the site where Kim was hit by the semi.

A car wandered into our lane.

It was on my right. I was clearly where the driver could see me. The car drifted closer and closer until it was over the line into our lane.

I honked the horn.

The driver glared at me and corrected back into his lane. Before long he started to drift the other way.

On the way home there was one of those signs that tells you how much time it will take to get to various landmarks. It also had some information about accidents and slowdowns ahead.

You’ve seen those signs.

“Click-it or ticket.”

“Don’t drive drunk.”

“The number of deaths this year on Ohio roads is…”

Oh. Statistics.

Numbers mean something different when you have a story for one of those deaths.

They don’t always help you understand the world around you though.

I’ve seen that sign for years. I don’t think I’ll look at it the same again.

Published in: on October 2, 2016 at 9:07 pm  Leave a Comment