Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas

Christmas has come and gone and I realize that I made it through the season very well. Kenny and I were only together for a few Christmases, and had not really developed traditions of our own. He simply joined me in mine. So this year I did much of what I have always done, spent it with the kids and grandkids. Christmas Eve I went to my son's church for their service and then we all ate at the church's grill. After that, back to my son's house along with my daughter and her family where we all had peppermint sundaes and watched the kids open their Christmas jammies.

I spent the night at their house and the next morning we were up at 6. As I watched their three daughters come downstairs I was struck with how incredibly blessed these girls are. The house was all aglow with candles and twinkly lights and a fire in the fireplace. An enormous tree highlighted the room. Christmas music softly playing. Hot chocolate waiting in their own special cups. And presents! Each girl was met by their mom and dad with a big hug and a "Merry Christmas". Once we all were settled with coffee and hot chocolate, Nate read a portion of the Christmas story out of Luke. We opened the morning with a prayer of thanks and acknowledgement for the gift of a Saviour. And then the grand opening of presents and sheer delight filled the room.

We then loaded ourselves up and took the twenty minute drive to my daughter's house for breakfast. Beautiful home baked blueberry muffins, fruit salad, frittata and bacon....simple she said. With a few more presents opened and a time of lingering, I went home and actually took a little nap. I didn't mind this time alone on Christmas. I wanted it. I had all afternoon before everyone was coming to my house for dinner. I had most of my preparations finished the day before, so my afternoon was very stress free. I took apples to Red and shared with every horse there. It felt nice to be alone at the barn. Magical. And then they were all at my house and the activity began. From there, back to my son's for dessert and more presents from me to all of them. It was a fun, very fun day. And I was happy, not sad. I think Kenny would have been pleased.

I had also made it through another big day. Ken's birthday was on December 19th and he would have been 51. I knew the day was coming of course, and although I had not planned it this way, I ended up having a little party of my own. My son and son-in-law were going to the 49'rs game that night, so I had the girls and grandkids over for cookie decorating. We started out with a bowl of soup to counteract the huge amount of sugar we would be consuming later. We made our mess, ate our cookies, and had our fun. Kenny would have been pleased with that as well.

And so now....it is over....but the Christmas spirit still lingers and that holiday feeling is still in the air. Strange as it may seem, I am finding myself more and more grateful for everything. Overwhelmingly, surprisingly, grateful.....for everything. I have been blessed. Truly.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Back

I haven't written for a long time because....well....not sure. Except that I feel I am doing so well and perhaps the need to write has not been so great.

Two days before Thanksgiving I was invited to a pre-Thanksgiving party here in Carmel Valley. The couple that threw the party are wonderful people and I was happy they reached out and gave me an invite. I went with Bridget as she would meet James there and drive home with him later. It always helps to walk through the door with someone else. Their home was big, but cozy and because they are foodies the fare set out was amazing. Wine was passed to me within minutes and I began the venture into the small crowd of people saying hello to those I knew and introducing myself to those I did not. I was having fun.

I ended up talking a bit with a man named Bill. His wife and Kenny both had the same prognosis about a year ago regarding how long they were expected to live. I had met him before, but this was the first time I had seen him in close to a year. His wife continues on with good days and bad.... Kenny of course met the deadline. Anyway, it was a nice, heartfelt talk we had about some of the things one goes through when living with a spouse you know is dying. And then I sat down with Linda, his wife, who was weak but all dolled up in her black skirt and boots. I took her hand and another very heartfelt conversation took place. I felt a genuine connection with her and I believe she did with me. I am not afraid to talk about things that for some would find uncomfortable and I think she appreciated that.

The night continued with more conversations that went beyond the light chit chat that so often accompanies a party like that. I got to know people and people got to know me. And then the night was over and after being walked to my car I sat down behind the wheel and I knew. Something felt different. Yet not really different, but actually familiar. My spark was back. I felt that the old me, yet maybe a better me, was back. I had felt it coming, but that night was different for me and it has remained so. That doesn't mean I don't shed a tear, or think of Kenny and wish he was here, but I know deep down that my life is good. Not going to be good, but good. Now. And that I am happy, and light, and able to think of others and feel their pain....or joy....or.... yes....I feel like I am back, alive and vibrant and so very glad I am!



Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Life Touched

I went out the other night to meet my friend Bridget for a glass of wine before she had dinner with her husband. We met up the road at Carmel Valley Ranch, a golf course and resort type setting where they were having their weekly members night. It is a beautiful place and most often there are familiar faces there. I was glad it would be an early night, just a brief time out as I had been busy and home sounded nice.

As I was putting my jacket on and saying my good-bye after our visit, an older couple walked in that I have known for awhile. I had met them when I worked in a restaurant in Carmel and have kept loosely in touch ever since. They took me out to dinner after Kenny passed away which was very sweet and thoughtful of them and very much appreciated. They are always at Carmel's hot spot every Friday night and tell me to come out anytime, join them for dinner or a drink.... they will be there. They seem to love everyone.....they are those kind of people.

So my jacket came back off and I joined them for what I thought would be a short visit. Their friend Jim came in, a hairdresser in Carmel which I had met before, and then Jim's son Desi and his girlfriend Jessica. And so we were six, standing, sitting, mingling amongst ourselves and talking about all kinds of things. When I was introducing myself to Jessica, the first thing she said was that I looked so familiar to her. "No....sorry...but you don't look familiar to me" I said back but wished I could have said she looked familiar too. So after a lot of chit chat and a hearty invitation to join them all in Mount Shasta for Thanksgiving, I found myself sitting next to Jessica, sharing a caprese salad and telling her about Kenny. And then it clicked for her. She now knew why my face looked so very familiar to her. She told me that she had been in a very bad relationship with a guy for over three years. He battled with depression and she was alway trying to "help". She walked on eggshells and always tried to be upbeat and happy in order to draw him from his funk. One day, she came across the magazine, "65 Degrees", which is a local magazine that had written an article about Kenny and all he was going through. My picture was in it too, so that is where she had seen me before. When she read the article about Kenny, about us, and the kind of love we shared, something in her clicked. She knew that what we had was what she wanted and she needed to move on from this mismatched relationship she had found herself in. "You don't know how many times I read that article" she told me. "I knew I wanted that kind of love too". And so it was the article, the story of Kenny, and the story of our love, that gave her the courage to move on.

We basically closed the place down and I left that evening feeling alive and full. Kenny and I, and the love we had for each other, had touched a life. We had made a difference in someone else....someone young and beautiful and someone who still had her whole life ahead of her. And hopefully sweet Jessica will choose well.... she will find that love she yearns for.....and she will enjoy it every day that it is given to her. I yearned for it.....I found it....and it is still mine.....and however I can, I still enjoy.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Remember

On Saturday Hospice held what they called a "Remembrance Ceremony" for all those who had lost a loved one recently. When I got the invite, I knew it was something I wanted to go to. "Bring a picture of your loved one" the invitation said. So I found one...a favorite...of Kenny and myself. Smiling.... happy....the way we always were.

The ceremony was held at our Hospice center which is tasteful and new and really quite beautiful. I had never been there before as all of Kenny's hospice care was at our home. As I was walking down the corridor to the main meeting room I could feel the lump growing in my throat and I knew that this was going to be a very tearful experience for me. I placed my framed photo amongst the others on the table in the front. I sat quietly among the 25 or so other grieving guests, eyes mildly cast down or looking straight ahead, knowing other hearts were breaking just like mine. Even before things got started I was fighting the tears and grabbing for kleenex. It was what all of this represented...the loss....the overwhelming loss and the need to remember.

It was a simple ceremony. Poems were read. Words of encouragement about cocoons becoming butterflies....scripture readings.....and a candle lighting. On the table next to the photos of loved ones were a couple of trays filled with birdseed and next to them lay a pile of thin tapered candles. One by one people got up to light a candle and place it upright in the tray, speaking the name of their loved one and who they were. I knew I had to....wanted to do it... but I wondered how I could even get the words out. His name.....who he was to me. "Ken Jones....my husband....the love of my life". I did it...I said it....and it didn't matter that there were tears and such. It was ok to cry among these people because they too felt my pain as I did theirs.

I realize that I have my very private times of grieving and I mostly keep that to myself. I am by nature a people pleaser. I want people to feel "comfortable" around me. I want them to be happy. So I smile and laugh, I click my wine glass and say "cheers". I talk about all kinds of things and "yes...I am doing really well...." But I know better. I know that there are days when I am engulfed with the sadness of it all. When I am in the shower sobbing out loud knowing that no one hears. When time after time, through my tears I shout out "I miss you Kenny!" in a house that is so very empty. When I ask God "why......" WHY?

So being at the Remembrance Ceremony was good for me. It was good to be amongst others where grief was ok to display. Where we could cry.... be sad..... and talk about our loved ones and say how much we miss them. The hospice staff are all too familiar with grieving and they are not afraid to draw it out from you. It was refreshing in a strange sort of way. So I left that time, numb,...sad....but somehow....cleansed, or something close to it. I was glad I took the time to go. To spill the tears, to feel the pain, to light the candle.... but so much more than that ....to remember.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Valentine Card

I was cleaning out a cabinet yesterday and found a card that I knew was from Kenny. I know I have lots of cards from him around as he was always so good to give them to me. He even gave me cards at Easter...and Christmas. Sweet.

I hesitated. Did I want to open this card....read it? Kenny always picked mushy cards and wrote his own sentiment which were equally as mushy. I took the card, opened, and read. It was my first Valentine card from him. I met him on January 29th, so we are talking weeks...actually just days, of knowing each other. The card started out, "So Glad I Found You"....and off it went from there. And then Kenny wrote...."Dear Sweet Beautiful Karin, Thank you so much for coming into my life. I am so blessed to have found you, and I already can't imagine my life without you in it......"

Reading that card got me thinking of Kenny's love for me. This man really loved me. I think he knew how much I needed to be loved. He knew I had missed something along life's way and it was like he was trying to make up for it. And then....I think....when he knew he was going to die, he all the more wanted to pour his love into me. He wanted to fill me up.....to give me enough to outweigh the lack....to have something to live on after he was gone.

Life is certainly different than I had planned. When I met Kenny it was almost instantaneous that I felt I had found my home. I was with the one I wanted forever.....and I knew life would be good. And now that the plan has changed, I can say that life is still good. My life is still good. And I still feel loved. Kenny did that for me, and he did it well.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Unexpected

On Saturday I had my son over at the house and took advantage of his technical expertise. What I needed was a new email address that would coincide with my existing one. I tried for a few minutes beforehand but gave up easily as soon as I felt the frustration build. "I'll have Nate do it"....and so I did. While he was getting me set up, I suggested an email address that was very close to my existing one....just my middle initial rather than my whole middle name spelled out was the only difference. Easy. But when he checked, he said there was already an account with that address. Darn! As he was fiddling around, I was looking at my little index card with all my passwords of basically everything and noticed that I did have another email address.....and it was the one I had asked Nate to do. I had totally forgotten that Kenny had set me up....months ago. We typed it in, and yes....there is was. And along with it was the initial "test" email from Kenny. Just simple...just a few words....but they floored me....and brought me to tears....."hello....love you".

And then yesterday I was flicking through the TV stations and landed on the very last 20 minutes or so of Forrest Gump. I haven't watched it for quite some time and forgot how it ended. It was all quite sweet....his son....who was smart....who mimics his father.... and then Jenny....sick....they get married....Forrest takes care of her....she dies....and there he is standing at her grave, talking to her and says through his tears, "I miss you Jenny". I lost it. Again. Tears.

These moments come. Quite often they come and they are almost always unexpected. Of course I expect them. I expect to cry still....to miss him still....to want him back. But I never know just how they will come....I just know that they do....they always do...

"I miss you Kenny....and love you too".

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Happy Day


I was looking over some of my old photos and found this one. Our wedding day. It was a very simple wedding. Besides Kenny and I, the only people that came to the event were family members that lived close by. We didn't want to decide which friends to invite and where to draw the line, so we just said "family'. We wanted to keep it small.... and simple. We simply wanted to be married. It was held at a local restaurant that has a lovely setting. We said our vows in the gazebo with family gathered around and then went inside for our dinner reception. Perfect. The day was perfect. We were perfect. He was.... Yes, it was a great day and one that will stand out as one of my happiest days ever.

When I look at old photos of us (which, sadly, are not very old) I have warm feelings come over me. Tears do come, for sure, but I am always filled with a gratefulness for what I had. These are the times and days I want to remember. I do remember. I will always remember.




Saturday, September 17, 2011

Future Plans

While Kenny was still here we talked a lot about my future. We talked about finances..... should I try and buy a house? Should I move out of this one? We talked about who could help me, and we set up good friends that could do just that. We had our friend Skip help me with finances since that is his profession. We had Mark help with anything that had to do with legal issues since he is an attorney. We had someone else deal with health insurance issues that would certainly be coming up, and on and on. He took care of me, worried about me, and always, always wanted the best for me.

I always found these conversations and plans to be somewhat uncomfortable, yet even the most difficult of subjects were somehow easy enough with Kenny. He was just like that. He was preparing me for what lie ahead. But there was one topic that came up that was more uncomfortable than most. He had his eyes out for a future man in my life. "What about B----?" he asked me one night maybe 3 months before he passed away. B---- was a relatively new friend.... a friend of a friend that came into our life last September. He owns a ranch and rides horses and that was the appeal. He was also going through a divorce. "No...he wouldn't be a good fit for me" and I spewed out reasons why. But I felt odd talking like that. About another man when the man I loved was right before me, asking the question. How could I say something like..."yeah, I think he is pretty cute and would be a good one to try...." No. I didn't want to say that, much less even think that. Then the night before Kenny died we were driving to a small gathering of friends down the street, (B---- being one of them) and he said, "I think you should reconsider B-----". I honestly think he may have said that, not because he had some insight into what my future held, but he had observed my prior conversations with B-----, most of which revolved around horses. Yes, I loved having B----- at these parties. I always had questions and would show him current horses I was looking at and get his opinion. I think Kenny wanted me to feel free to pursue anyone I might find interesting and that is why the comment was made.

I will say, that about two months after Kenny was gone, I was hanging out a bit with B----. I would ride on his ranch with him, go see the movie "Buck" together, and hang out with another mutual friend or not. It was about a three week stretch where we hung out maybe 2 or 3 times a week and I found myself developing a little crush. I am sure that B----- had no suspicion that he made my heart flutter a little. We were only friends and that was all. And then the crush wained and I realized it was nothing more than a distraction. Something to ease the pain and not something I even wanted. No....he was/is still the same to me.....nice friend, but not a good fit. I am sure Kenny knew that, but he wanted me to feel free to explore.

And then there was M----. A widower I met about a month after Kenny died. Mutual friends were dining with him at a local restaurant and I happened to be there too. Then I saw him again about a month later at the Carmel Valley Hoopla. We chatted a little and I thought he was nice. Then again, Friday night, two weeks ago. He was gathered with friends and I had been invited to join the same group. We chatted a lot that night about what things we go through when losing a spouse. It was a nice conversation and when we said good-bye he gave me a big bear hug. I liked it. And in the moment, I thought...."hey....I kinda like this guy!". The following Friday night came and I just had no desire to join the group again...or last night either. That little flutter came and went and I am back to realizing that these are fleeting distractions from what I really feel inside. I realize that I cannot and should not brush over the pain and sadness I feel. I don't want to mask it and make believe it is not there. It is a time of weeping and I want to be ok with that. The psalmist wrote "weeping may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning". Yes, it is my "night"....my time for sadness over this great loss. But there is a joy too... even now....and it will come back in full measure. This I am sure about....the Bible tells me so.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Horse Called Red


Yesterday was a good day and today will be the same. In fact, I believe, all my days ahead will be a bit brighter now. I finally did it. I bought a horse and his name is Red Hot Command, but everyone calls him Red. He is a solid liver chestnut color and in the sun he has red highlights. He is not technically mine yet because I have him on a thirty day trial, but he was delivered yesterday from where his home was in Scotts Valley. He is now less than 10 minutes from my home at a stable of my choosing here in Carmel Valley. I am thrilled. He is a highly trained reining cow horse which basically means he is a much better horse than I am rider....but he will teach me and I will learn.

We brought him to his new paddock and he pranced around and all the mares from the other side of the fence came and checked him out. One mare in particular seemed to really like him, and although he is just a gelding, she was strutting her stuff and Red was quite pleased. His head would be lifted way up in the air and his upper lip was curled. He hasn't seen that kind of action for awhile since his last stall mate was a 31 year old gelding. I think he is happy. I went back later in the day to see how he was fairing and he seemed very content. I spent time with him in his paddock and since I was the only one at the stable I felt I could talk out loud and play with him. I would walk around and he would follow, I would run, and he would trot to keep up. I am looking forward to getting to know this guy and I think we've gotten off to a good start. It's really nice to have a new man in my life....and he's gorgeous to boot!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ups and Downs

This really is such a strange time for me. I thought about a month ago...."hey, I think I am doing pretty good here!" Then a week ago....."things are worse than ever....I can't do this". Then, yesterday, and even the day before...."I am going to be ok....just one day at a time". Hope. So I realize, I guess, that there is not going to be any real 'pattern' that I can look to and say "that is how things are going to go". No, it really does seem to be a total mystery and I never know from one day to the next how I will feel. One person will say to me, "it's going to take a year", and then another, "it will take two years".....and then others I feel have the thought...."come on, get on with it". How do they know? How does anyone know? They don't, and neither do I. And that is why living one day at a time is so very valuable to me. I need to do it, and with God's help I will.

I have decided though, that I need to stay somewhat busy. Way busier than I would normally be if I had a mate by my side. Or maybe...certainly....a different kind of busy and one that I am not extremely fond of but given the option it is my best choice. Like last night. I have been trying to be a little more proactive on my plans because I have had way too many evenings creep up on me with nothing to do and no one to do them with. Of course, I could get on the phone at 6 o'clock and find something to do in no time. I could even go to one of my kids homes, no problem. But by the time 6 o'clock rolls around, I am torn between wanting/needing something, and the lack of motivation to do anything about it. I am usually at that point a bit depressed, so I don't want to make the effort to get out and go. So I stay home...watch TV and yes, I hate to say it, feel sorry for myself. Back to last night....I actually texted a friend in the morning (I don't know her very well, but she is single so I glob on) and asked if she would like to join me for a dinner bite. "Yes...would love to"....GREAT....I had a plan, and my whole day felt better because I knew I had a place to go and someone to visit with. So....there it is. That different kind of busy. I really like that lady and I had a good time, but she is not my first choice. I would much rather be busy at home, cooking a simple dinner, setting a lovely table, lighting a candle.....

When I look back on this past week, I do see effort on my part in getting out and being around people. In fact, it seems like I have been around people a lot. On Thursday night, I signed up for a winemaker's dinner here in the Carmel Valley village. I did my homework ahead of time.... looked at the evite list of those who were coming and recognized a couple I knew....talked with my horse trainer who gives me lessons...her family are the winemakers so, yes, she will be there. I called the restaurant...."how will the seating be?" and was happy to find out that it would be family style seating with several large tables. Good. I did it. I went alone and ended up sitting next to the couple I already knew. They invited me to join their group of friends for happy hour on Friday nights.... "come join us....we need new blood!" So...I have a standing Friday night gig and I hope I like it. And then on Friday afternoon, I met friends for lunch....Friday night dinner with Bryna's family, Saturday....a feel sorry for myself day....Sunday...better....family dinner with kids. Monday, lunch with friends. Yes, I am around people a lot it seems. I need them. I am trying to find the right balance between being alone too much, and being with people. I like people, love 'em really, but too much wears me out, and not enough I begin to sink. Like I said, this really is a strange time for me. How long will it be before that strangeness goes away and I feel normal again and find my place? A year? Two? Tomorrow? Only God knows. All I know is that today is a beautiful new day and I want to live it well.





Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Three Months

Today. Three months. Kenny left.

It is still hard for me to believe that he is gone and almost harder for me to believe he was ever really here. Did I really have this great love? Was it truly as wonderful as I remember it to be? Did I really get completely swept off my feet by this prince of a man? Yes...yes, I did. It is true and I know it....and it makes me both happy and sad just thinking about it....about him. And I do think about him...all the time. Like church on Sunday. I was standing with the others, singing a worship song, and my mind went back. Back to when Kenny was tall and strong and healthy. We stood together in that pew, with his arm around my waist, his voice singing along with mine and everyone else's too. He was beautiful, and altogether perfect in my eyes. I felt loved. Secure. After every service it was tradition that he would scoop me up in a big bear hug. At times I almost felt embarrassed by it, but not Kenny. He was never shy in showing his affection for me no matter where we were. And so, this past Sunday....I stood alone in that pew. Of course others were around me, but I suddenly felt alone and I could not stop my tears.

Yes....I did have a great love. And the thought of it often saddens me and brings me to tears. Tears because it was so short lived....still so young....and with so much more to experience. But I know that beyond the tears, and the deep feelings of loss, there is a joy. A happy knowing. I had it great. I had it all. I had the best.

So today, the 24th, marks the third month. But there is another date coming up that I know will be difficult too. September 3rd. Kenny and I had the pleasure of celebrating only one anniversary together and this September 3rd would be our second. I will have to do my best to plan ahead, but I have found that the best laid plans still cannot cover the pain of my reality. I suppose, in some ways, the pain is suppose to be felt and not to be pushed down, and stuffed inside. In fact, I am sure that is so. Yes....I will feel the pain more that day than most. And I will do something that day....even have fun...I will genuinely smile and feel happy and content. And I will let sorrow and tears in as well. I will not be able to stop it. But it will be ok. It will be fine. And I will be ok...and I will be fine. Life is a journey we are on as we make our way home, and often it is filled with a lot of hard and difficult things to endure. But there are good things too. Really, really good things. And for those, I am most grateful. I am not sure what is ahead for me, but I am sure it will be more of the same. Both good and bad, happy and sad, difficult and easy. This life is like that. A passage of days.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Bedtime Stories

When Kenny was here, we would read books together before we went to sleep. He actually read more than I did and the thing he liked the best is that I would so quickly fall asleep. When we first started reading together we would both be in bed, Kenny propped up and I scrunched down, legs entwined. Then eventually, Kenny found it better if he could sit in his wheelchair. He would place the chair right under the overhead light and begin reading. I usually lasted just a few pages but he would keep reading out loud anyway. Then we went to a Kindle because it was easier to hold and he could "turn" the pages more easily. His breathing became more and more difficult, yet it didn't deter him from reading out loud. And then, eventually the Kindle became too difficult to hold and that was the end of Kenny reading to me.

He had an idea that he thought was great, but I didn't think so. He wanted to record his reading so that I could play it after he was gone. He thought if I was having difficulty it would help me fall asleep and that I would find it comforting. Maybe so, but I don't know. I just know that so often at night now, when it's time to go to bed and read, I sometimes just turn out the light instead. I lay there and think, and wish to God I had him beside me, legs entwined, lulling me to sleep once again with our latest read.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

On the Outside....

On the outside it looks like I am doing pretty well. I was at Carmel Valley Ranch last night having a glass of wine and dining with friends that gathered. Whenever Kenny and I would go out I would always ask, "Pants, or dress"? He would always, without exception say, "dress". He liked dresses and so do I. So I wore a bright orangish dress last night, feeling like I might be a little on the dressy side compared to most. I wore silver, low heeled sandals to tone it down which I felt compensated for the high heels that were present elsewhere. Looking back, I wasn't dressy. I wasn't standing out in my attire. But I felt dressy, and nice, and bright, and so much different on the outside than how I felt on the inside.

I often think of the movie "Gone With the Wind" where Scarlet had to wear her black mourning clothes when the husband she cared nothing about died. She was at a charity ball and her feet were keeping step to the music as she leaned behind the counter. She wanted to be out there kicking up her heels and having fun with the rest of them. On the outside though, she was proper....she looked the part of the dutiful wife in mourning. But on the inside....she danced. I had my bright orangish dress on last night with shiny silver sandals ....a bright shiny bangle on my wrist....a glass of wine in my hand. I was laughing among friends and all looked right in my world. But there is something missing. Something big. And no matter how I dress...no matter what fun things I might do... no matter how things might appear on the outside...there is a hole inside. A sadness. A loss so great I am having a hard time understanding it. I miss Kenny, plain and simple.

I know the days will get easier and I believe there will come a day when the inside matches the outside. When the cheery, bright me on the outside is in sync with the cheery, bright me on the inside. Some days are easier than others and I think I am just in a little clump of bad ones. It is hard to look back, and it is hard to look ahead. I feel a little stuck in the "here and now" and it is a "here and now" that I don't really like. And even now, as I write this, I realize that I do indeed have many true, deep down to my very soul, happy moments. That my life is still good and I have much to be thankful for. And I believe that the great hole that I feel, the sadness, and the loss will dim and fade over time. It won't be so front and center as it is now. But one thing that will definitely never, ever fade.....Kenny. No, no matter what, he will never dim, he will always and forever shine brightly in my eyes and heart.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"You Go First"

Kenny firmly believed we would both live to a ripe old age since both parents on both our sides have/had lived long healthy lives. He thought we would live to be one hundred and I sort of cringed at the thought. I didn't think I even wanted that but Kenny did. He wanted a long life with me and said we potentially had about 40 or 50 years to look forward to. We were on this subject in our early years, driving home from someplace when Kenny said, "I think you should go first". "GEE! Thanks a lot!". But then Kenny said something that teared me up and brought me to a deeper place of loving him. He said "because I think you would be scared". Yes. I would have been scared. Left alone at a very old age, without my true love beside me. Dazed and confused, I'm sure. I remember thinking at the time that this man knows me. Still, at such an early part of our relationship, he knows me. And cares. And thinks of me. I thought of that little conversation many times over and it always made me teary. It was for me a sweet revelation that this man was not in the relationship for his own purposes, to see what what was in it for him and what he could get out of it. I realized that day, and every day after, that he was in this relationship for me. Me. Kenny had a way of making me feel like I was the best prize he ever won, and he was going to spend the rest of his life taking care of it. And he did. He really did.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tomorrow

I have never dreaded my birthday before. Never bummed out that I was turning the big 4-0, then the big 5-0. Growing old and birthdays don't bother me. But tomorrow is my birthday, and yes, I dread it. Not because I am another year older. No, I dread it because Kenny is not here with me and I have a feeling that tomorrow will feel especially void without him. In all honesty, I am sort of surprised that I feel this way. I have not put a huge amount of hoopla when it comes to my birthday celebrations so I didn't think it would matter much. For me, birthdays were mostly a day that I had the courage to say and do whatever I wanted to do. But when Kenny came along, he knew how to make them special.

I remember my first birthday with him. He had four presents (jewelry which I cherish) and with each present he had a different card. "I couldn't decide on just one card"! Each card had a sweet sentiment, and with each card Kenny wrote his own birthday love note to me. We sat by the pool and drank margaritas that day and I remember feeling that my life was going to be good with this man. Yes....life was definitely good with this man.... just way, way too short.

In the past, Kenny had been used to giving gifts and having them returned, so he was a little gun-shy about buying gifts for me. One of my birthdays was approaching and I already knew he had my gifts purchased, mostly because I was with him when he bought them for me. Then he asked me if I would like him to buy me a dress for my birthday. Not just buy me a dress, but actually pick it out and surprise me with it. "Yes! I would love that"! I was thrilled that he was ready to take that small risk with me and I knew no matter what, I was not going to return this dress. He bought me ten. TEN dresses, and I loved them all. That Kenny.

So....tomorrow will be a little hard for me. I am a free agent and can do whatever I want to do just about any day of the week, and tomorrow will be no different. But I actually can't do what I really want to do. I want to sit by the pool and drink margaritas and open sweet cards with love notes inside. I want to wear a pretty dress and.....

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Thankful


I am so glad we got a cat. Just a simple act that has made a big difference for me. She is often waiting at the door when I come home and if not, she makes her way to greet me. She sleeps on my bed at night snuggled up against me. She loves to play and is extremely affectionate but not obnoxiously so. It is nice to have another beating heart in this house and for that I am thankful.

I find myself being thankful for quite a lot these days. Simple things that maybe I would not have considered as "thanks worthy" before but now I do. I am thankful that the days are longer. I imagine how differently it would feel for me if it was getting dark at 5. People have a tendency to stay in more during the winter months and I am sure the loneliness would engulf me. Now, people are out...going to grab a bite, or a glass of wine..."would you like to join us?".....yes...I get out a lot, but I think it is only because everyone else is getting out a lot too. I try not to think about what is up ahead since the days from here on out are just getting shorter. But hopefully I will be ok and there will be new things to be thankful for.

Of course I am thankful for the big things. For family....and kids... grandkids....good friends....and God. I am thankful that I live in a lovely home that I feel comfortable and safe in. I am thankful that I don't have the burden of financial stress that could be so overwhelming. I am thankful that I am healthy and strong and have the hope that I will be ok and life will be good again. And I am thankful for Kenny....always for Kenny....will ever be thankful for him. I am even thankful for the way Kenny died. His final journey. How well it went. I am thankful that he was always able to talk, and eat, and enjoy life to the end. That his great attitude never wavered. Hospice was "spa time", our home was like "living in Tuscany", the hospital bed in our room was "the day bed", the wheelchair was called "Chairy".... He saw it all through lighter, brighter eyes and for that I am most grateful. He was wonderful, sweet and amazing and so much more.....and he was thankful too.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

How Could I Forget?

Several months ago Kenny and I were sitting at the kitchen table. He said, "I hope you won't forget me"....."WHAT???....how could I ever forget you???" He went on to say, "Well, if you live to be ninety, that is a long life....and you would have only known me for about four years or so....that is such a short amount of time in light of your whole life". Of course I reassured him that I would never forget him...no, not ever. I think there are a lot of people in my life that have influenced me and taught me much along life's journey. But Kenny....he has made the greatest impact of all. He has changed me forever. He gave me what my heart has longed for for many, many years. Yes, he changed me. He gave me the greatest of all gifts. He loved me. Truly. And he let me love him back. Could I ever forget him? Never. Not a single day will go by where I don't lean on Kenny's love and influence to get me through.

I was talking to an old friend yesterday. I was telling her that I have really been experiencing the love and tenderness of the Lord....that I have been looking to Him to meet me in ways I have not been looking for Him in the past few years. I have been looking to Him to meet me as a husband would....to fill in the empty spaces that are now so evident with Kenny's passing. She said "you had that love through flesh and bones". Yes....Kenny was that for me. He was a vessel of God's love poured out to me. Poured out....spilled over...and abundantly overflowing. What a great, great gift. What a great, great love.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

One Month, Two Days

I can hardly believe that over one month ago now, Kenny left. His memorial service was just last week and I have to say it was both beautiful and honoring of my Kenny. I had all the emotions that go along with a service like that. I cried, I smiled, I laughed out loud. There was joy and sorrow both and I have to say I was glad when the day was over. For me, it was a big hurdle to get over, and once I was over it, I wanted nothing more than to go home, wrap myself in a blanket on the couch and zone out in front of the TV.

I keep thinking....."ok...NOW is the time when you have to get it together". I think as long as the memorial service was looming in front of me, I felt it was ok to grieve in my PJ's all day if I felt like it. But now, I am feeling like I need to move on....there are no more 'markers' in the road to ease my expectation. No more hurdles to jump. Just a long, long road ahead and one that I have never been on before. I have a hard time seeing much beyond today. To me right now, the road ahead looks flat, and dry and dusty, and so uninviting. But it is the only road in front of me.... and so I go.

I have a lot of friends and a lot of opportunities to get out. I take advantage of them... find myself having a good time...and then I crawl back home and hole up for a few days. I am finding my way. Today I was planning on going to church, but I was up so early that as the time to get ready approached, I wanted nothing more than to go back to bed. I made a bed on the couch and ended up staying there until noon. Then, this afternoon I went to the stables. I have a friend that is 'loaning' me her horse to love on until I can get my own. Her name is Char and we are just getting to know each other. I took her out and walked her around and we had a chat. I was alone at the barn, so I felt free to have a good long talk and bonding time with her. I ended up in a puddle of tears and emailed her owner telling her I think I am now officially her auntie. I think a horse is really important for me right now and I am trying to be patient on acquiring my own. I need to wait for now....but in time the right one will come along and the timing will be perfect. Waiting is hard....but at least I have a horse to love in the meantime....

I was talking with my son the other day. He was asking how I was doing. I think I am at the place where I am standing back and thinking "wow...what just happened?" While Kenny was alive, I was so focused on the day to day. I was focused on getting us through another day well. I had almost forgotten that there was a time when we were vibrant and healthy and looked forward to a whole life together. Those thoughts did not enter my mind much during his illness..... it was what lie ahead that consumed me. It was thoughts of the imminent future that frightened me. "Can we do this....can I do this?" But now, I have time to look back. Time to think about what we had. Such a small amount of time together and gone so quickly. I look at pictures and my heart breaks. He was....is the love of my life and I am still reeling from all that has transpired these past few years. But this one thing I know....I would not change anything. Of course I would change things if I could. But I can't bring Kenny back. But I will forever be grateful for what we had. For what I had. It was great. It was wonderful. It was....everything.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Alone

It's Friday night and I have chosen to spend the night alone. I actually haven't even left the house all day except to go get the mail. I had dinner plans with a nice older couple I had met a few years ago at my work place. She has been a widow before and understands this strange time I am in. She had given me an 'out' if I needed one...."you can always cancel if you're just not up to it". So I did. This morning. I woke up with the the thought...."I just want to be home all day....no plans".

I have not been spending all my days at home and in bed. Actually, I have been out almost every night this week (one person cancelled on me...yeah!) with friends and family and frankly, I just wanted some down time. I know tomorrow the family will be arriving for Ken's memorial service so once again I will be in the throes of people. I am looking forward to seeing Ken's family though. We all loved him so much and it will be nice to be together with others who loved him in a very special way.

These truly have been strange days for me. There was a great scripture that my niece sent me in February and I still draw from it today.

"I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make the darkness light before them, and crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, and not forsake them". Isaiah 42:16,17

I find a lot of comfort in knowing that even though I have not been down this road before I know the Lord will guide me. He certainly went before us during Ken's illness, and I believe He will do the same for me today. I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed these past few days. Even though Kenny tried to prepare me, there are so many 'things' coming in the mail that I am not sure how to deal with. Nate and I will get together tomorrow morning and hopefully he can help ease my burden. I don't like this.....no, I don't like it at all.

I think over all I am doing pretty well. I went to work out at the ranch yesterday and ran into someone I sort of know. We got to talking....I told her about Kenny. She remembered him and told me that she too was a widow. It has been eight years for her and she was just able to clear out his clothes last year. She said she didn't do anything at all for the first two years. I asked if they had talked about his death and dying much and she said not at all. She realizes, as I do, that the lack of communication, of working through the hard and the inevitable as a couple, can be such a huge set back. She experienced it, and I think she has regret. I will be forever grateful for the ease and openness Kenny had in his final journey. We talked often and openly and I know it has been a great source of strength and healing for me. "Thank you, Kenny!"

For me, I believe my darkest days are behind me. When Kenny received his diagnosis, my world caved in. I could not believe that this man that I had longed for my whole life, this man who truly 'got me', was not going to ultimately be with me. Not for long anyway. I could not accept that. I prayed and pleaded...denied it was happening, and cried my eyes out. No...this is not going to happen. But it did. I honestly feel like much of my grieving is behind me. I had come to that acceptance phase months ago.... and even though there are sad and lonely times... I still accept. This is my lot. This it what has been handed to me and I am trying to receive it with grace. God is good and I know I am loved. My life will go on, and I believe it will go on with joy and love and all the good things that God has in store for those who are His. One of God's best and greatest gifts ever given to me was Kenny. He changed me... helped me... believed in me. He taught me an awful lot about life and love, and I will be forever changed because of him. Forever better. Forever loved. "Thank you...."

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Yesterday

Yesterday was a good day and I think some of it spilled over to today. I didn't leave the house the day before and the day before that almost as much. I spent a lot of time in bed, just feeling drained. Sad too, I'm sure, but truly, physically, just really tired. Bed was a huge draw. I laid there and said to myself "you've got to pull it together...you can't just lay around all day".....and then I thought, hey, I can do this. I just lost my husband, I can lay around. I can, and I did. If I am doing that six months from now I will give myself another talk.

I woke up yesterday morning with a text from a new friend inviting me to come to her barn and she would give me a horseback riding lesson. I had a plan! Something to get me out of the house. We had a date for 11 o'clock and I was there on the button. I had a really good time. Horses are so therapeutic for me. I stayed for a few hours and knew I needed to go to Salinas which was on my way home. I needed to stop at the mortuary to pick up Kenny's death certificate. I was feeling pretty good and decided I really wanted to get a haircut on the way so I came across a Super Cuts and "Juana" started cutting my hair. I was a little worried as she seemed to be taking off a whole lot more than I indicated but she seemed pretty confident so I just went with it. Loved it. So I picked up the death certificates and it did not seem to change my mood. I came home, showered, and met friends for a glass of wine which ended up being dinner too. I got home around 9. Being alone, I don't really like coming in after dark, so I make it a point to get home when there is still a little light in the sky. I am not sure what I am going to do when winter is here and it is dark by 5. Maybe I'll be braver then.

So, I had a good day yesterday. And a pretty good day today too. I would have liked to crawl back in bed around noon, but I knew I was getting together with a couple of pastors at 3 to discuss the memorial service. So instead of crawling back in bed, I got dressed and ran a few errands before the meeting. The meeting went well and we came away with a plan. I am not good at this stuff so I am thankful for the guidance they provided. I was on my way home and realized I was really hungry but didn't feel like going home to eat, nor did I feel like eating alone. I called an old friend and she met me for a bite. A good way to end the day. Now home, long before dark. The TV is my friend tonight.

Such a strange time I am living in. I have no clue what lies before me and I can get a little scared when I think about it. But one thing I do know. I need to live in the same truth that I lived in when Kenny was diagnosed. We said, "one day at a time"..... and it works. Jesus said so..."don't worry about tomorrow.....tomorrow has enough cares of it's own". I know whenever I didn't live one day at a time, I would worry about Kenny. How was I going to take care of him....what if..... And now, I know that so many things I worried about never happened. I never needed to worry, but just live each day as it comes and live it to the fullest. That is what I need to do now. I don't need to worry and I don't need to know everything ahead of time. I just need to live each day as it comes and by God's grace I will.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

One Week

Little did I know when I woke up last Tuesday that it would be the final day. The day Kenny would exit this world and enter glorious heaven. Little did I know that it would be the last morning that I would wake up with my true love beside me. I didn't know....how could I know? But I knew it was coming, and I knew it was coming soon. Kenny passed away while taking a nap. I had been on the phone with someone while he was sleeping and told that person I thought he had about a week. A week, not minutes. I kept checking in on him while he was napping, noticed his usual labored breathing, and then, at one of my check ins.....quiet. I knew he was gone. Just like that.

It was like something burst inside of me. A dam that had been shored up came undone and I felt a wave of sorrow, unbelief and tears come over me. I crawled in bed next to him, spooning him from behind and cried and hugged and kissed and cried. At one point I called my friend and neighbor who I had just gotten off the phone with before my final check in. "He DIED!"..."what???"....."Kenny died!"....."I'll be right over". His uncle came, my son came, Hospice came. Suddenly it was all so real....so final. It was a day I will never forget and I day I would never want to relive. But I do relive it. I have relived it every day many times over. They say that time is a great healer and I believe that to be so. I know there will come a time when I don't think of that day as often as I do now. That day will come....Kenny would want it to.

What I do want to remember is the life we had. The life he had when he was strong and healthy and whole. I want to remember the long walks we took that always turned into adventures. The Tuesday night dance lessons or hitting golf balls at the Ranch. I want to remember that birthday when Kenny bought me ten dresses. Kenny was fun. Really fun. And he loved me. Really loved me. I never thought I would be loved like that. Didn't think it was in the cards for me. But I was loved by him. And it will last me. If that is all the love I will find from here on out, it will last me. It was a gift.... and it was enough.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday

The night Kenny died I went to my son's house and hung out with the family. I am so blessed to have such great, supportive kids. On Wednesday, I only left the house to run to the bank and hug my leased horse. Then home....alone....the way I wanted it. I really didn't feel too alone though, I have never talked on the phone so much in my life. Then yesterday....home all day...again alone by choice, and then dinner at my daughter's house.

Today I decided to actually get dressed and go out. I chose to have lunch with a group of friends here in Carmel Valley. This is the same group that Kenny has been having lunch with for months now. Every Friday. Occasionally I would join them, but I usually saw it as an opportunity to run some errands while Kenny was safe in the company of others. I wanted to go today. I felt it was important as this group wanted to express their love and support to me and talk about the wonderful person Kenny was. It was good for them and for me.

And now, it is Friday night and I am alone again. I had a call to join some friends for a baseball game and dinner, but no, I want to be home. This place was so special for Kenny and I and for me it is a sanctuary. Of course it is missing something. It is missing the one I have loved with my whole heart, mind and soul. And although I will always love him and miss him, I will forever find comfort in the fact that our love was special, and real, and strong. Nothing, not even death can take that away. It is mine to hold on to, and cling to, and cherish for the rest of my life.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Day Two


I still can hardly believe it. My Kenny. Gone. I knew of course it was coming. We all did. But it doesn't make the final good-bye any easier and I find myself living in that place of limbo with overwhelming sadness that he is actually gone, and a place of relief that he is....well...gone. As I crawled in bed last night I was wondering...."what is that feeling I feel?" and I took the time to figure it out. It had all the markings of relief, and as I gave it some thought I knew that what I was experiencing was a deep satisfaction that we did it. Kenny and I. We made it through this journey together, and even though it was hard, it did not destroy us. Our love was intact until the end.

An old friend of Kenny's sent me an email, and before I lose the words that were so beautifully written and so very encouraging, I wanted to record them here. (thank you Chris!)

I can only imagine what it is like to be in your shoes tonight. You have lost the love of your life, a good man whom you shepherded through a difficult illness. And you did it with grace and honesty and strength. My heart goes out to you.

But here is what I know. As the days and months unfold from here, you -- unlike so many people in the world -- know what true love really means. Very few people are privileged in that way. And while Ken has taught us all about dying with courage, you have taught us about living with the same courage.




Tuesday, May 24, 2011

May 24th

It's Tuesday, May 24th, and the love of my life died today. A piece of me died too. I will love him forever and ever.

Landlord

Our landlord called day before yesterday asking if she could show our place to potential buyers. It sort of came out of the blue. She really has not been in the role of landlord though....she actually owns the place. We are in the guesthouse and the couple in the main house (renters too) have been the go between and have done all the landlord (ish) things. I had asked the go betweens a couple of months ago if they could talk to the owner and see if I might do a month to month rather than sign on for another year lease. It is a pricey guesthouse for just me and I thought I would find a smaller, cheaper place when the time was right. She said no. Obviously we would not be moving in our current state, and since the lease signing is June 1st, it looked like I would be here for another year. So...when I got the call, I thought this might not be the case...that I might be able to do month to month after all...or...we might have to move sooner than we wanted to...or...well....just a question mark on the matter.

So I said, sure, come over. That would be yesterday. And then I remembered that I had a cat. I think our lease says no pets, but at one point about a year ago we were having an outdoor rat problem (country life) and the question came up of getting a cat. "No"...owner said. Then...."yes...I suppose that would be ok". Well, I didn't want a cat anyway so we didn't give it much thought, but recently when I did want a cat I talked to the go betweens just to make sure that was what the owner had said. "Yes...she said it would be ok....would you like me to call her and confirm?" No...no.... So we got our cat and I felt it was just fine. But I wasn't really ready for the owner to know about that, especially since kitty is not really the 'live outdoors and eat rats" kind of a cat. She is actually an 'indoor sleep on our bed' kind of cat. I wasn't sure if that fine line would make a difference, so I did what any deceitful person would do. I took the scratching post and put it in the van. I hid the litter box behind a basket. I covered the cat food bag with a towel. I put the food bowls in a drawer. And just in time, put poor little Tiger Lily in her carrier and placed her in the car. Ahhhh! No sign of a cat anywhere.

They came through, and fortunately for me, Ken was sleeping in the hospital bed. It made their visit brief and I think they may have felt a little awkward. The owner seemed very pleased with how the place looked and thanked me for letting them come by, and then she looked at me and said "you are so kind". Yes, I am so kind. I have just gone to great measures to deceive you. I have a cat in the car meowing most likely and I hope you leave before she blows my cover. I watched as the three made it up the hill, then grabbed kitty and put everything back in it's place.

I got a call from her this morning. She wanted to let me know that she would let me go month to month. She understood that I really don't know what is next for me and that going month to month would give me more freedom. I am really glad about that because I really don't know what I want to do but at least I now have options. I thanked her very much for her understanding of this difficult situation.... truly the tables have now turned and I am grateful for her decision....yes, thankful, for she has been kind too.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Hard Times

I always knew there were going to be harder times ahead. Even though I have gone through some of the hardest months of my life, I always knew the worst was yet to come. I think I am just about there. I feel like I am really losing my husband now. His mind continues to play tricks on him and I have a hard time sitting and listening to the craziness. It is not just the waking moments after dreaming that he has a hard time deciphering....but now it is all the time. We can be sitting at lunch and the majority of the conversation will be Kenny still sifting through a dream he had and trying to grasp whether is was true or not. I often get asked "that doesn't ring a bell to you?" as he is telling me some strange thing, fully expecting me to know all about it because I was 'there' too.

Last night we were in bed no more than a half hour and he was already starting in on his mumbling. Then "you're awfully close to me"....(gee...we always spoon....what's the problem?!) "am I too close"?...."yeah".....so I move away from him and then he started telling me that I was like a suction cup sucking back his head and shoulders. Then he wanted me to go turn off the computers in the house because they were doing some strange thing I know not, but I humored him and turned them off. All the while I was pretty frustrated and even threatened to sleep in the other room. I figured if I was sucking the life out of this guy I would do us both a favor. I didn't go. So....I spent the night, putting his legs back in bed and listening to his ongoing dialogues.

We still have good times too. Last night we met with friends for dinner. Kenny is so quiet though. He rarely speaks. Of course we all understand and no one feels like "what's wrong with Kenny". We know. Speaking of friends, I was telling Kenny the other night that I have been feeling like some of the friends that have been around us are not around us as much now. He had a good analogy in that it is similar to a basketball game. As the game is going on, everyone feels free to take a shot whenever they feel they may have a chance. But when the game is in the final minute and there is a tie, taking a shot means a whole lot more and some of those who would take the risk earlier, won't take it in the end. We are in the final round...the last few minutes of the game....we are nearing the end and I know it can be uncomfortable for some, and others just don't know what to do or say. So the safest place is to stay at a distance. I understand, I really do. This is one finale I cannot distance myself from even though at times I would like to. I am front and center and must stay in the game to the end. I want to make the winning shot. I want to finish this one well.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A New Twist on Dreams

I woke up this morning feeling super refreshed. I actually fell asleep watching TV last night, then once in bed, out like a light. I woke up knowing I had slept the entire night without waking up once. I was even able to linger in bed for awhile before getting up. Very, very nice. VERY nice.

Then Kenny asked me about my dreams. "No....I don't think I had any". He told me that HE had a dream that I was telling him about MY dream. It was a pretty crazy dream apparently and I kept him up all night telling him about it. Kenny didn't talk in his sleep last night which is one reason why I slept so well. He said he was listening to me and I was going on and on about my dream and basically driving him nuts. We both chuckle...."just getting a little of your own medicine, that's all".

Hmmm..... I think we may be on to something....

Monday, May 16, 2011

Caregiver

I don't think I make a very good caregiver. I really don't like flossing other people's teeth and a lot of other things I won't mention. It's really hard for me, and at times I can get a little queasy. I don't like shooting out of bed with "sweetheart, can you get me up" and being "on" before I even get a cup of coffee. Kenny used to sleep until 9 or 9:30 and I liked that. I could get up at a decent hour and still have a couple of hours to myself before he got up. But not now....crack of dawn and he is wanting up. He also wants to stay up until midnight, and with his talking half the night I almost always feel like I am just not quite cutting it with a good night sleep. When he does get up early, he more than not starts talking about his crazy dreams and frankly there are times I really don't want to hear about them. "I WANT TO SLEEP!" But I listen, and try to help him decipher what is real and what is not. He asked me to do this for him, otherwise he gets sort of obsessed with his dreams. Only when he comes to a full understanding that it truly was just a dream can he give it a rest. I have seen him go to the computer to try and figure out some crazy idea he is sure must be true. Poor guy....his brain is getting affected by carbon dioxide poisoning.

I think of that song "he ain't heavy, he's my brother".....and I wish I could think like that ALL the time. Kenny is so amazing, such a great person, such a love, but I have to say that sometimes he can be a load. But not for long. There are just days, or moments when it feels like that. When I feel tired and I don't want to floss teeth, or change his clothes, feed him, or move him from the chair to the couch, or..... yes....there are times where he feels heavy. But it doesn't take long before the love he so willingly gives me comes shining through and I cannot help but love him back.

We laugh too at some of the silly things he "sees". Yesterday as we were driving home from church he was dosing and then I noticed he was looking down as though he was looking for something. "What are you looking for"?...."Oh...he was asking for a receipt or something"...."who is 'he'"?....."oh, some little troll". Well...couldn't help laugh out loud with that one. Kenny just smiled feeling somewhat satisfied that I found it so amusing and that he, in some strange way, brought a huge smile to my face.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Question

Yesterday we were driving to town and things were quiet in the van. Kenny usually doses while we drive so I try to let him have that time to rest. Out of the blue he asked "how many more days do I have to live?". I honestly wasn't sure if he was having a dream and the question came out, but I answered that I didn't know. "How many days do you think you have?" I asked him back. "30".

In all honesty I would be surprised if he even had 30. He labors so much in his breathing and he is tired all the time. I told him in the van yesterday that I am so proud of him....the way he has gone through this difficult time so well. He thanked me and said that means a lot to him because at the beginning of this journey he made the conscious choice to go through this well. He was glad I felt he had. He asked how I was doing.....was I ready....and I told him I am prepared as well as I can be. I have been in the acceptance phase for some time now and even though I may move into denial, or anger, or..... I don't stay there long.....I am back to the place of accepting and remain there for the most part.

We have had a trying morning. Nothing different from the ordinary other than I am finding my patience running thin. I am cheerful on the outside though. I never want Kenny to feel bad. We have been up since 6 and throughout the morning there have been innumerable transfers from bed, to chair, to bathroom, to bed, to chair, to.... and all the while, sweatshirt on, sweatshirt off, sweatshirt on, sweatshirt.....slippers on, slippers off....water, ice tea, water, ice tea.... spoon feed cereal.... get more prunes! And then just now I got him in bed for another nap and he said "Thank you so much for letting my fairytale life continue....our little bit of Tuscany here...." With that, my patience that was running on the thin side is restored to full order. How can I not love this man and cherish whatever days we have left. I want, as much as I possibly can, to make his "fairytale life" continue to the end. Just like Kenny told me yesterday that he wanted to "do this well", I too want that. I want to "do this well" too.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Busy!

We have been really busy lately. In the midst of everything that is going on with Kenny, he still seems to have more get up and go than even I do. He loves being around people where I can easily stay home. We got together with the kids on Mother's Day and Nate teasingly said "I bet you love to use Ken as an excuse to get out of things" (he knows me well). Why, yes, I have done that I suppose.... "oh, sorry....I don't think I can do that walk with you today....because Kenny...." Yes...I believe I have done that a time or two but I'm sure I really thought it was necessary at the time. The truth is I don't have a lot of "free" time so every planned event is a bigger deal than it might be if things were different. If I am going to meet a friend for lunch, I need to make sure Kenny is busy somewhere else, having his own lunch with his own friends. Only then do I feel good about leaving him for a couple of hours. But....if that lunch with my friend should get cancelled....ah....I just bought myself two free hours. Of course I can't cancel if he really is off and taken care of....but I believe there may have been a time when I thought he wasn't going to be. Silly me.

We really have been busy though. This weekend was filled with a Kentucky Derby gathering on Saturday, Sunday with kids in the afternoon and our church group that evening. Monday night we threw our own little happy hour party with some close friends and yesterday we went to the movie. This man wears me out! Today he is meeting his uncle for lunch and I am going to....not sure. I will reserve the right to decide at the moment and not make a "plan".


Friday, May 6, 2011

Conversations

Yesterday ended up being a very nice day. The weather here was absolutely beautiful so Kenny and I decided to go to Bernardus for a late lunch and sit outside. We canceled hospice for that afternoon so we could linger. I rarely have a glass of wine for lunch but it was perfect with the best pizza ever and the beautiful surroundings. My emotional state was quite high and we both seemed really happy and joyous. It seems weird that in the midst of all of that our conversation was about his memorial service and obituary. It really wasn't sad, nor did it feel awkward. It was like most conversations with Kenny...easy.... and even yesterday, enjoyable.

My thoughts go back a couple of weeks ago. Kenny asked me to tell him one thing I would miss about him when he was gone. It didn't take me long to answer because just the day before I had thought of one thing in particular. It was a Monday and we had both gone our separate ways. Kenny went to the Pacheco Club and I went with a local horse trainer to the SPCA to pick out the next horse she would take back to the ranch and get it ready for a new home. It was especially exciting for me since the horse we were looking to pick was possibly going to be mine. Larry packed us in his truck and we drove the 200 green acres looking for the herd. Once we found them, we got out of the truck and they came running. This beautiful group of not long ago abandoned horses with a few colts running by their mother's side. It was a great experience to be there at that moment and I could hardly wait to get home and tell Kenny all about it. That is what I will miss. One thing I will miss. Our conversations. Telling my life, my story, to someone who I know wants to hear. He has told me several times "I could listen to you all day....I love to hear you talk". I never seem to bore him. So the day he asked me that question, my answer was right there, because I had just been thinking about it the day before. I had thought..."what will it feel like to come home after that experience and have no Kenny to share it with". When I told him that one thing, he said "I still want you to share with me, even when I am gone, I will still be with you". So, more than likely, I will speak out, I will hope and believe that somehow, in someway, he hears me. But I will miss that.... I will miss a million things about him, but I will most definitely miss sharing my life on a daily basis with the one I love with all my heart.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mind Games

Kenny has been experiencing some pretty vivid dreams lately. For the past several weeks he has been talking throughout the night. Not just words here and there but full dialogues. He remembers everything too. Like if I ask him "what did you mean when you said 'if anyone wakes up early I'll sue the pants off them'" ? He will go into detail about the cat who said that. But most of the times he is dreaming about some big business venture he is on, or that the room is full of people or even the bed for that matter. He sees things in the room at night, or the bed is weirdly shaped. Last night he was talking about our magical room and explaining why it was so. For the most part I just let him talk, but sometimes I will tell him he is dreaming. Sometimes, if I am wide awake, I will lay there and listen and find it quite amusing.

Usually at least once a night he tries to get out of bed, which basically means he puts his legs over the side and that is as far as he can go. I am thankful for that....otherwise I would be dealing with a man who could possibly stand and fall. So...his legs go over the side, and he can go no farther, but he cannot get them back on the bed. That is where I come in and get him settled again.

He has been sleeping most of the morning. Today, when he woke from his first nap, he asked if Gianti was still here. Gianti? Who the heck is that??? We both laugh and later at breakfast he said Gianti is the other caregiver but he doesn't look like his name should be Gianti. (of course, there is no such guy) so I asked him what his name should be and he said "Tiny". "Oh...so he's small".... "yes, very"....and so it goes. He also said another thing that sent a chill through me when he woke from his nap. He said "I think I am going to die today". what??? He said he is reading a book with other people (he is not) and the main character is suppose to die today. He is suppose to die the same day as the main character. So..... (sigh)....another day of my baby slipping away.

He did say yesterday when he was in clear form, that he really does feel he is in his last days. He said the past two or three days he has felt very different. Before, even though his body was failing and his breathing labored, and although he felt tired at times, he still felt normal. But now...no...not normal. We have some papers to sign that needs a notary that we have been putting off. He said this morning "let's go do this today before I get too loopy". Poor guy.

He told me last night that as much as possible he wants us to have a great marriage to the end. "Let me know if I am not being a good husband, ok?" That guy. I cannot believe that in all that he is going through one of his main thoughts is how to be a good husband to me. How to love me well and what he can do to make my life better. I cannot believe how fortunate I have been to know this man and to love and be loved by him. In all the ups and downs and craziness of this life, I have been so blessed to live a fairytale.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Last times

The days go by so quickly. Ken's mom and her husband Ben came for a visit and left on Monday. Ben's son David came for a few days too. We spent quite a bit of time together as well as a day when Ken, his mom, and David went to Monterey together. They offered me a little break and I took it. Our final good-byes were actually Sunday evening as they were leaving early Monday. I asked Ken how that was, saying good-bye to his mom. He said he tried to be very "present" in his good-bye as he feels it was the last time he will see his mother. We both got choked up talking about it as we drove home.

There are a lot of "last times" occurring these days. I remember the last time Kenny brought me coffee in the morning because he could no longer carry the mug. I remember the last time he went and got the newspaper because the driveway was too steep and he felt he could easily fall. These "last times" were announced....so I knew it was the last. But most "last times" are not announced. They just happen and you don't really know it until you look back and realize....

And then there are the "last times" that are still yet to be and these more and more weigh on my mind. We kissed the other night. A sweet, long, romantic kiss. These are fewer and farther between these days, and even though I was caught up in the tenderness of the moment, I was also fighting hot tears knowing that this kiss may be the last. Of course there will be no announcement of our last kiss. It will just happen. Like so many other things it will just happen and I won't even know it. But I will think about it. Every kiss from now on, I will think about. I will wonder if this is it. And every night when we lie down in bed and say "sweet dreams", I will wonder about that too.

Monday, April 18, 2011

And Another Week

Tomorrow Ken's mom and her husband will be in town. We won't see them until Wednesday because they get in sort of late and will be tired. They have stayed at our house before but now they are staying at Ken's uncles house....her brother. It would be impossible for them to stay here at this point. I really haven't given it much thought on what we are going to do with them. I don't seem to live much beyond today, so anything that requires some planning somehow doesn't get accomplished until it is right upon me. I barely got my daughter-in-law's birthday gift and card to her in a timely way. It is just hard...I feel I am living in a different time zone and not in the real world.

Ken has been taking a lot of naps. I mean like half the day almost. By noon he usually has had two naps. He wakes up in the morning and sits by the side of the bed. He is sort of in a stupor....playing back dreams he had in the night and trying to make sense of them. I usually sit with him at some point and chat and of course hear about the dreams. He fights to open his eyes but it seems a losing battle. After about 45 minutes he is ready for me to lay him down again. Another hour or so of sleep, then up again for awhile before he wants to sleep again. Finally he is up and dressed and maybe out for lunch or something. Afternoon is Hospice. Then another nap. Sometimes he takes naps at night...like tonight....a short half hour nap but enough to get him through to bedtime. Evening seems to be the time he gets a second wind. Mornings are the hardest.

Speaking of mornings, tomorrow is his photo shoot for the article that will be written on him. We have to be there at 10 and looking spiffy. It is going to be a challenge. I went to Izod today and bought him a new golf shirt for the shoot. I realized tonight when I was looking at his other shirts in the closet, that he wears an XL in golf shirts and I got him a L. Great. I hope it fits OK. I realize that we are still newlyweds and I am still learning about him. He shouldn't be leaving me yet....no....he shouldn't be leaving me at all.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Fraternity Brothers

There has been a lot of back and forth emails between all the fraternity brothers. I have gotten in on it a little since a few of the emails were directed specifically to me. All of them seem so glad to know that Kenny and I have found each other. I liked what our last visitor said:

"And since I've entered the fray here, let me say this to Ken and Karin : You two are an absolutely beautiful couple. It's rare to witness the kind of tenderness you exhibit toward one another. I felt privileged to spend time with you last week. There's an extraordinary graciousness and poise when you interact, and I spent the afternoon feeling not only that you have been given a tremendous gift in one another, but that you both understand that deeply.. It made my heart very full."

Another responded to that with an email to me:

"The greatest measure of peace I feel about what Ken is battling, has been the result of seeing and hearing about the relationship between you two, and that you are right there with Ken each day, every step of the way. Thanks Chris for sharing about how you left Carmel feeling your heart was full. I felt that way reading it. It seems to be the common theme mentioned by everyone who has been privileged to spend some time in Carmel.

Karin and Kenny, you are in our prayers every day."


Another wrote to me:

"Please know that all the Chi Psi brothers – not just those you know in Ken’s class – are with you two right now.

Real fraternities, and real brotherhood, despite all the associated commotion, are really about love.

Chi Psi brothers love Ken and all you have done and are doing for him. That’s a fact, and it will never change. Please know that and tell Ken, but he already knows – he’s our brother.

YITB, (yours in the bonds)

Stu"


I love the support that these guys give. They really are a brotherhood and they have extended their love to both Kenny and I. Even though most are a distance away, I feel I could call on any of them at any given time and they would be here. It really is a unique and genuine bond between these guys and I am very happy to have met most of them.


Ok...one last quote from my granddaughter Lauren. I got this email yesterday and thought it was cute.



Dear Grammy,I love you sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much.I love lily just as much

(Kenny too).Make sure you tell them that.Thanks for
Taking me to get T


Awww....to be on the same level as the cat....

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A New Friend

It was a great choice to get this kitty. Yesterday Ken was taking a nap and I could not find Kitty anywhere. Our house is not big at all, so it would be pretty hard to find a hiding spot that wouldn't be found out in short order, but I really was baffled as to where she could be. Then I saw it....just the tip of her nose sticking out from the blanket that was over Kenny. She was sound asleep pressed up to Kenny's back, under the cover. They both took about an hour and a half nap together. Even now as I write, Ken is taking another nap and Kitty is curled up behind his knees. I heard him tell his mom yesterday, "Karin finally let me get a cat". Even though he wasn't pushing for a cat by any means, I think he is really happy now that we have one.

Last week Ken went to a luncheon and met a guy named Rich who is over a local magazine here called "65 Degrees". He came over yesterday because he wants to do a human interest story on Ken for next months magazine. Should be interesting. He made a comment based on observation that we "still make each other laugh". Yes we do.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Kitty


Well, I did it. I got a 7 month old kitten yesterday. I wanted to see her again yesterday just to see if I still liked her as much as I did the day before. I liked her more. So, after Ken was done with his lunch at Pacheco Club, I took him back over to meet her. He liked her too. I knew he would, and any cat I would want, he would want too. So....I called Lauren and asked if she would like to come with me to Pet Smart to get all the gear to bring our new kitty home. I told her this cat would belong to ALL of us. So...she was pretty pumped thinking that SHE was getting a cat too. We did our shopping and then went to pick up "Tiger Lily". We brought her home and Lauren was in heaven. She loves all animals, but I think this may have topped the list. She is the cutest little cat, has bunny fur and really does not seem to shed much at all. Very soft, very clean. Tiger Lily seemed pretty adjusted right away and didn't seem to mind the constant attention Lauren was giving her. She hopped on Kenny's lap several times while he was in his chair and curled up between us when he sat on the couch last night. She slept right there on our bed last night without any coaxing. This kitty has jumped right into our family and I wonder why I ever hesitated in the first place. She is perfect, and the only reason I suppose for the delay was that we were waiting especially for her.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A List

I used to start my morning every day with a list of things I wanted to get done for the day. Usually it was more ambitious than I truly am, so what didn't get done, found itself on the next day's list. I don't do that anymore. I don't plan my days out too much these days. I move through the day with little planning or expectation....only to do what needs to be done at any given moment. At times I feel foggy, slothful and aimless. But other times, I feel this is good for me. I have put a lot of pressure on myself over the years...the "should" pressure. Things I "should" do and usually don't. Guilt. But now, I am living each day as it comes. Finding that a talk on the phone or hanging out with Kenny watching TV is just as, or more important than anything on my "to do" list. Kenny has always been such an encouragement to me in that way. If it is noon and I am still in my PJ's because I had made pancakes and talked on the phone to my family all morning, I often feel I am just twittering my day away....but he always tell me I am "doing my job". As always, my false guilt is lifted and I realize what a gift I have been given.

Here it is 10:45 in the morning and Kenny is down for his second nap of the day. He had a busy weekend with his sister's visit, and then yesterday he went to the Pacheco Club to meet the boys for lunch. All that leads to a very tired guy. For lunch today he is meeting his uncle at the club...the boy just keeps going.

I am very tempted to adopt a cat. I have been looking at the SPCA and various rescue places but have not found one that I really liked. I did find a black and white one at the SPCA last week that I liked because she was so affectionate. I took Kenny back the next day to meet her and got a chance to hold her. When I put her back in the cage, my black jacket was covered with cat hair. I just thought...."I can't do this....I don't want to be one of those ladies you see out and about all covered in cat hair". So...it sort of put a damper on that idea but I went out yesterday to the AFRP to check out what cats they might have. I liked one quite a bit. He was gray and left me with very few hairs on my jacket. That is good. But he had a respiratory problem and would be sneezy and drippy all his life. Hmmm. No...I don't think I want a cat like that either. So...just as I was leaving there was another cat curled up in a covered bed with her brother. She came out and oh my. She was just the coloring that is my favorite, but I had sort of ruled it out once I saw all the cat hair on me from the black and white. This one is a gray and white tabby, 7 months old. Cute, cute, cute. But, a lot of white. I held her and lo and behold when I put her back I had very few hairs on me. I could live with this! I am still having a hard time deciding. I think having a cat would be nice at this time in my life. Another living thing in our home that would bring comfort. Kenny loves cats and would enjoy her company. For me, she would be my pal and I would have someone to greet me when I come home....especially in my future. My grandkids would be ecstatic and I think my son's kids will never have pets, so there is a part of me that wants to do this for them too. I think I am leaning toward getting her. More tomorrow!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Nice Words...

Ken's fraternity brother, Jeff, who was here last week, wrote an email to all the fraternity brothers giving them an update on his visit with Ken. He sent a copy to me as well and I liked what he said about "us".....

"Seeing a brother in this condition was painful but the "silver lining" is the love story that Ken and Karin share for each other. While they had dated for a few years, it was only months after their wedding that Ken received this devastating news.
Karins love and commitment for Ken during this very difficult time has given Ken some of the most loving, intimate moments of his life. As we drove around Carmel Valley, I remarked that there love and commitment to each other is stronger and more genuine than relationships that last 50 years. Trust me when I tell you that these two are soul mates and are connected at the core of their being.They spend all of their time together and should be what we all aspire to have when we exchange wedding vows and repeat the words, " for better or worse, in sickness and in health"."




Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Breathe In

This morning around 4 a.m. Kenny had me help him turn over on the bed. He turned so he was facing my side and left me little room to squeeze in and find my place spooned against him...my back to his stomach. But I did. I was wide awake by that time and Kenny was right up against me. I could feel him trying to breathe. It seemed so hard for him. Many times he just didn't breathe at all....just holding his breath. I could feel the tension rise in me....the adrenaline pumping...."I need to keep him breathing"! I know he was sleeping because I woke him up when I asked him if he was ok. This way of breathing is no different than any other time, it was just that he was pressed up against me and I could feel every fitful breath. I told myself last night...."one of these days it will happen...he will stop breathing....and if it is tonight....so be it....there is nothing I can do". My adrenaline stopped pumping when I had this "talk" to myself, and right about that time Kenny wanted to turn back to his favored position. He turned, I spooned up against him, and we both fell asleep, finally.

We ended up having a nice day yesterday visiting with Ken's two friends from college. Lunch at Stillwater Bar and Grill, sitting over the 18th green of the Pebble Beach Golf course. The weather was absolutely perfect for outdoor dining. It could not have been anymore perfect...except.

I was sad in the afternoon yesterday. The one thing I have been really grateful about regarding Kenny's ALS is that it he does not and will not have problems with speaking or swallowing. But, I was realizing yesterday, that even though he can speak, it is getting more and more difficult to carry on long conversations. He is fuzzy somewhat. Tires easily. I am finding myself "missing" him more and more.