Lemons? Squeeze!

Just when I thought I couldn’t make any more lemonade from the lemons that landed in my juicer, encouragement from casual acquaintances has rejuvenated me.

All along, family and longtime friends have been supportive as Peter and I struggled along the hellish road paved with plaques and neuro-tangles. He is largely unaware that support is even needed, but I’ve welcomed every kind word, every smile, every hug, note, email or call. I’ve been surprised—no, amazed—by the helpful ideas and kindnesses from the pharmacist, Peter’s helpers Mark and Bill, the courtesy van driver, the mailman, the waiter, Nobby’s groomer, and from my daughters’ friends and colleagues, many of whom I don’t know.

Even though their main concern is for Peter, nearly all ask how I’m doing. Do you mind coming home to an empty house? one asks. Are you afraid in the evenings, asks another. Is it hard to eat alone? someone else wonders. How do you do all the things it took two of you to do before?

Actually, no, I don’t mind coming home to an empty house, no, I’m not afraid in the evenings, no, I don’t have a problem eating alone, and in reality, I’ve been taking care of the things we shared for a long time. Oh, I wish I didn’t have to deal with the taxes, or take care of the bills, or remember to get gas for the car and the lawnmower, or decide how much or how little to buy at the grocery.

My husband’s slow, ten-year decline forced me to get used to the idea that there was no way back. These past five years the downward tack has been more rapid and way worse.

In truth, I’ve been practicing to be a widow most of my adult life. I was a divorced mom with two young daughters in my thirties. Peter and I were in our early forties when he finally agreed to marriage—he dragged his feet for seven years. We’d never lived together, nor even in the same town, so marrying again took some getting used to for both of us. We were both married to GE too. He traveled a lot, but my job was local so I came home every night and walked the dog. Fred didn’t talk much but he was a nice companion.

Because I retired 10 years before Peter, I was still on my own most of the time. His travel schedule never eased, but I was fine working from home with Fred and new puppy named Decker for company.

But, when Peter retired he hadn’t forgotten I’d promised we could move back south. And suddenly we were together All The Time. No longer could I have what he dubbed “twigs and berries” for lunch, or pasta tossed with black olives, fresh tomatoes and fresh Parmesan for dinner. No, it was meatandpotatoes every evening. Home Together.

He spent days cycling, woodworking, gardening, puttering. I continued to read, write, garden and, a newfound luxury, lunch with friends. If we were home at noon, he worked a crossword puzzle while I read a book. At dinner we talked a bit, but chatters we are not.

Now, again, we don’t live together. I know it’s easier for me than for him. I’m in the same place—home—while he’s in a strange new environment that will never feel like home no matter how hard I try to make it seem so. He’s still as solitary as he ever was and so am I. The upside, and there is one, we talk more now than we ever did, we laugh as much, and the “lovey-dovey” stuff, Peter’s term, has returned. I visit four or five days a week, and I’m greeted with bear hugs and squeezes. Even though the situation isn’t good, and the reason for it is horrible, it isn’t as bad as it could be.

2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist. screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-10-14-53-am

21 thoughts on “Lemons? Squeeze!

  1. So love reading these personal treasures and trials that you so willingly share. Privacy is very important and I’ll always respect it. But sharing such stories can only help us have empathy for those we meet day to day. You never know what someone’s been through when you run into strangers. You never know who you’re talking’ to, so to speak. Thank you so much.

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  2. Your stories are precious. Thank you for sharing. I smile about his place never being home. My
    Mom always asked when she was going home. We brought up her tv to the “home” but she never could figure out the remote. The maintenance man was kind but I am sure tired of fixing Stephanie’s tv. Finally I got a simple remote😀nd taped up the buttons not to touch. Helped a bit ! Oye. Stay strong ! Amy

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    • Mark solved the remote problem, but no one has figured out how to stop him unplugging the tv and cable every night…yet.

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      • Yes, all his walking over these last years have surely kept him in good physical health. Of course now he wants to walk more and further than he’s ‘allowed.’

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  3. Loved hearing you get more hugs and kisses now than before. There can never be enough hugs. I am shocked to learn you are not a chatter…you share such amazing stories!

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    • Thank you, Lyn. I’m more of a listener, not a chatter. I took a page from my dad’s book. He didn’t talk much either and always said of himself, “Someone has to listen.”

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  4. What a gift you have to express the ups and downs of your life from those days in Harrisonburg to the NY tundra and back to beautiful Virginia. You and Peter have a unique way of staying afloat despite the waves that have come your way (this Math major just surprised herself with that description 😉). Hugs to you both!

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  5. Such honest, inciteful disclosures! You avoid the trite phrases that elicit pity and get to the heart of this very complex life we lead. It’s pure generosity and what’s more, you are gifted. Thank you!
    Mary Ann

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  6. You were a wonderful roomie, too, Judy, and so glad we’ve kept in touch for 6 decades—and counting! Your strength and courage throughout all your ups and downs of life are a constant inspiration to me. It’s that sturdy Ohio constitution, we were blessed to grow up there – and then! 💕 cj

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    • Thanks, CJ. There is that Ohio thing, isn’t there? The good ol’ days…Scott Quad…hanging out that window…;-)

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  7. Thrilled to hear about the lovey- dovey stuff, Judy, that’s the most missed, so enjoy every hug and kiss. btw back in our youth, in England, the new fangled tv was always unplugged at night, after the National Anthem – too much danger of the house going up in flames. Just a thought! xx

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    • Jean, you’re brilliant! I’ll bet that has something to do with his unplugging every night! He’d started unplugging things here back in the winter…coffeemaker, toaster (even when I’d just put bread into it, electric kettle, etc. Now, my dear, can you explain his packing up all his clothes, sheets and towels etc. Yesterday everything tied up with a green and pink ribbon that had been on a box of chocolates Leslie gave him for Father’s Day. Apart from the obvious reason, of course, that he wants the heck outta there.

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