“Baby I Loved Your Way” (I Wish I Could Channel A Little More Of You Moving Foward…)

There used to be a commercial for a well-known brokerage firm designed to establish trust among the masses.   It always ended with the slogan, “When E.F. Hutton talks people listen!”

 

And that was the very first thing I noticed about you. You had an E.F. Hutton quality. You didn’t say much, but when you did, people listened.

The first time I became fully aware of it was when I introduced you to my very own parents.

It was bizarre.

They didn’t care for any of my previous boyfriends.   And a smattering of promising and potential suitors had trickled in. So I was more than resigned to the fact that there was no way on Earth they were going to tolerate the likes of you.

You had long blonde hair, pulled back into an almost-ponytail that you tucked in under a hat that had the words, “Loaded Zone” emblazoned across the front. To add insult to injury, you refused to remove the hat when you walked into their traditional southern home, because you sufferred from an affliction you referred to as “Hat Hair.”

(Hat Hair was a condition you perpetually claimed to have after you wore a ball cap which, according to you, prevented you from removing the offending cap, causing me to wonder why you wore balł caps to begin with, but I certainly didn’t challenge you much in those days…)

You also wore something on a chain around your neck that I naively assumed was the logo for the popular sports company Adidas, but later learned was a pot leaf. When I eventually discovered what exactly it was you were endorsing, I prayed my parents were oblivious.

It was years later before I realized that since my Dad served in Vietnam, he probably knew. Dad was an Officer and a straight arrow, but apparently unbeknownst to me, he owned an original Cheech & Chong album.

You met my folks in the middle of a south Louisiana summer, sporting a muscle shirt and corduroy Levis.  (You clearly deemed corduroy “seasonless” at age 18.)  You were barefoot, rode up on a motorcycle, spoke maybe 20 words the entire evening, never smiled, couldn’t be troubled to shake my dad’s hand and spared Doris any superfluous compliments on her pot roast.   Nor did you give my parents the least bit of encouragement that you had the slightest interest in their daughter. And yet…

It was love at first sight.

My folks couldn’t wait to see you again!  They were giddy like pre-teen schoolgirls. I swear the next day, they wanted to know if you liked them. They wondered throughout the folowing day if they made a good impression. I suspect poor little Doris obsessed until the day she died that you might’ve found her pot roast a bit dry.

I continued to witness you having this remarkable effect on people your entire life. You had a way about you. It’s something your French ancestors referred to as “JE NE SAIS QUOI!”  Loosely translated it means “something inexplicable.”  One can’t quite put their finger on it.  People can sense power and leadership, but to your credit, you never used your powers for evil.

But, man, I sure did!

And who could blame me? I tapped right into it.  I was a red headed freckle-faced girl, who had never been cool a day in my life; dating you was akin to having a Genie in a bottle. Invoking your name was a slam-dunk way to win any debate.

No one seemed to have the giblets to go against you on anything. I first noticed this little detail way back in the 80s with my Dad. He and I were arguing about something. I don’t even remember what it was.  But, I suddenly blurted out, “Well, Jimmy said blah, blah, blah…”

The next thing you know Dad caved. Maybe not entirely. I don’t remember. He was a force-to-be-reckoned-with back then in his own right. He was around 50 years old, retired military, quite formidable and at the height of his second distinguished and successful career.

My “Jimmy said...” parlor trick continued to served me well through the years in countless ways, on countless people in countless situations.  And I abused it on:

Realtors
Neighbors
Family members
Contractors
The Chief of Neonatology at Children’s

But never was it more effective than when we were raising our small innocent offspring together. Our formula for child-rearing was pretty solid. It was a classic spin-off of the Bad Cop/Good Cop Model, one might liken to Cool Parent/Nerd Parent.

I was the insufferable nerd parent who would never actually ground a child, but rather lectured them for weeks after an infraction. My disciplinary tactics ran the gamut from beseeching to crying to story-telling. I wore ’em slick with anecdotes, song lyrics and inspirational quotes.

And when alł that fluff you referred to as my “Paper Tiger Parenting” style inevitably failed me, I would simply revert back to, “Daddy says…”

It never failed me.  Since you passed, I know for a fact our 5 kids are counting their blessings that they’re mostly “raised.”

We all loved your way.  Every day.

“Je ne sais quoi!”  I never could quite put my finger on it, but I wish I still had the chance to try…

 

 

 

 

“A Total Eclipse Of The Heart” (Going Home Without You, When The Big Easy Was Not So Easy…)

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Tommy’s having big fun in the French Quarter with his Mom, his Mimi and his Great-Aunts….

You know how the freshly-widowed always seem to mention how difficult it is to deal with their husband’s clothes after they’re gone? I guess because the scents and textures remind them so intensely of their dearly departed…

I didn’t actually experience that.  A few days after you died, I ventured into your closet and tried to find you, but you weren’t there.

I couldn’t figure out why.  I went in totally prepared with a gigantic box of tissues. Perhaps it’s because you didn’t smell like anything in particular.  That’s when it occurred to me that you didn’t have a “signature scent.”  You didn’t wear cologne or aftershave like my dad, nor did you have any kind’ve a strong soapy smell.

We both know 20 years immersed in dirty diapers entirely eradicated my sense of smell, but you’d think at the very least I could’ve garnered a whiff of your Safeguard for the Love of God and the emotional moment I was trying to have.

I stood there inhaling and exhaling deeply like I was in a Yoga class or attending one of those Lamaze classes you teased me about.   (You claimed they were pointless because I always ended up begging and pleading for the epidural)  but since there were no epidurals offered during this mourning process, those clever breathing techniques came in clutch.

As for your general attire, you mostly wore black mock-turtlenecks or button-down oxfords, inspiring your young work protégées to lovingly referred to such as the “Jim Uniform.”

You questioned me one day a few months ago whether or not I thought you were “fashionable?” After I chuckled inside a little bit, I assured you that you were the “Clint Eastwood/Al Pacino Type” and your rugged brand of masculinity transcended mere attire.

Basically assuring you that you were so incredibly sexy that no one had a chance to even notice what you were wearing…

So, when the time came, I took a deep breath, marched right into your closet like the brave little woman I am and boxed up all your clothes. Remember what our toddlers used to say?

“I did it all byself!”

I knew you wouldn’t have wanted anyone else in your closet.  I set aside a few things for your boys and then, as you would’ve put it, I “handledup on business.”

But, dude… our Spring Break trip to Louisiana last week – that was a different matter altogether…

From the second I walked off the plane and into the airport in New Orleans, it felt like I was stepping back into YOU.

The Jim-ness was as thick as the humid air down there – you could cut it with a knife.

We crossed over the Bonne Carre Spillway on our way into Baton Rouge. It’s open right now, by the way, to keep the Mississippi River from flooding New Orleans. The water was rushing with focused determination. It had somewhere to go.

(Just like you.)

In fact, the whole place was a remarkable study in contradiction and contrast. Power and urgency VS  laid-back languidity.

(Just like you.)

The entire week was a full-on assault of my senses and my heart.

(Just like you.)

The music and the moss-draped trees

The food and the accents

The purple and the gold

The waterways and your people

The streets over by LSU and on the other side of town by your parents’ house reminded me of all the hours we whiled away when we thought we had all of eternity.  We  just cruised around in your car as teens –  Our old stomping grounds, as they say. Where it all began.

Going nowhere and everywhere at the same time.

When my dad was transferred from Dallas to Louisiana, I was only 15. I crossed the Texas-Louisiana state line in the backseat of my parents’ Cadillac, pouting up a storm.  Entirely unaware my Cajun Prince awaited.   Convinced my life was over.

But, of course, it was only just beginning. I met you about two years later. And, even though we left Louisiana on the day we were married and never officially “lived” there again, it was always your home.

Which, by virtue of unwavering devotion, made it my home.  (See The Book of Ruth 1:16)*

On our last day there, I saw to it that your son made it down to the Quarter for some oysters and seafood gumbo. It cost me $150 in Uber surge fees. Worth every penny.

We took a quick stroll over to the levy to pay our respects to “Old Man River.”  I attempted to turn it into a brief history lesson on the majesty of this fine port city. But it was pretty obvious Louisiana’s significant historical contribution to the trade and commerce of this great nation wasn’t what captured the attention of a 17-year-old-boy in the French Quarter.

I’ll try again in 15 years.

3 hours and $75 Uber dollars later we were sitting on the tarmac waiting for our plane to depart New Orleans International Airport, when I received a text from one of your AllTimeFavorite People.  A buddy of yours who had no idea where I was, rendering his message all the more ironic…

He wanted to know if we had ever heard this song by JJ CALE, an Oklahoma City born singer/songwriter known for a genre called the “Tulsa Sound,”  In this song “Magnolia” he is singing about leaving his baby down in New Orleans.

It’s totally worth a listen:

They call New Orleans “The Big Easy,” and maybe that’s true most of the time. For us, it was a bittersweet homecoming; healing and necessary. But, I could’ve used that box of tissues from your closet and was pretty grateful for my focused and disciplined breathing abilities.

Because you might not have had a “signature scent,” but you definitely had a “signature place” and this time around, it wasn’t all that Easy…

* “I will never leave you. Your home will become my home.  And your people, will be my people. And there, we will dwell all the days of our lives ”   (Ruth 1:16)

“I’m Gonna Love You Like I’m Gonna Lose You” (Our Old Texts Say A Lot About Us…)

Like every married couple, it’s no secret that Jimmy and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on every single thing.

One thing we agreed to disagree on was the best way to die. He considered the way my Dad died nothing short of wonderful and thought the way his Dad died sucked.

It goes without saying that dying sucks no matter the circumstances, but there was always this ongoing debate as to whether it was preferable to know in advance that you were going to die, so that you could bid proper farewells to your loved ones or just “peace-out on-the-fly” as Jimmy put it in his hippie vernacular.

I would often get irritated with Jimmy after my Dad died because he would say,

Oh Man! Your Dad would’ve loved the way he died! He really went out in style!

My Dad died from a massive coronary at the age of 63, one July afternoon in 2001, after playing 18 holes of golf while eating a bowl of seafood gumbo at lunch with my mother – quite literally the three greatest passions of his life.

I always regretted that I did not expect my Dad to die so young and never really got a chance to wrap things up, so to speak. To say a proper good-bye.

Unfortunately, Jimmy’s father wasted away from illness before the very eyes of his loved ones. While Jimmy always agreed there was indeed opportunity for “closure,” it was terribly painful to witness the suffering involved.

I know I’m selfish that I’m so hurt God took my Jimmy when and how He did.  I guess he was God’s Jimmy and not my Jimmy.  But, I know he would never have wanted to be taken from us so soon.

At just 54, we had far too many unrealized dreams.  I know he wanted to float that last baby girl down the aisle. And he wanted to finish raising his sons. He wanted to see more grandchildren born.

He.
Was.
Not.
Done.

Nonetheless, it’s really left me with a lot of unfinished business as I’m sure y’all might imagine.

I lie awake every night and I wonder if I was actually a good wife. I wonder – if I had a crystal ball and I knew that he was going to die so young, would I have doubled down in some key marital areas?  For instance:

-He would’ve gone out to eat every night, but I said “no.” I was always on a diet.
-He would’ve done the hokey-pokey every night. I never said “no,” but sometimes I wore really, really ugly pajamas on purpose.
-He liked to travel, but I complained that it made me motion sick.

You get the picture.

So, the other night I did what any crazy widow – not entirely in her right mind would do – I started scrolling through all of our old texts. I was trying to analyze what kind of wife I was.

I feel like I’m losing perspective. Was I nice? Was I loving? Did I make him happy? Did I “do him well all the days of his life” like Proverbs 31 said I was supposed to?

Maybe our old texts would give me a clue…

I came across the following text and took comfort in the fact that I was schlepping around out there one day trying to get my man some sinus medicine – because we all now it’s kind’ve a pain in the arse. You have to show your ID so they know you’re not running a meth lab.

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But, then I found this one. And it was painfully obvious that he was better to me than I was to him. Not that it was a contest or anything, but Geez…

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9 days before Jimmy was killed

I must admit I was somewhat encouraged when I stumbled across this little gem however…

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It’s pretty stinkin’ endearing and I think it speaks volumes about the depths of our devotion that he thought I was going to ferret out a recipe for something called “baba ganoush” and make it for him.  I’m not sure where he was or who he was with on the 17th of January, but how cute is that? It kind’ve made my heart sing.   Notice my response?

Ohhhh

I don’t know if I was running for the cookbook or Epicurean.com, but what I think matters here and what I’m choosing to focus on, is that he believed I was going to make this concoction.

I can’t remember the last time I did anything meaningful with squash.  But maybe I was going to make that stuff – You really never know with a person like me.  I’m full of surprises and super loving, as evidenced by the sinus medicine effort.

Sometimes I tell myself I shouldn’t have let my children’s father ride that motorcycle  – to the degree a wife really lets her husband do something.  But I do know he loved me so much he wouldn’t have ridden if I had really pressed the matter.

But, like my Dad, he definitely died doing something he passionately loved.   So, all that’s left for me is a lot of time to scroll around for evidence that I loved him like I was gonna lose him…

“You Can Tell Everybody This Is Your Song” (I’m Not One Of Those Who Can Easily Hide, So I’m Going To Face The Music…)

Within a few hours of them letting me know you were gone, my entourage left me alone (for just a second) in my closet to change into my pajamas, when I suddenly experienced just one of the hundreds of epiphanies regarding my forever-changed future…

What about the music?

I’ll never be able to listen to music again.

When you’ve been with someone since you were both 18, every song has a story or a memory attached to it. And of course we loved music together. But, I guess that doesn’t exactly set us apart from other couples. Couples love their music.

That’s because music is almost always about love and relationships.

When we were teenagers, I would always say, “Turn the radio up! Doesn’t this song remind you of us?” And you would do that thing you always did, where you kind’ve cocked your head to the side when you didn’t quite get something. Like why a particular song was OURS.

Eventually you explained to me that you didn’t really listen to song lyrics. I was astonished. You said you liked music for the music.  And then I was confused. You mean the notes? The arrangement of the notes? Who doesn’t listen to the words? It’s just one of the many ways we were different.

Through the years, of course, I forced you to parse many many many songs’ lyrics and meanings with me. I remained convinced every song was OURS

Except for a few of those AC/DC songs you liked.

(I know I always made you turn them off when I hopped in your truck. Guess what? I would let you listen to them now if we could ride in your truck somewhere together just one more time. But isn’t that just the way it goes?)

The thought occurred to me as I buttoned up my pajama top that I’m never going to be able to listen to music again as long as I live.

But then I thought…well…maybe I could just switch over to a genre we had no previous history with. Such as Rap music or Symphony music.  Talk about hugging polar opposite ends of the culture spectrum.

But I would only have to pick one. And neither were likely to make me dissolve into a puddle of tears as I drowned in recollected memories.   Because they would all be songs I’ve never heard before.

But within a few days I came to my senses. I’m not cultured enough for classical and a bit too prissy for rap.

I decided I was just going to delve right back into our stuff headfirst.

Rip the bandaid off.

Full immersion.

No screwing around.

Nothin to it, but to do it.

So I picked out our favorite Motown songs* for the pictorial video we showed at the funeral and have been wading through our catalog of music ever since, for the blog and just life in general.

Do I cry?

Like a baby. But it’s okay. I can’t give up all of our music forever. It would be like giving up US. And I just don’t realistically seeing me turning to rap or the symphonic sound to get my groove on…

But listen to this funny thing that happened to me on my way home from therapy yesterday:

This therapist-guy’s office is right by one of my favorite stores.  So I decided yesterday that if I have to go bare my grief-stricken soul to a veritable stranger on the weekly, the least I could do is treat myself to a little shopping spree.  You would want me to.  I did it for you.

I found some darling pants I liked and decided to try them on, but I could only find them in a size 0. I asked the young sales girl if they had them in a larger size somewhere in the back-stock.

How much larger?” She asked.

Well, let’s start with literally anything larger than a 0 – like a 2 or a 4?  Or perhaps (gasp) a 6!

I went ahead and tried on the 0 because…well… I don’t actually know why.

Could not even get the zipper to budge. Which was discouraging, because there was a time before the friends and neighbors started bringing “comfort food” every night…

As I was peeling them off of me, one of OUR SONGS came on in the dressing room and I started bawling my eyes out. Right about that time the sales girl informed me that they indeed did not have those pants in anything larger, but she went on to inquire  “How are those 0s working out for you?”

I was sobbing.

Audibly.

As I exited the dressing room, I handed her the 0s back with red, swollen, puffy eyes. I thought about explaining that I’d  just lost my husband/best friend but that seemed like a tad too much information.

You could tell she thought I was just extremely overwrought about needing a 2 or a 4. She assured me they were readily available in larger sizes online and shipping was fast and convenient. (As if I didn’t know that – they have my credit card on file, for the love of God.)

But, it’s going to be a long, long time before I can just go venturing about in public subjecting myself to any ol’ random soundtrack the establishment might be playing without running the risk of embarrassing myself.

I did, however, start wondering if bawling your eyes out legitimately burns real calories or if that’s just water weight?   It’s not like I’m crying to get down to a 0 or anything, but if it worked…

*In the interest of full disclosure : Jimmy’s two favorite Motown hits were “Sexual Healing” and “Lets Get It On” by Marvin Gaye, his favorite Motown artist. I’m proud that even in a state of unprecedented shock and bewilderment, I was classy enough to know those were not appropriate for the funeral video.  Doris would’ve been proud of my discretion.

“Hello, It’s Me” (Maybe I Think Too Much, But I’m Seeing You Now More Than Ever In Our Children…)

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I called our oldest son “Jimmy” today.

I don’t know why.  But I can picture a miniature Dr. Freud and a group of Lilliputian Phd candidates wandering around my vacuous brain, peering about and conjecturing on the matter.

The obvious explanation is that he looks exactly like you. Everyone says so. But I really don’t think that’s why I called him the name of his doppelgänger, dearly departed father.

I think it was the all-too-familiar verbal dynamic that was taking place at the moment.

It was the feeling of trying to persuade a guy with an entirely male perspective about something from an entirely female perspective. That’s something that happened around here with ongoing regularity between me and you, so I merely got confused for a second.

My mind slipped into an old familiar gear.

I was earnestly and emphatically trying to explain my unique point of view on a particular matter to James and I thought there was a slight chance he might not be agreeing with me, so in a semi-amused state of frustration I shouted,

JIMMY!”

We were both immediately and momentarily stunned. Like the time I waded-into-that-icy-creek-in-Montana-stunned.

Tommy was sitting there too because he had been enjoying the show up until that point. (Everyone knows younger siblings will find a way to sit down in the room and make themselves cozy if they think there might be even a glimmer of fireworks between an older sibling and a parent.)

Tommy immediately squeezed my hand.

I teared up. Then I remembered that thing James used to do when he was a tiny boy and smiled despite my tears…

Every time he wanted to tell YOU something, or ME something or BOTH of us something, he would walk up to us and wait patiently until he had our attention (we worked hard to teach our children not to interrupt adults.) And then, when he was sure he had whichever (or both) parent(s) attention, he would introduce himself as though we didn’t know who he was. He always said,

It’s Me, James!”

And then he would go about showing you whatever he had crafted out of play dough or Legos or show you a trick he had mastered or ask for juice or whatever…

But no matter what it was he wanted or how recently he had just spoken to you previously, even if it had just been minutes earlier, he would re-introduce himself anew with each verbal exchange…

It’s Me, James! Can I go outside to play?”

“It’s Me, James! Yook what I can do!”

“It’s Me, James! Come yook at what I painted on the wall for you!”

Photo.

I can remember having friends over who would witness this bizarre behavior and their facial expressions always registered a peculiar type of puzzlement. Which honestly is kind’ve dumb because anyone who has ever met a toddler knows their minds are just complicated little machines.

Nonetheless, we both found it mildly embarrassing, remember?

We would make every attempt to trivialize it, confidently reassuring our friends, “We know who he is. We just think that maybe he, (because we have so many children) well…he isn’t entirely convinced. And he feels like he needs to introduce himself properly and formally each time he addresses us, so there is no confusion as to which of our offspring he is – children being in such relative abundance around here…”

But we do know.  Of course we do.  How could we forget?  He is James. Our firstborn son.

But today I forgot for a second. I thought he was you.

But in all fairness to me, I have to tell you how your sons have really stepped up to the plate these past 4 weeks. (Is that a baseball analogy? I know how much you love it when I use sports analogies to drive my points home.) They have both stepped into your intimidatingly large Marlborough Man shoes and done everything they could possibly do at the tender ages of 17 and 20 to make you proud.

Honey, we are getting so much figured out. You wouldn’t believe the man-things we do on the reg these days.  Big time testosterone-infused activities. Involving the likes of pool cleaners, Kelly blue book values, car titles, septic tanks, taxes. If you can see us right now wherever you are, I know you are shaking your head in bewilderment.

There’s no way you’re not up there wondering where in the heck all this initiative and wherewithal was when you were alive…we were just holding back out of deference to the Alpha Male!

One of your favorite lectures (and you had many) was called, “The Awareness and Participation Speech.” You were constantly in an uproar at the lack of these two fine American qualities you considered essential, yet lacking in Today’s Youth. You were convinced they disappeared with your generation. But your sons have dug deep and are exhibiting these traits. Apparently, they were there all along, just lying dormant?

Your boys are actually going to be exactly the men you wanted them to be. I would give anything for you to see. They are home every weekend tending to my every need, taking me to church, rolling the trash cans up and down the driveway without your admonishment, hugging me tons and just taking care of their mom in general.

The thing is – they are just exactly like you.

Maybe that’s the real reason James felt like he needed to introduce and distinguish himself way back when and why I’m inadvertently calling our boys by your name these days.

“Love Look What You’ve Done To Me” (Leaving Me To Feel This Way…)

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I don’t even know how to tell you this – so I’m just going to blurt it right out:

DO NOT FREAK, but…

I went to see a therapist yesterday.

I know.

I know.

I know.

You are so irritated. If people can even get irritated in Heaven or Purgatory or wherever God has stashed you for the time-being.

I guess if you’re in Heaven, it’s possible you’re smiling indulgently, but if you’re in Purgatory – trying to wrap up some loose ends – then I bet you’re having a cow.

But calm down.   I called and checked first –  I think insurance pays for some of it. (Therapy, not Purgatory.)

In the 33 years we were married and over the course of raising 5 kids, there were certainly more than a few times we encountered a little marital strife. And since my default mode is always “drama first” I might’ve calmly screamed on occasion, “We’re getting counseling!”

And you would immediately become resistant and entirely unhinged at the mere suggestion of outside intrusion into the sacred sanctity of your marriage, (per all men from your generation.) I don’t know if it is the $175 an hour therapists charge or the idea of telling your personal business to a total stranger – probs both.

To be entirely honest, you know I never actually had any intention of going to a Marriage Counselor either, I just liked throwing that threat in your face like a glass of icy cold water when I was frustrated with you. It was endlessly entertaining.

Anyway, whenever I “went there,” you would always shake your head in mock dismay and say,

Who are the two smartest people we know?”

And I would reluctantly sigh,

We are…”

And then you would say, “So who is best qualified to solve our problems?”

And I would reluctantly sigh, “We are…” 

And that was that. End of discussion. We would work together to find the high road of compromise to solve whatever was the matter with our relationship at the moment – money, sex, bratty children or the king-of-all-marital-woes… dry cleaning.

But this situation does seem a little more serious.

Everyone keeps insisting  I need to find a Grief Counselor. I keep saying “No Thank You.”

We Blanchards solve our own problems.  Amiright?

Remember that one Sunday we made our children all go upstairs and watch “Urban Cowboy?” Remember how hard we tried to get them to relate to Bud and Sissy?* How incredibly immature the two lead characters were throughout the entire movie, but how devoted they were to each other in the end and they got back together because all they really needed was their love and commitment to each other?

They didn’t need no stinkin counselor! They just needed those license plates in the back window that said “Bud” and “Sissy” to confirm things. Our kids rolled their eyes and suffered through the movie, but you could tell they couldn’t wait for it to be over and thought we were nuts for forcing them to watch it.

Anyway…a person you really respect and admire sent me a link to a highly regarded local Grief Therapist. Honestly Honey, he’s straight out of “Central Casting.” He looks just like a therapist from a movie set – he even wears a cardigan. I thought he was going to pull out a pipe and smoke it during our session. (So glad he didn’t on account of my allergies.)

I made sure he understood I wasn’t there for myself, per se. I assured him I was nailing it in the widow department (the strongest woman everyone knows) and was merely there “vetting” him for our children’s sake. He wasn’t buying it. Not one bit.

He thinks I’m grieving the loss of you pretty hard.

I tried to explain to him what a wonderful father you were to our kids, so that he could get a handle on the extreme depth of their loss. You know – just so he would know what he was about to be up against.

If he agreed to take our kiddos on.

I told him how you would make Tommy’s coffee every morning and start his car so it would be warm and running when he was ready to leave for school. And how I’m having to get up earlier in the mornings to pick up the slack and fill in all these “nurturing gaps” you left in our kids’ lives when you died.

But then it started to sound like you were a wee bit of a Saint. And I thought we needed to go for a more balanced representation. I didn’t want him to get the wrong impression. So I started to emphasize how strict you were.

I said, “Oh don’t get me wrong! He could be mean!”

He asked me for a few examples of your meaness and so I attempted to give him some.

You know what he had the nerve to say next?

He said, “I’m really not hearing ‘meanness,’ it just sounds like your late husband had some really positive and effective boundaries…”

I was flabbergasted.

Mainly because I had really tried to lead with my most effective arsenal of negative stuff I had against you. But unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) it all appeared to this supposedly unbiased Mental Health Professional that you had a reasonable and rational approach to relationships. You would’ve loved it, because of course that’s what you always maintained.

Now I’m starting to think that if you had actually ever called my bluff and dragged me off to a marriage counselor, I might’ve come out on the losing side of the arrangement.

After my experience the other day I’m starting to think our  potential “Marriage Counselor” might have implied I was the problem and suggested implementing some positive changes I could’ve made.

Dude – that might’ve had been the best $175 an hour you ever spent. Improvements for Sissy.

And then the next thing this guy did was pull out his calendar and schedule me for another appointment in 3 days!   Like I’m some Woman-in-Crisis-Mode.

So Love, look what you’ve done to me…

It’s like this guy just didn’t get it, no matter how many times I explained it – I was simply there for the children. You know – to help them cope.

*One of the greatest ironies of parenting is that we spend so much time trying to get our kids to appreciate the movies and music of our generation. Jimmy and I loved “Urban Cowboy.”   It came out the year we met.   Although we were Rock fans and neither of us ever learned to two-step, we lived in Houston 3 times and made some of our very dearest babies, friends and memories there.   The best part of “Urban Cowboy” is when Boz  Scaggs sings “Love Look What You’ve Done To Me.” That song says it all. Pure genius. We slow danced to it often.

“No More Lonely Nights” (When Your Plans Don’t Quite Work Out The Way You Intended…)

Less than a month ago – straight out of the clear blue sky – you announced you were going to, “Go the way of Paul McCartney…”

I don’t think there’s another soul on Earth who would have instinctively, intuitively and instantly understood the shorthand of your meaning when you said that, but I immediately knew.

We picked up on the finer subtleties of each other’s nuances for 35 years in the way that couples do. I knew exactly what you meant. Darn it – we could’ve won a lot of money on a game show.

You went on to explain yourself anyway…

I don’t want to spend anymore nights away from you.”

You were tired of traveling with your job. You loved your work, but half of the restaurants you supervised were in other cities and you were weary of spending too many lonely nights at The Holiday Inn Express saying good-night over the phone.

You said you’d been thinking about it and you just didn’t believe in it. Not anymore. Not for us anyway. “Life is too short,” you said.

We had often discussed the great love affair and devotion that former Beatle Paul McCartney had for his wife, Linda Eastman McCartney. Rumor has it that the couple only ever spent one night apart – when Paul was incarcerated prior to his Japan tour for drug possession charges.

We were intrigued by their rare devotion to one another. Exceptional among celebrities.

We also discussed on many occasions how prophetically ironic it was that Paul was so committed to her since he could never have known she was destined to die so tragically and unforeseeably young from breast cancer.

Not long after you made your proclamation, you arranged for the promotion of someone younger you trusted within the company to take over those restaurants that required travel, even if that meant sacrificing a little of your influence and power in the workplace.

I was surprised and yet not at all surprised. I know you were at a point in your career where you felt like you had earned the right and had nothing left to prove.

That was just a few weeks ago. We were so close to our “McCartney Plan.”  We could almost reach out and touch it.  Gracie even gifted us with a Paul and Linda McCartney Coffee Table Book for Christmas, which will forever remind me of how our love story was so similar and parallel to theirs.

Back when you traveled, you’d often fuss at me when you arrived home to find I had turned the air conditioner setting on full-blast and then plugged in our heating pad and placed it on your side of the bed to pose as my PROXY YOU over there radiating pretend body heat to keep me warm.

But I was just so accustomed to you keeping me warm and secure at night.

Our kids always got entirely grossedout when I told people in public that you and I slept curled up around each other like a litter of newborn kittens.   They were particularly offended when we referred to ourselves as spooners

Remember our first apartment? We couldn’t afford a bed AND a couch so we had a twin bed that we set up to look like a couch with throw pillows on it by day and then we slept on it at night. So basically, we slept together in a twin bed the first three years we were together.

My mom, who had the gift of prettying things up with language, called it a “Studio Bed” And, didn’t we think that sounded so chic and sophisticated?

Most of our friends were surprised we never graduated to a King sized bed all those years we were married, but I remember it like it was yesterday when we finally moved up to a Queen.

I was kind’ve sad about it.

And I think we only finally relented to the ‘call of the Queen mattress’ because all our darn kids insisted upon sleeping with us. We were constantly waking up with a toddler’s toe jammed inside one of our nostrils.

Anyway… I really miss you curled up around me now.  It’s truly unbearable at night. So I hope you don’t mind, but I’m running the air conditioner at full blast in February and I’m setting up my makeshift “Heating Pad Hubby” on your side of the bed.

He doesn’t snore.

He doesn’t get inadvertently tangled up in my hair.

He doesn’t reach out for me in his sleep for a snuggle.

I’m fairly resigned that he will never croon “Baby I’m Amazed,” in my ear.

But, he does his bit to generate a little heat from your side of the bed which almost works to fool me in my sleep that maybe you are still there beside me…