September is such a back-to-school kind of month, and I love that we’re never too old to learn.
There will be no John C. Campbell Folk School for me this year, but I’m determined to get back there. I absolutely loved it. Click here for their website. For now I’m staying local, and I have signed up for a slew of Osher classes for this fall semester: six weeks of photography, six weeks of watercolor, thirteen weeks of poetry classes, three weeks on food and culture, as well as my ongoing weekly French lessons. Plus there are occasional poetry or other writing workshops online that I take, so I’m staying busy. A few overlap, but some start as others finish, so I’m hoping it’s all manageable. Guess we’ll see! Either way I’m raring to go and most are on Zoom, so no annoying traffic!
The only class that has already started is a poetry class with Veronica Patterson. Sweetgrass was mentioned in one of the poems, which immediately had me thinking of our time in Charleston and on Folly Beach, during our year of adventure, both the perfection of the sweetgrass baskets and the beauty of nature we saw every day on our beach walks.
I’m also remembering all the road trips with Pascale and Jacky and how Pascale always had planned everything so perfectly and had all the guidebooks with all the information. Jacky drove us tirelessly–with David in 2013, many times in 2014, and even 2017 during his last trip to France.
I don’t even know where to begin to add links for those, so either check out the France category or you could start by clicking the dates above. But their generosity didn’t end there. When I came for the first time on my own, in 2019, we took an extended trip to Bretagne and to several other places I haven’t even told you about yet. Everywhere we went, Pascale was either fully informed or had the guidebook open teaching us as she learned. I love spending so much time with people who stay curious.
Makes me think also of Beckett and all he’s learning these days. He’s counting and singing and learning new words. A few weeks ago, I was babysitting, and at the time specified by his parents, tried to get him into bed. He was having none of it. Instead he squirmed away, giggling, but insisting, “I read! I read! I read! I read!” while grabbing more books. This was after nearly an hour in which we had already been reading. That kid is after my own heart.
Reminds me of one of my favorite photos of David with Bailey and Felicity just over ten years ago.
Nothing more cozy than reading together with children.
Here’s wishing you never-ending curiosity, many opportunities to learn new things, and the great good fortune to occasionally settle in a comfy chair and read to a child.
Brittany and Andy have now been married just over a month, so marriage is on my mind.
They are so good together, which I love to see whenever I stay with them for a few days to help Brittany during chemo. She’s just finished her last round, so we are celebrating that (while trying not to think of the radiation to come).
I’m missing David so sharply again, after I’d thought the pain of loss had dulled a bit for good.
But I am still profoundly grateful for all the years we had together.
Today, the 29th, marks exactly five years since the oncologist confirmed that David’s cancer was terminal, and that’s hitting harder than I expected. Also, as much fun as the wedding was, there were definite challenges that he would have navigated so much better than I did.
So I’m thinking about marriage today. Not always easy, I know . . . .
The following is something I originally wrote for a marriage course offered at our church early this year. I suppose these principles could — to a certain degree — apply to all close relationships, so I hope it speaks to you, whatever your current situation. Here it is slightly revised today:
Thoughts on Marriage from the Other Side
It’s an odd place to be, having been married for nearly forty years, but now no longer part of that set, the coupled. David used to tease me – before we knew it would turn out to be prophetic – that I didn’t need him, that I’d be fine on my own as long as I had a good book, a cup of tea or a glass of wine, a comfy chair by the fire. He wasn’t wrong, exactly. I have survived and even occasionally thrived during these past three years since he’s been gone. But as my daughter Brittany once told me, she, too, is fine on her own, but the fact is, her life is better with Andy (her husband) in it. And my life was better with David in it.
Our marriage wasn’t an obvious success story in the making, at the beginning, marrying at 20 (David was 26), just shy of six months after we met, but we shared a strong faith, and by the grace of God, we grew closer and closer over the years. There were certainly difficult times, even a few nearly hopeless times, but those are stories for another day. Here’s what I wish I’d known and done when I was in the middle of it.
First, I wish I’d realized how fleeting the days are, that the time is up way before you feel ready. I wish I had properly valued togetherness years earlier. Respecting the need for solitude, but coming back together regularly to share hopes, fears, dreams. Fortunately, we did eventually get that right. Once I overheard a group of couples, not long after David’s passing, joking about how annoying the retirement of a spouse would be, having the other always underfoot. “For life, but not for lunch,” was the joke. Maybe this was not reflecting real feelings, and certainly change can be difficult, but oh, I wanted to say – and maybe I did – Savor. Every. Moment.
Second, I wish I’d had enough confidence in myself to let David be David, to celebrate him as he was, to let him say what he wanted, to make whatever mistakes he was going to make, without feeling I had to correct him. So he was not always great with details. So he remembered or told a story differently than I would have. So what? No one cared. All my contradicting did was corrode our unity a bit every time it happened. It served no good purpose. I was only beginning to learn that, and then he was gone.
Finally, I wish I’d made it a personal goal to give more than I received – no small task with a grand giver like David – rather than so often keeping score, policing “fairness,” whatever that even means. My biggest regrets – and I don’t say that lightly – my most tormenting regrets, are every remembered moment of selfishness. Sometimes I watch International House Hunters on HGTV, where very often it’s a married couple who’s searching for lodging in a far-flung locale. I love the armchair travel, but it stabs me every time I see someone claiming, without a moment’s hesitation, the best closet or otherwise demanding his or her own way, especially those who proudly announce they always get what they want. I recognize myself too well in those words. By the grace of God, I was allowed to give back to David as his caretaker in his final sixteen months. Those may have been the best months of my life.
I have no doubt relationships in these COVID times are challenging, especially if solitude is hard to find. Admittedly, for at least twenty of our nearly forty years, we had space to spread out. For us the danger was going our own way, doing our own thing, without touching base. Even as recently as 2015, when we were newly back from our year of adventure, we slipped briefly into a pattern where we would spend our days working in separate rooms, then drift to other activities, without any time actually speaking to each other. Fortunately, wise man that he was, David soon suggested that every evening at 5 p.m., we grab our beverage of choice, and sit and talk. He would ask questions like, “What’s the best thing that happened to you this week?” or “What would you change about your life if you could?” or “What are you learning from God these days?” Sometimes we just played “Name That Tune” with the music on an oldies station and reminisced about days gone by. Being intentionally together was all that mattered, and what a relationship builder it was. I treasure the memories. His cancer was diagnosed late August 2016, and he was gone two days after Christmas 2017.
So, although I am no longer married, I wanted to share this bit of perspective with those who are. As you navigate this grand adventure together, I hope you savor every moment. I hope you celebrate each other and selflessly give to one another. I really don’t think you’ll regret it. God be with you.
Full disclosure: the final wedding tasks were NOT completed in a calm and efficient manner, but most were eventually completed and Brittany and Andy are now married! Woo-hoo! So many people made this possible, we’re just beginning to try to communicate the magnitude of our gratitude.
On this, David’s birthday, where we remember him and miss him as much as ever, let’s focus for a minute on this grand cause for celebration. The colors they (Brittany?) chose — tropical blues and flaming sunset colors — were absolutely stunning. Here are a few early preview shots from the photographer, Mark Ducharme.
All the creative touches they wanted happened.
Beckett found a girlfriend, Baby Ruth (photos by her dad, Craig Burke):
There were challenges, of course, since this is real life. Brittany and I had a few laughs navigating the rugged stone steps in high heels:
And Brittany ended up in the E.R. the next day for a while, but that’s a story for another day. The entire thing was absolutely beautiful and celebratory.
I’m inaugurating a new category this month: Celebrations. Woo-hoo! The imminent major celebration is the wedding, of course, and plans and projects are ramping up to an increasingly stressful pace, but things are getting done.
Brittany has endured four of her six rounds of chemo and still has hair, although it is certainly thinner than usual, but at least she won’t have to wear a hot wig for her July wedding at Lake Sunapee. That is a big plus and we are all grateful. Even with her low-energy days and a long daily commute for Andy, they are still dreaming big. I try to help where I can. I’m confident it will be a wonderful celebration, even in the midst of all the challenges and missing many we wish could be there with us.
So much fun. As usual his attention span outlasted ours. 😉
And I’m celebrating daily my diminishing responsibilities for helping the new owners of my business ramp up to complete independence from me. This has allowed me to ramp up my daily writing. I have a few projects in the works and have even submitted a few poems to various local contests, so we’ll see where that goes (if anywhere). A lot of writing is for the writer, but let’s be honest, writers also write to be read.
where final wedding preparations will be handled calmly and efficiently (hahaha, just kidding, but we can dream). Whatever gets done or gets left undone, they should be married by about 5:00 p.m. July 24th, so the end is in sight. As I know I’ve mentioned somewhere in these posts, David and I had the lamest wedding in the history of the world, but it got the job done and the marriage was increasingly amazing with the passing years. So however the day goes, that is what I hope for Brittany and Andy. And you, too, if you are married or about to be. Can’t wait to ramp up the celebrating!
Here’s wishing (and hoping and praying) for a bright future for us all!