Category Archives: Home is Where the Heart Is

Thoughts on Marriage

Brittany and Andy — July 2021

Brittany and Andy have now been married just over a month, so marriage is on my mind.

Brittany and Andy – October 2020

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.

David — October 2016
David at Sunapee, July 2014, the middle of our year of adventure

But I am still profoundly grateful for all the years we had together.

On Île d’Aix with Pascale and Jacky – June 2014

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 . . . .

In France with David, May 2017

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.

April Showers

Yesterday was a rare, welcome rainy day. Drought is a recurrent issue here in Colorado, so as much as I generally prefer sunny days, I loved it. Everything is now so green and beginning to bloom. It really feels like spring is here to stay. Yes, I know we can get freak storms this time of year, like the two feet of snow we had mid-March that did so much damage to the trees and very helpfully revealed a leak in my roof — yippee. My plan is to enjoy each glorious day and not worry about tomorrow. We’ll see how that goes!

One excellent day was Easter Sunday, when I went over to Chelsea and Brian’s backyard (after virtual church — still not going in person quite yet) to watch Beckett’s first Easter egg (etc.) hunt. The adults had shorter attention spans than he did. We kept wanting him to find the next thing, and he wanted to enjoy what he’d already found. Hmmm. There’s a lesson there somewhere. . . .

Beckett’s first Easter egg hunt 2021
How dare he sit and read his new book!
Not a baby anymore!

Another stellar day was Saturday the 10th of April, when Brittany drove up from Denver and we met on Chelsea’s driveway to sample some mocktails, to add options for the wedding weekend.

Brittany explaining the various flavor profiles to us, but mostly enjoying the perfect day
Chelsea enjoying the sun while Beckett enjoys – er, yum? – chewing on a lemon
Beckett getting into the spirit of driveway drinks and yes, that’s the dogs’ bowl

And today, now that I’m fully vaccinated (including the two weeks post-second shot), I actually got to hug my grandson without wearing a mask. Woo-hoo!

Beckett demonstrating that “The Wheels on the Bus” go round and round

So it hasn’t all been rain. It never is here, of course, but sometimes life feels a bit like unending metaphorical rain, with all the challenges so many have been facing for more than a year now. Brittany has just started chemo, so there’s that, but I’m now semi-retired and able to help her more than I could have a few months ago. And I’m going to try to learn from this little one.

He’s choosing happy

No, I probably won’t be sucking on a lemon anytime soon and definitely won’t be drinking out of a dog’s bowl, but I’m going to try to remember to enjoy what I have without always looking for the next thing. And I’m going to choose happy whenever I can. I hope the same for you. If that’s not possible right now, hang in there. I pray you feel the peace and comfort of God and that you find bright moments of joy to sustain you, even if the rain is pouring down. You’re in my heart.

I love hearing from you, so please do comment or reach out to me in some way if you can. I miss my people! Hope to see you soon.

David Keeps Giving

In case you haven’t heard, my family has been hit with another cancer diagnosis, but fortunately this one has an excellent prognosis, thanks in no small part to David.

David and Brittany 30 September 2016

Brittany was diagnosed, not quite two weeks ago, with invasive ductile carcinoma — breast cancer, fortunately still stage I. The doctors say it is fast growing, with 94% of the biopsied cancer cells in the act of duplicating, so they aren’t messing around. Surgery will be this Wednesday, what Brittany is calling “out with the old and in with the new” — a double mastectomy and reconstruction all in one go. She doesn’t yet know if post-op chemo will be required, but overall we are very optimistic. (Updates on CaringBridge.)

David and Brittany 1985 or 86

David comes into it because it is nearly certain Brittany would never have discovered this fast-growing cancer in time, young as she still is, but due to David’s cancer and subsequent genetic testing, we learned that he and Brittany shared the same BRCA2 gene mutation, so she has had careful screening ever since. If you knew David, you know he would have laid down his life without hesitation for any one of his girls. That’s just who he was. In a way, it seems he did. 

So even out of the ashes of loss and in the face of current uncertainty, we are grateful. For the warning Brittany received, certainly, but also for who he was and how he continues to impact our lives. I still often hear his words of wisdom, his perspective-shifting observations, even his slow teasing, “How’s . . . that . . . tea?” when it’s obvious I’ve let it grow cold in the mug yet again. Poor beverage management, he called it. How he could make us smile. He still does.

I think Brittany got her sense of humor from him, and it is serving her well at the moment. Here’s an old favorite shot of the two of them, matching dimples and all.

Brittany and her Papa – 1988  I’m guessing

And a few more, just because . . . 

Brittany and David – Disneyland – September 1988
Chelsea, Brittany and David at the top of Trail Ridge Road – 1991
Sunapee 1986 – Brittany holding the treasured Campfire marshmallows
Mexico 1996
David, Courtney and Brittany – Sunapee – September 1986

What a dad. What a man. 

At first I was thinking I should apologize for the poor quality of these ancient snapshots, but who cares?  They’re just place holders for the real memories, flashcards that bring up not only the facts of our shared life, but also a deep resonance of togetherness that doesn’t end when life on earth ends. How I thank God for that! 

*I promise to pass along any messages of support for Brittany you leave in the comments. Or you can look for her page on CaringBridge.org. Your thoughts and prayers are — and will continue to be — very much appreciated. 

Endings and Beginnings

I’m sure we’re all quite ready to see the end of 2020. The challenges and even heartbreaks and tragedies have seemed never-ending. But there is a very real possibility that 2021 will be better, even if not immediately, so I’m hopeful about the coming days. Mostly, I savor every good thing I can find: waking in a warm bed to sunshine and blue skies, funny texts from the girls, phone calls from friends, music that makes me dance around the house, a full moon rising over the trees out back, memories of my beloved David that make me smile more than cry most days, . . .

David and Sunny on the Ski Train (a bazillion years ago)
David and Sunny — On our way to France for the first time — September 2011

Like many, I’m still physically isolated nearly all the time, although I do make the occasional quick dash to the least busy grocery I know. Today I took the many accumulated empty wine bottles to the recycling center and it was mobbed. Everyone was masked and politely keeping appropriate distance, but it was kind of fun to be among actual human beings, even in that limited way.  I do have the occasional book club on Microsoft Teams,  French lessons on Skype, poetry classes and family happy hours on Zoom, so I am VERY grateful for the technology that makes those connections possible.  

And after some conscientious limiting of contacts, I had the opportunity to keep Beckett overnight a few weeks ago, which, let’s be honest, reminded me there’s a reason people have children while young. Yikes. Non-stop energy, but so much fun:

My house is not dangerous, but it certainly is not childproofed. Beckett got to practice NOT touching things…. . . with varying degrees of success . . .

Fortunately flameless flickering faux-candles!
Socially-distanced Christmas dinner

Christmas was different this year, of course. A socially-distanced dinner with Brittany and Andy, a masked gift exchange at Chelsea and Brian’s, texts and phone calls, but a lot of time alone, including the three-year anniversary of David’s passing. Still. Not all bad. 

In the midst of it all, I am grateful for new beginnings:  new books to read (as well as old favorites), new art supplies (thanks, Mom), a new jigsaw puzzle to do (thanks, Brittany), new wine to drink or save for a brighter day (thanks, Courtney and Chelsea), new poetry to write in my new OSHER poetry classes which begin again in February, new French conversations to have with my friend and tutor, Natacha (can’t wait to surprise Pascale and Jacky with my improved French when I finally get back to France), . . . Meanwhile, Natacha keeps me supplied with gorgeous photos of France. Here’s a recent one she sent me of La Rochelle (Merci, Natacha !)

La Rochelle – December 2020 – photo by Natacha

Here’s wishing you joy in new beginnings and hope for a 2021 filled with peace, love, safety, health and all good things. Bless you, dear ones!