After our tour of Bretagne, it was time to give Pascale and Jacky back their own space. We returned to La Rochelle on Sunday the 26th of May. I was moving into Le Patio on Tuesday, so Monday we had a chance for a long walk around Les Minimes, the larger beach and port of La Rochelle.
It was blustery but sunny and we walked all the way out to the end overlooking the new port and the channel into the vieux port.
A channel is absolutely necessary, because here when the tide goes out, it goes OUT.
So I’m now on the other side of the port. It used to be about 10 minutes by car, but now much of the central part of town is restricted to buses, bikes and pedestrians, and it’s a LONG way round by car. I can walk to Pascale and Jacky’s in about 40 minutes, with lots of people watching on the way. They pick me up for adventures involving luggage or events happening on my side and beyond, like our day on Île de Ré (next post).
This, by the way, is NOT where I’m staying, as you know if you read the first Bretagne post. But this gorgeous place IS in my neighborhood, only about a block away, so I walk by it all the time. Most houses come right up to the narrow sidewalk, but a few have a bit of garden in front. It’s more common to save the garden for the private space in back. Still there are lots of tall roses trémières (hollyhocks) growing up from the tiniest cracks where the pavement meets the walls. Excellent reminder to never give up.
David and I used to love the huge marché in the center of town. We rented an apartment about three doors down from it the last time we were here in May of 2017. This year I walk around the corner and inland a few blocks to the cutest little grocery, about the size of my kitchen at home and not much larger than my kitchen here, actually. But it has everything I need, including all the fancy French cheeses, a surprisingly sizable wine selection, produce so amazing I’m always tempted to buy more than I need, and dozens of fascinating little jars of soups and sauces and who knows what.
I treat the place like a museum. I spend so much time perusing, eventually someones asks me if I need help. I don’t. I’m just enjoying myself too much to leave.
So like the roses trémières and these roses from the patio, I’m trying to bloom where I’m planted, no matter how temporary. Wishing you the same!
Apparently, yesterday’s post was not well thought out. Now my girls are apologizing for neglecting me, which was NOT my intent! I was trying to let everyone know I was doing well and had a good day. Plus, I was doing so well yesterday, I wanted to share some love with all of you, with the photos of our family, including a couple fun ones with two of David’s brothers.
I know some of my dear ones may have worried about me today, but I actually woke up happy and am doing rather well so far. Last year I had a massive bouquet from our daughters, as well as lots of calls and texts from others. Today, I think everyone knows I’m better. Not “over it” by any stretch of the imagination. I won’t ever be “over it,” exactly, but today I’m celebrating love.
All the love.
I’ve just spent the past few hours looking through photos, and there are so many great ones showing so much love, but I’d be here until tomorrow if I tried to include them all. And I’d certainly miss someone, so I’ll leave you with these, my two current favorites:
David 2010? Who knows, but isn’t it great?
David and Sunny (duh) September 2016 by Clayton Jenkins
Wishing you much love, even when it’s not Valentine’s Day!
I almost let January get away from me, but here I am. I haven’t forgotten you, my dear ones! I/we had a number of significant anniversaries and firsts to get through on the wretched grief calendar, but they’re all done now, at least the first anniversaries of all the hard stuff. I’m officially into my second year of widowhood. Yippee.
It turned out the 26th of December was the hardest one-year anniversary, surprisingly. Neither Christmas nor the 27th was as tough, I think mostly because both those days were spent with plenty of dear ones close at hand. The 26th was quiet and I spent possibly too much time alone, remembering David’s last full day with us, the last time he spoke, the last time he told me he loved me–in person anyway. I still hear him so clearly sometimes.
Then the first couple weeks of January I was kind of in a funk, not that I ever love January. Once the anniversary of the celebration of David’s life (January 19) was past, I started to come out of it. I really think that was the last of the “firsts.” I’ve heard from a number of widowed people that the second year for them was even harder than the first. That the first went by in a blur, and the pain really set in the second year. Yikes. I don’t know if these were people who suffered very sudden, unexpected losses, so had that also to deal with, but the first year for me was plenty painful, and not really a blur, not from this vantage point at least.
So I’m cautiously optimistic that the worst is behind me, not including the occasional stab out of nowhere. Those still happen. I still sometimes weep all over friends at church, and the other day, I felt ambushed at the doctor’s office when I had to update my emergency contact info. That was emotional enough. Who is 100% available to me in an emergency, like David was? No one. Everyone else has things to do. Places to be. Then I was faced with David’s name in the spouse blank, which I was NOT emotionally prepared to erase, so I didn’t. I did delete the phone number for him, but then the system wouldn’t let me go on without his phone number. The receptionist was understandably startled when I stumbled back up to the front desk, sobbing, and basically hurled the tablet at her and said, “I am NOT doing this now! And probably not next time either!” At least she offered me a box of tissues. That was kind.
Mostly since Christmas I’ve been spending a lot of time writing for the eight-week workshop I’m doing in Denver, and at the moment I’m working on a memoir of my life and adventures with David, so we’ll see how that goes. It feels right and good to write it, no matter what I eventually do with it.
It has me reminiscing about so many of our adventures. Since I haven’t been out with my camera in a while, I thought I’d share a few photos of other winter days, other places. Remember this?
Courtney’s birthday was yesterday, so that calls for celebration! I remember well the arrival of our firstborn, like our very own early Christmas present. So glad she came into our lives! Plus, she’s coming for a nice long stay over the holidays, which is more reason for celebration. Here are a couple of my favorite photos of David and Courtney, plus one of Courtney and me, where we are looking scary-good — Thanks, Clayton! You’re a genius!
In addition to Courtney, recent birthday girl, Brittany will be with us most, if not all the time Courtney’s here, plus Bailey and Felicity arrive the 27th. Chelsea and Brian will be in and out, I’m sure, but will certainly spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day here. So I celebrate my beloved family. We plan to watch David’s favorite movie, Field of Dreams, on the 27th, armed with plenty of tissues, I promise you.
I’m also celebrating passing the DELF B2 French exam, the one I was obsessing about in the last post. Woohoo! My total score was higher than I expected (but lower than I’d hoped — let’s be honest). Always did love high scores! My individual scores in the four areas of competence were weirdly almost the opposite of what I expected, highest in oral expression, and lowest in written comprehension. Um . . . what? Strange. The director of Alliance Française Denver has agreed to meet with me to help me understand what I did right, and more importantly my mistakes. You can’t learn if you don’t know what you did wrong! Meanwhile, I’m celebrating earning the diplôme.
Also, I’ve taken the plunge and signed up for a more serious writing workshop, one I actually had to pay for and that presumably has higher expectations of me. So I’m celebrating my bravery!
The days are flying by, as they are wont to do, especially at Christmas. I love the lights, the music, and especially, of course, the reason for the season, sweet baby Jesus, come to conquer death and give us hope. Let’s not forget to celebrate that! I don’t know what the next year will bring, but I’ve nearly made it through this one, and with enough evidence of thriving that I think David would be proud. One day at a time.
Thanks so much for all the kind comments on the last post. I send these words out into the void, so it means a lot to me to hear when they resonate with you. You are my treasured dear ones, even those of you I haven’t met, so of course I am also celebrating you!
For her birthday gift, Brittany wanted me to join her for a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert in Denver, which was quite an experience — very cool laser-light-show flashing about the place, plus lots of old-school headbanging by the lead guitarist and choreographed hair-tossing by the women backup singers, all equally Rapunzel-tressed, gently swaying, while whipping their heads back and forth in sharp synchronicity between the lead guitarist and the keyboard player like they were watching a tennis match. Too funny. Then to dinner at The Berkshire Restaurant, where bacon is the featured menu item. Just say yes.
Then, just in case the normal stresses of the season were not enough, I decided to sit for a French level certification exam, the DELF B2, on December 5th, which definitely does NOT qualify as jollity. I prepped several hours a day for eight weeks or so and suffered way more angst than a completely optional exam, having no bearing whatsoever on my future prospects in any arena, should have been allowed to cause me. Oh well. It may have provided much-needed focus for my attention and it did give my French a bit of a turbo boost. In fact, I’ve been spending so much time thinking in French, I just spelled “season” as saison, without even noticing until the red squiggly line protested that saison was not English. I don’t know yet if I passed, but I’m optimistic. On verra (We’ll see).
In a bit of excellent timing, the day before the exam, I learned that a poem I had written for my second Lighthouse Writers Workshop has been included in a new community anthology they’re publishing called All the Lives We Ever Lived. An advance copy was being held for me (in Denver, of course), so after the exam, to distract myself from rehashing all the errors I already realized I had committed on the exam (not to mention those that would occur to me later), I went over and picked up my copy. They will eventually be available in stores like Tattered Cover (April, I think). How cool is that? To see my work in print, even on such a small scale (a page and a half out of 200 or so). Still. Feeling rather jolly about it!
Then taking further advantage of being in Denver, I went to the Denver Art Museum to see the Dior exhibit. Gorgeous! Here’s a tiny peek . . .
Dior Exhibit — Denver Art Museum
Dior Exhibit — Denver Art Museum
Early steps in design — Dior Exhibit — Denver Art Museum
So I’m still pretty busy. I’ve continued my fused glass fun, so that qualifies as jolly, even though my results are never quite what I hope they’ll be. I’m still very much a beginner. Here’s the final version of the first one I made . . .
The busyness, at least the creativity, the push to learn more, the appreciation of beauty, fun with friends and family — all are good things. Even the busyness to a point. But when I slow down long enough to listen to the lyrics of a Christmas carol or watch a Christmas movie or even to stop and think, as David was so fond of doing, I’m finding the tears come pretty easily. This season has been harder than I expected, although I had been warned it likely would be. And of course, the news contributes its share of tragic natural disasters, seemingly inescapable hardships, and increasingly frequent senseless violence. Plus, we’re coming up on the one-year anniversary. By 4:00 p.m. December 27th last year, David’s struggle was over. Mine was beginning a new phase.
Sometimes jolly is hard to find. But maybe I don’t have to. Maybe hope is a better goal. I heard a wonderful sermon recently about hope in the midst of struggle, hope in spite of grief. Hope is not an emotion, she said.* Hope is a choice.. . . don’t let our circumstances define our hope. Usually, it’s easier for me to have hope in the ultimate future, however distant that may be, God eventually redeeming all things, making all things right. But hope here, now, and for however many years I have left on earth, that’s the challenge for me these days. I can’t really imagine my life ever again being as good as it was with David. And yet, here I am. So I’m praying for strength to choose hope for the days ahead, and I’m clinging to hope for our ultimate future. Wishing the same for you, dear ones!
Any words of hope you have to offer in the comments will be very welcome!
I will stand my ground where hope can be found. ∼Lauren Daigle
We’re all trying to adjust to life’s milestones continuing on without David. It’s Chelsea’s birthday tomorrow, so I thought I’d include this adorable photo of Chelsea and David from MANY years ago. →
And here’s one more that I love from a little more recently, back when she was in school at GW. ↓
Happy Birthday, Chelsea!
It was right about this time every year that David and I would head back to Sunapee to enjoy the fall foliage . . .
. . . and help close up the lake house for the winter. I could have gone this year, of course, and almost did, but after all my travels this summer, it felt a bit overwhelming. So I’m enjoying a Colorado fall this year and working on my writing, as well as trying a few arty things. More about that another time.
Sometimes thinking of the future without David is as disorienting as looking down over the edge of the Quechee Gorge . . . ↓
. . . but I’m doing better overall, apart from the occasional stab. Those aren’t likely to disappear anytime soon, I’m told, but I promise you, the privilege of having him in my life was worth the pain of now. Here’s another piece I wanted to share with you from my writers workshop:
A New Kind of Different
Things are different now, and they’re a new kind of different than they were during the months that followed David’s cancer diagnosis. In some ways those sixteen months were not only different, but weirdly better: more tender, more intentional, more together. For a while we couldn’t stand to be in separate rooms, but then we were lulled by the efficacy of the first rounds of treatment, and we began to believe we’d have more time.
With the illusion of more time, we were afraid we couldn’t sustain that level of intimacy. We decided we needed to continue our lives as before, certainly with time together but also time for our individual interests. David wanted that for me to prepare me for life without him. I wanted that for him, because I would have granted any of his wishes if I’d had the power, and I did have the power to release him from constant attendance on my emotional state, to free him to watch a little golf or college football on TV if that appealed to him. Sometimes I couldn’t stay away, though, and I found myself heading down to be with him, no matter how limited my interest in televised sports. My interest in David was unlimited in those days.
One evening he had gone downstairs to watch TV, leaving me upstairs scanning through photos of our travels on my laptop, only to return hours later to find me distraught at finding fewer photos of him than I had expected. He was always in the way, I’d thought. He was usually out ahead of me as we walked, since I stopped so often to take pictures, but then he’d be right in the middle of what I wanted to photograph, so I’d make him move out of the shot. But once time got short, I’d have traded every single beautiful postcard shot of France for more of him. I’m better now, since at the end I dragged boxes of photos out from storage and scanned a hundred or so shots from our nearly forty years together, and a few more of the rest of his sixty-five years. So I’ve now got a slideshow and some videos our girls took, but of course, I don’t have him, my favorite companion in all things.
We used to go out for dinner or drinks and tapas all the time, nice places always, and regular Saturday morning breakfast walks. After he started chemo and the doctor advised him to try to keep his weight up, we were at the mercy of whatever highly-caloric thing he thought he could eat: Big Macs, pizzas, several versions of chicken pot pie for a few days, one regrettable Dunkin Donuts episode, where neither of us felt good for hours afterwards. He could never finish any of it. I, on the other hand, gained twenty pounds. Now I rarely go out, except with my Denver daughter on the occasional evenings I’m in town. On the plus side, the twenty extra pounds melted away, although now they’re creeping back a bit. There’s no one to make comments about how quickly the ice cream is disappearing. And I’m still way too sedentary.
We had all these plans to get more active. We were regular walkers, but we wanted to diversify, so we bought bikes that we rode exactly four times before his diagnosis, and now I’m finding it hard to get going again. Everything was in slow motion for so long: walking from the car into the Cancer Center and back out to the car again, even driving. It hurt him if he was jostled too much, and he’d say, “Easy there, Mario,” if I took a corner too fast. Then grief put a sort of fog over everything that still has the power to keep me in the slow lane, definitely not when I’m driving anymore, but in other everyday activities, like getting up, or going to bed, or trying to drag myself out for a walk.
I know I probably have years more of my life to live, not that any of us knows that for certain, but dreaming of the future has changed drastically. David had a way of asking provocative questions, like, “What would you change in your life if you could change anything?” or “If money were no object where in the world would you go and what would you do?” And I always knew to dream big, partly because it was more fun that way, but also because there was a very real possibility he’d figure out a way to make those dreams come true, so why not aim high?
But I’m not dreaming as much these days; I’ve lost confidence in the unlimited possibilities of the future. I am exploring the present, though. I’m trying new things to see if they resonate. I’m offering, when I can, encouragement to others who are also hurting. And I’m learning for the first time how to be alone without being lonely. But I’m also signing up and showing up, for whatever strikes me. Maybe that will turn out to be the first step in making new dreams come true.
Wishing you peace, joy and love in the present and hope for the future. Bless you, dear ones.