Saturday, January 13, 2024

The Second Wife

She told him as he lay in his hospice bed: "I had many talks with your wife and prayed with her and for her as I stayed with her. You can look forward to seeing her in heaven and being with her."
She was his second wife. Married for five years although he had been asking her for close to fifteen. She held off at first because of the memory of his first wife, and because he did not share her Christian faith. Later she relented because she was providing so much care and companionship, it only seemed natural to marry and combine households.
Together they came to our house and gave us the news of their marriage. It was a surprise but also not a surprise. He didn't plan to go to church with her but to share a life, finally truly together.
And then he needed more care and treatments and church was streamed online anyway.
She called yesterday and we talked for a long time, catching up since we live so far apart now. With laughter over the funny parts of life and quieter tones for the harder parts of life, she related what I had missed since we had last spoken. 
One of the stories she told was of how they watched her church service together online and of a recent baptism service where a teenage girl gave her testimony of faith as part of her baptism. This was followed by the pastor explaining the meaning of baptism where the message of the gospel was laid out "in a way you couldn't miss" she said. Not wanting to badger him, she let a couple of days go by before she spoke of that sermon. "Have you decided if you believe?" she asked him. "Yes, I do." was the reply.

Several weeks later, the abrupt diagnosis by doctors of multiple masses throughout his body made the decision to cease all further treatments, one they all agreed on. The pastor was asked to come for a visit and share in the aftermath of this decision. Her very reserved husband joined in the conversation and the hilarity of her coffee-making mishaps attempting to show hospitality. Two days later, a bed at the hospice was made available. Within forty-eight hours, she was again by his bedside as the evening light faded and his breathing grew more difficult. 
She told me she put her hand on his arm and told him, "It's okay, you can go." He took one more breath and that was all. "He was used to being in the military and told what to do, I figured he just needed to be told it was okay to go home to heaven. I have heard of other people doing the same."
She's planning his funeral at her or now, their church with their pastor, the same who had married them only a brief time before. The order of service and hymn choices are what she has planned for her own funeral she told me.

He was her only husband, marrying for the first time in her mid-70's. She became our neighbor, friend and childcare giver when we bought our first house in the same housing complex. The house we bought when our oldest was only three, was the same house she walked down the path to from her house to stay with his sick wife while he worked on renovation projects at her house. Standing on the front porch of one house, you could easily see to the front porch of the other house as the houses were built in an enclosed U-shape. After his wife passed, he sold to a single dad who traveled often and didn't stay there long. 

By the time we bought the house, their relationship was two senior citizen companions spending time together in cross-border shopping trips and errand-running. But his early-rising routines, off-putting meal schedule, dissimilar financial routines and lack of church attendance ways made sure she kept her own house and her marital status distinct from his. But a few years later, she announced she was selling her house and moving a few miles away to where he lived in a 55+ community. Her house was almost finished being built and with the renovations he had done over the years, she could fetch a good price for her older home. They now could walk back and forth to each other's houses again and share coffee times and feed the chipmunks and squirrels from both of their backyards. But still they did not marry until he became so sick and she had no reason to not shower him with her fulltime care and love.

With so much to absorb, I could only manage to tell her how sorry we were, but how glad we were that she could spend this time with him bringing love and comfort in his final days. I told her how kindhearted she is and how much care she has shown to so many around her and that we would be praying for her as they have his memorial service and finally that we loved her.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

lights in the winter darkness

Driving along the river road toward town around 7:15am, still very dark.

Houses lit up in various manners.
Children carried by fathers from the dark outside into the entryway of the brightly lit daycare rooms.
A runner with a headlamp and reflective jacket jogging alongside his dog who attached to the leash remained hidden in the dark keeping pace.
So many outside lights: lampposts, landscape lighting, porch lights, floodlights, holiday lights.
So many vehicle lights: white, orange, yellow and red in varying stages of blinking, winking and steady
A walker, backpack bulging, coffee thermos in one hand, phone with narrow flashlight bobbing walking on the roadway against traffic as the sidewalks were patchy with black ice and frosted crystals.
Later on the same sidewalk, two walkers, one pausing in stride while one arm gripped by her more confident companion, then resuming a compatible stride on an uncertain walkway.
More lights now on docked sailboats, tall rigging lines lit up next to smaller sailboats bobbing in their berths. Looking across the dark water to the peninsula where red lights blink on a tall tower and white lights glow steady on a second tower. 
Across the inlet, house lights dot the darkness where the neighborhood juts out into the river like a thick rounded fist.
Now the railroad appears and a pavilioned park's silhouette against the river water shows in the darkness if you know where to look. as you go past. The steel sides of a railroad bridge crosses like an overpass a deep road that steeply drops over the river bank and down toward the marina, lighthouse and park, but also towards the woods where a Catholic retreat entranceway is marked by two stone obleisks whose smooth sides reflect any available light. A large pickup truck emerges from a strange angled road crossing the train tracks, waiting at a stop sign to join the three or four vehicles already on the road.
Another walker with dark winter coat, dark winter hat and no light in hand or head walks briskly on a cleared sidewalk at a three-way intersection. 
The best lights of all come from inside the houses. Pendant lamps in kitchens, string lights around doorways, lamps in living rooms, overhead lights in bedrooms and hallways. Most are gorgeous light-shedding ambiance-givers. A few are harsh overbright lights that seem to gash out into the darkness with their stabby glare as if angry to have to be awake before the great light rises. Mentally switching them off and looking away to the kinder light, seeing the cozy through the large paned windows. 
People curious to look in as they pass by, drawn by the light like moths, yet unlike animals, seeing and understanding what others are doing in this early dark morning. There is no mystery to these lights: it's people doing what people do, bringing lights wherever they are to see and to be seen. 

In all this light, we see one another, not as friends greeting one another with names, but as fellow citizens, greeting this dark morning with light and movement as we live together in a world we did not create nor can we control no matter how finely tuned we make our instruments. 

Yet we are not troubled by this dependency; we fit comfortably into the dark morning, each working through their own schedule and routine, but easily slipping into each other's routine, giving room to each in turn and seeing life and valuing it as something to be protected and shared. 

Tuesday, January 09, 2024

Kate's Sixteenth Birthday

Her own post to remember what a sweet and wonderful day we had celebrating her sixteenth birthday with young friends coming for lunch and grandparents for dinner. She was up by six a.m. and opened her gifts of new bedsheets, new bath towels and a new drawstring magnetic backpack with speed and gusto. For her this meant laundry to do and old backpacks to clean out. If you know anything about Kate, packing bags and doing laundry are her two favorite activities! On to breakfast and preparing for her birthday party day.
When I was looking at decorations, the colors of pink and gold in the napkins and candles seemed to fit the 'pretty party' look I was going for. In recent years, I have moved away from buying balloons and other single-use party accessories, so in my hunt for some pretty decor, I was happy to find the flower garland that needed to be assembled but can be reused for whenever. The tissue paper pinwheels and gold paper pinwheels can also be reused. And adding a bit of the curling ribbon from her gifts to the candles on the table was a last minute inspiration that worked with the color scheme.
We had an easy lunch of chicken nuggets, French fries and cut up vegetables with mini cupcakes for the birthday treat. With a quick clean-up, we could get right to playing Kate's favorite matching game and then some jigsaw puzzles. Before and after we ate, the girls went outside to play on the swing under the deck and enjoy running around in the forest together. Then we all crowded into Kate's room to watch the winter classic The Snowman together. It was so fun to watch it all together and listen to all of their comments and questions. A few more swings outside, then it was time for a few more games before moms came to pick everyone up. 
With the beautiful sunshine all afternoon, I asked Kate to do a little photo shoot with the birthday prop I made for her. It was made from raffia and boxwood and although it was hard to keep both numbers straight for the photos, she was a good sport and now these props join the others I've made over the years for her birthdays.
We had a pizza and salad dinner with grandparents and then it was time for the mousse cake from Costco called a Tuxedo Cake. It's very rich and yummy and has been a great cake for Kate to enjoy over the years. Lastly she opened up sweet gifts from her grandparents before getting ready for bed.

the last of fall

A bit of snow made the last day of October even more colorful with the lingering fall colors brightened in the pure white. It didn't last and autumn continued as the calendar page turned to November and then December.

Setting the table every evening for dinner when the sun has disappeared to its chambers long before we go to ours has given me the opportunity to create simple candlelight arrangements for our family meals. A few pieces of greenery tucked in between, with stems hidden away, can be cleared and reset with ease as the tablecloth needs attention. I don't always get to ironing the cloth so the wrinkles become part of the 'rustic charm'. Just what I was going for.

How to make easy curtain tiebacks

Brownies with extra chocolate chips in batter and topped while still warm from oven.

Pizza crust with garlic powder, Italian seasoning, parmesan and sea salt.

In early November, Shane completed his second running race of the year which followed a trail by the ocean. Thankfully the tide was out and the weather was mild enough for us to be out to cheer him on. Friends also ran and everyone stayed safe and crossed the finish line in high spirits.

Laura and I have added some cooking sessions to her Grade 9 year. We have worked on making bone  broth, learning herbs and then the basics of soup making. 

On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, we loaded up out car with luggage and set out on the long car ride south to eastern Pennsylvania to visit my parents. The town they currently live in has a historic canal and lock park which we like to visit and walk along. This time we walked far enough to find the remains of a bridge that was built for the railway line. 

On Thanksgiving Day after making a family meal for all of us at my parents' house, we cleaned up the kitchen and then took a little road trip north to explore the town of Jim Thorpe, PA.
Almost everything was closed because of the holiday, but many visitors like us wandered around the streets, looking into shop windows and taking photos of the buildings and town square. The fall color was all gone in the trees and surrounding mountain, but the early Christmas lights and decor added cheer to the fading autumn season.

We drove home through New York and Connecticut a different way than we had arrived which gave us the chance to revisit some bridges, highways and parkways that we had not traveled for many years. Finally by the light of the moon, we made it through Maine and back into New Brunswick. It's close to a thirteen hour trip if all goes well and the stops are short and infrequent. But there is no way I'd rather travel right now than by car.

This little bit of snowfall came on the last day of November and barely lasted a day. We often use the word blanket to describe a covering of snow, but when I looked out, I saw the pattern of a quilt on our walkway. The snow momentarily softened the stones with its pretty design, but very soon faded as I took these photos.
The rest of our December was mostly green with some heavy frosts and just one small snowstorm whose accumulation went away long before Christmas Day arrived. Even now, a week into January, we have just a small patches of snow lying around on the frozen ground although a winter storm warning has been issued for tomorrow.

The first weekend in December, Shane ran his final race of the year in central Maine along with friends and Laura and I joined the entourage. We did some shopping and then waited at the finish line to see the runners come over. I think the runners are already planning to return this coming December so the cheering squad will too.