Expiration Dating

Dodging the bullet didn’t seem to have much of a lasting emotional effect on Jeff. He did slow it down, but he never quit.

I’d still find an occasional bottle stuffed under the computer desk. I’d find an empty chew container on a shelf. “Oh,” Jeff’d p’shaw. “Those are old.”

One time, he even blamed it on his father. “Oh, Dad must have left that behind,” he told me.

“Does your step-mom know your Dad chews?” I snipped. “Maybe I should call her and tell her so you can both detox together!” “No, no, don’t do that,” he pleaded. “It’s mine. Dad bought it for me…. but I haven’t had any for a real long time.”

“Did you tell your dad about the biopsies?” I asked. “Yeah, he knows,” Jeff mumbled.

“Then, why the hell would he buy it for you?” Jeff answered that question slowly. “Because… I asked him to…. I just wanted a little bit…”

He held out his hand to take it from me. I didn’t give it to him.

“I’ll get rid of it for you.” I told him. “Aw, don’t throw it away,” Jeff whined. “It’s almost new. I promise… it’ll be my last one. I won’t buy anymore.”

“It’s your last one,” I agreed. I walked out to the back porch and dumped the shredded contents behind the house.

“Aw, dang it.” I heard behind me. Jeff had followed me out.

He stopped me before I walked back in. “Let’s just sit out here for a bit,” he requested. “It’s a  nice night. We haven’t done this in a while.” So, we sat, talking about non-important things: tightly holding hands until the sun went down – a settling, comfortable reminiscence of ourselves and who we were, together.

After a few more and more frequent “those are old” excuses, I embarrassingly became very belatedly suspicious.

The next tin I found, I kept to myself, having decided I would take it with me to Jeff’s regular Speedway station. I wanted to know if they were truly all old misplaced remnants or if  he was truly lying to me. How was I planning to determine that? By expiration date.

The very next day, I dropped off my last van pool passenger and drove directly to the source. I stood in line feeling angry and sneaky, betrayed and betraying: wholly conflicted.

I didn’t want to catch Jeff lying, but I didn’t want him to make a fool of me, any longer, either. I also didn’t want to cause a scene in front of other customers. So, I took deep breaths, trying to make sure my voice would be calm.

When it was my turn, I pulled the recently found Skoal container from my purse and quietly asked, “Do you carry this brand?”

The clerk quickly turned away from the register and grabbed a matching green one from the dispenser behind the counter. “Anything else?” he asked.

“Oh, no. I don’t want to buy it…” I hurriedly explained. “I just want to know the expiration date.”

The clerk stared at me. “Seriously,” I prompted. “It’s important. I just need to know the expiration date.”

He picked it up, turned the little package over and around a few times. When he finally located it, he pointed to the dot matrix printed notation.

I nodded my thanks and left without a word. I had my answer.

Quote for the Week: 2019 02 17 hold hands meet in the now jakorte

Dodge and Clear

I worried and analyzed – our finances, our budget, our life-style which already wasn’t high on the hog. I researched mouth cancer and mouth cancer treatments.

Scouring the house, I angrily purged as many wayward rounds of chew as I could find. I already knew his favorite hiding places.

Bottles of spit hid under the computer desk. If a book looked out of place, I would likely find a tin behind it. In the laundry room, behind the soap. In the pantry, behind the home-canned vegetables. Under his recliner. Under the car seat.

Two weeks later, we were back in the waiting room. Jeff had told me he didn’t think I needed to come along. I told him we were a “we” therefore “we” needed to handle this together.

It was a weekday, so we got there early and waited for a little while. Not long enough for Jeff to be antsy, but he was. He got up and started to walk away.

“Where are you going?” I asked, adding, “They could call us soon.”

“I’m gonna go ask a question,” he said.

“It’s not that late,” I commented, “Only five minutes – wait a few more.”

“Nah…” Jeff took a step backwards. “ I’m gonna go ask.”

I started to gather up our things, and he flipped his hands at me. “Why don’t you wait here? Save my seat.” he suggested.

“Did you find out anything?” I asked when he returned. “Yeah,” he said, “we’re on the list.”

About a minute later, it was our turn. Jeff was sweating bullets. I was holding his hand.

The same clinic physician met us in the exam room. He came in, abruptly dropped a file on the desk and crossed to the other side of the room. Leaning against a counter with his arms crossed, the doctor blew out a breath. We waited, holding ours.

“I’m here to tell you that the results…. were… clear.”

Jeff let go an exhale, and dropped his head. Stunned I blurted out, “Are you sure?”

“What?” Jeff looked at me. “Did you want me to have cancer?”

“Of course, I didn’t!” I smacked Jeff’s arm. “It’s just … I’m surprised. He was so sure!” I pointed, stammering on.

“Believe me,” the MD quipped. “No one…. was more surprised than me.”

“So, that’s it?” I asked.

His answer was aimed directly at Jeff. “I don’t like those spots,” he said. “I recommend you stop chewing tobacco. Immediately.”

“Ok.” Jeff said.

“What about something to help him quit?” I wanted to know.

“There’s gum and lozenges. Most stores have them.” With a short shrug, he strode across the room, shook Jeff’s hand and said, “Good luck to you, sir.”

Clearly. We’d dodged a lethal bullet.

Quote for the Week:2019 02 12 Expect the worst jakorte.jpg

 

Snapping Turtle Spots

In his mind, he’d committed a grievous crime showing unusual temper. Per usual for Jeff, though, he found a humorous way to apologize.

Despite what the cute card said, his reaction wasn’t “for no good reason,” and the real crime wasn’t losing his temper.

Before we’d reached this point, before disability, and a long while after the honeymoon backseat-bottle incident, I saw a notice for a free mouth and throat cancer screening. 

I signed Jeff up. I was thinking ‘scared straight’ and ‘this is how much I care’ combined.

I’d already given him facts and articles. I’d already cajoled and nagged. I’d already yelled and cried. I was hoping a doctor could get him to quit, and offer a way to help him do that.

Unfortunately, it didn’t quite go that way.

He resisted, of course.

I insisted, of course.

We drove to Ann Arbor for the weekend clinic appointment. I accompanied him into the exam. When the doctor asked Jeff why he thought he’d need a screening, Jeff pointed. “It was her idea.”

I explained the chew and the diabetes and what I knew from internet-research. The doctor concurred, and said we could certainly talk about ways to quit after the exam.

The exam was brief. I mean, very brief. He asked Jeff how long he’d had dark spots on his gums, under his tongue and inside his lower lip. Jeff said he had no idea. There were many of them, but two in particular were large and concerning.

So concerning, that the doctor immediately halted his examination. He rolled away and bluntly reported: “I’m 99.9 percent sure what I’m looking at here is mouth cancer. You’ll likely have throat cancer, as well.”

We were stunned. He went on to explain that the only question was what type, which would determine the degree of aggressiveness. 

Turning to pull some supplies, he announced, “We’re going to biopsy those.”

“Now?” Jeff asked, echoing the panicked look I was aiming his way.  The answer was a firm, curt, business-like, “Yes. Right now. Is there a reason why you don’t want to do it now?”

“Nnnooooo,” Jeff drew out his answer, shaking his head.

He was advised to immediately stop tobacco use, and we were given a return appointment in 2 weeks. At that time, we would know what type of cancer Jeff had, and would be able discuss treatment options.

The timeline, itself, was an urgency marker – a 2-week turn-around. High priority. 

I drove us to a nearby restaurant, parked, took a deep breath and turned to Jeff in tears.

“Aw, might not be anything…” he waved it off. I stared at him in disbelief. “Did you not hear him?”

“You don’t know what you don’t know.” Jeff tried to reason with me.  “99.9% sure!” I countered, crying out. “Jeff! What are we going to do?”

“No sense in worrying about it for two weeks, yet.” Jeff turned his head away and looked out the window.

“Not gonna change anything…” he softly shrugged.

Quote for the Week:2019 02 05 Sometimes pushing a person to the edge jakorte2019 02 05 snapping turtle card jakorte

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Cards, Stacked

There were obviously more cards from Jeff, but those were the ones I kept.

There were obviously cards going the other way, too – from me to Jeff.  Two at a time. Always, one funny and one serious.

When it came time to move out of our home, I pared down. I waded through our shared stacks. I discarded most of the me-to-him. My thought process was that he would never be reading them again, so there was no point in keeping them. However, I found two of them in the card box, amongst the him-to-me.

For our first anniversary, I handmade the serious one. It was just one simple sheet of plain red cardstock, plainly folded in half. The only embellishment added was a left-over gold foil, double-heart seal we’d used on our wedding invitations.

I wanted the message to stand on its own. The outside read, “I meant it when I said….” On the inside, I’d re-printed the vocal vows I made to Jeff on our wedding day.

I do not know which anniversary the second card was for. We only celebrated four of those, so it was either the second or the third or the fourth. Store-bought, it reminds me of the snowman card; same subject. Another way to answer to Jeff’s rote retort, “I don’t know why.”

The last two cards I saved from Jeff were life lessons for me. The subjects aren’t all that happy.

The first one came from an incident where I was once again harping about his health and bad habits and chewing tobacco. Jeff stood on one side of the bed; I was on the other side. “You must not love me very much,” I’d snarked.  “I’m trying,” he mumbled back. I shouted, “Stop TRYING and just do it!”

” I’M … TRYING…” he snapped back at ramped up volume. Stomping his feet and throwing his arms wide for exclamation, his eyes filled with frustration and failure.

That look broke my heart. He wasn’t a failure. He was just unfairly up against some highly stacked odds.  I knew no matter how much I nagged, Jeff quiting the killing tobacco wasn’t going to make him ‘get better.’

I just couldn’t understand why he’d choose to exacerbate and accelerate with vile chew. Hindsight, I know now it wouldn’t have mattered. We’d have argued a lot less if I’d realized that, then.

“Come sit with me,” I said. We sat on our bed, and held onto each other. “I don’t want you to die,” I whispered. “You wouldn’t be so lucky,” he teased, with quiet laugh. “I’m gonna live ’til I’m 80. You’ll see – I’m gonna be a grumpy ol’ man, just like my Dad.”

As unusual as it was for Jeff to have the last word in an argument, that was the end of that. He’d emphatically expressed he was trying, so I backed-off and let it drop.

Three days later, he handed me a card.

Quote for the Week:

2019 01 29 if someone says it better than you jakorte

That time when someone said it better; perfectly.

2019 01 29 if someone says it better than you slide 2 jakorte 01 28 2019

 

 

Carded

Remember how I’ve mentioned, more than a few times, the key to a good relationship is notes?

I mean, love notes, silly notes, random unexpected notes.

We both loved notes: handwritten, typed, sticky, email, text, added to a homemade or store-bought card. On a scrap of paper, a bank deposit slip – in any way or shape or form. A few words, a smiley face; maybe just a heart. Little reminders that we were part of a wonderful “We.”

I have a lot of “first” cards. First card ever. First Valentine’s Day.

My first birthday. A card Jeff gave to me the first time I shared his birthday with him.

First Valentine’s Day and birthday as “Wife.”

All these little sweet and silly stories hold a wealth of history and such huge feelings.

Quote for the Week: (contributed by my editor. ;-))

“Even though post-it notes are removable and can be moved from place to place, somehow, the post-it notes written by loved ones stick forever.”

2019 01 22 carded 3 jakorte2019 01 22 carded 2 jakorte

2019 01 22 carded jakorte

 

Pill Fill & Other Stuff

I’ve mentioned this before, but the Rx tackle box really was an amazing work of art.

Sunday afternoon was pill fill day. It’d take Jeff about an hour to prepare for the week. It was also the designated time to evaluate what was needed: reorder meds, restock OTC’s. When he was done, he’d make some sort of punny fish announcement.  “All set to go fishin!” “Now, I just gotta find a pond!” “I’m ready to fish for meds!”

Jeff took somewhere between 18-20 pills a day, and used a few ointments, as well. Without fail, every week, he’d need a refill/restock on something. Occasionally, Jeff would discover he only had a few days supply left, or that he’d miscalculated and was completely out.

There was always at least one trip a week to the pharmacy. If it worked out, timing wise, Saturday morning was preferred. It didn’t hurt that we had to be in Tecumseh to open the store, anyway. It absolutely didn’t hurt that the locally owned family pharmacy was a few short steps down from a locally owned family bakery.

If not, it didn’t bother him at all to have to pick up prescriptions more than once a week. Pretty much like all else, Jeff’s necessary errand always turned into social visits.

Later on, it bothered me, because a weekday collection would mean I’d want him to find a ride, He’d ignore that request and end up driving himself, which wasn’t ideal. Plus, a round trip to Tecumseh from Adrian in our old Buick ate up a lot gas.

By the end of summer 2016, after our last race trip, our outings were limited to stores with electric carts or very small spaces. Meijer had carts. Aldi was small. Both were very close to home at 2 miles away. Also close by: a butcher shop, three gas stations, a do-it-yourself home supply store and quite a few restaurants.

It was nice that all of that was relatively close, but it wasn’t foremost in our minds when we chose our home. Back then, we were both commuting to Ann Arbor, sharing the driving and necessarily passing through Jeff’s hometown five days a week.

Way before I ever met Jeff, he always preferred offering his local hometown support. When that was no longer a convenient option, Jeff felt badly. With exception of, perhaps, the pharmacy, I don’t think we were any Tecumseh business’ mainstay.

As our purchasing center shifted, Jeff made an effort to support the local Adrian butchers, farmer’s stands and non-chain restaurants. He’d very seriously discuss with anyone, anywhere, the economic benefits and the importance of “doing what’s right” to keep America’s small towns and farms “booming.” Small business Saturday was akin to a serious holiday for him.

There was an unofficial access road that ran between our community and the Museum of Walmart,. Which, meant I could send Jeff out for an errand in the middle of the day, and not have to worry about him driving on a real roads. He could get to Aldi that way, as well.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, also, that going to Walmart was never a fast trip. It was our Sunday, after church, after breakfast outing with a purpose. Jeff would happily go up and down every aisle, in every section, in a motorized scooter, just to see what was new. I always went where he went.

I know all of this information seems a bit random. It’s stuff you need to know, though, to understand the chain of coming events.

Quote for the Week:2019 0 15 theres always more to the story jakorte

Cramming Love

It’s been a short decade since New Year’s Day became my dedicated day for sorting miscellaneous paperwork and receipts and preparing to file taxes.

It’s an unfortunate luxury; having time to dedicate.

There wasn’t that kind of time in my life with Jeff. We were too busy cramming love and fun in between hospital visits and medical appointments.

Fun was anything and everything.

Eating dinner. Folding laundry. Grocery runs. Anything hot sauce or store related. Puppy playtime. Kitty cuddle time. Diner breakfasts. Church. Anything NASCAR. Talking about our day. Watching TV. Just being in the same room together. Anything we did, together.

Fun was everything, every day.

Except for the scary moments, hours, sometimes days of broadening health failures. Those were downs. The downs started coming more quickly in 2006.

Medication adjustments didn’t always solve the problem. Jeff was unhealthy enough to be excluded from certain paths. Being told Jeff didn’t qualify for next level treatments, wrecked me. Many times, it seemed I’d be more upset than he was.

“Let’s just leave it,” he’d sigh. “Docs know what they’re doin’. They went to school for that.”

He’d say, “Don’t be upset. It wasn’t meant to be.”

Or, he’d say, “It’s ok. Something better will come up.”

It wasn’t ok with me. I searched out medical articles, suggested seeing different doctors, trying non-medical over-the-counter remedies. I checked on available studies and made him apply.

He did get into one. Before the wrist band fitness tracker craze, Jeff was given a combination glucometer/pedometer that had the ability to down-load data and a variety of noise choices.

They day he got it, I was in the kitchen emptying my lunch bag after work, when Jeff strolled in.

Hey, check this out!” he laughed. “The faster you go, the faster the music….”

He then proceeded to take circular baby-steps while wildly swinging the pedometer. The music sped up to a maniacal pace.

“That isn’t really getting you anywhere,” I scowled. “Yeah, I know,” he shrugged. “But, I’d never be able to make it go that fast walkin’ and it sure is fun!”

I was disappointed when he did not get into a test-trial for a new drug formulation. “Well,” he commented after reading the rejection letter. “It was just another pill, anyway, and my tackle box is full-up.”

Quote for the Week: 2019 01 08 the view depends on the focus jakorte