The Daily List

I guess you could say, somewhere in the middle, I somewhat started on a weird winding road of acetic acceptance.  On the daily drive home, I used to think to myself, “I wonder if today’s the day I’ll get home and find him dead.” I decided I’d have enough of that scenario in my head. I felt it was time to let it out.  Time to ask for help.

I wrote a letter to some of Jeff’s friends and family. I’m surprised I don’t have a copy of that letter, but I don’t. I asked everyone to come see him, to tell him he was important, to see if they could convince him to take better care of himself, to stop chewing tobacco. I don’t know which came first, in a chicken or the egg sort of way – either I told him, or he found out about it.

It’s one of the few times I made Jeff really mad. He said I made him look stupid. I shrugged and raised my voice. “You are stupid! You’re not doing enough to help yourself.”

 It was also one of two times, I made Jeff cry. Tough love is tough on the person giving it, too. If he cried, I cried. If I cried, he’d try to cheer me up or make me laugh. Not exactly an even exchange, but, somehow, we’d both end up laughing.

He said the problem was that he was bored being stuck at home with nothing to do and no one to talk to. The meds made him foggy and mostly he just watched TV, or read, or spent hours at the computer. 

So, I started a daily Jeff list. Only 3 or 4 things that I’d like him to accomplish that day.

It wasn’t all chores. It was some mundane tasks, a few challenges, and some silly stuff.  I found a few of my lists in between orders in the store files. Don’t know if Jeff put them there on purpose or if they accidentally got filed away with paperwork. Some of the highlights were:

Launder bed sheets (I’ll put them on when I get home.)

Check the Power Ball #’s. (No one matched all 5 #’s, but I’ll take anything!)

Water plants (I love our garden!)

Don’t forget to check the NASCAR channel. Al Unser Jr. is expected to retire today.

Go through papers on the dining room table, please.

Call Kapnick’s and find out how much the sweet cherries will be. The sign says “place orders now.”

Research Michigan vendors who might sell us their hot sauce at wholesale.

Figure out what meds you need to re-order.

Wear socks! It will help the rubbing of your feet.

Call the doctor re: Anodyne machine

Defrost the chicken, so it will be ready to cook for dinner.

Set your alarm for med times.

Take naps often – feet up, please!

Quote for the Week:

2018 04 17 Routine jakorte

A Good Spot

When Jeff first told me that he believed, I thought, “Ok, that’s good.” I believed in God, too, sort of, not always, but sometimes, on and off, wavering as circumstances changed.

Jeff did not bring his belief into his life. It simply was his life, expressed as peace and contentedness. I had a hard time grasping all that, but his overall great, upbeat attitude was contagiously inspiring. I’d never met anyone like Jeff. Always willing to see the best, always believing everything was for the best.

As I’ve mentioned, before we were married, neither one of us believed a house of worship was necessary. The more we went to church, the more interesting I found it. Many prayers are the same as those in Judaism, and, obviously, the old testament is identical.

As far as I was concerned and I as far as I could tell, we believed in the same overall God. Recognizing similarities, (real or imagined) made me more comfortable. The more we went to church, the more church Jeff wanted. We went to coffee hour; we participated in a few functions. The more people we met, the happier Jeff became.

I’d gotten used to the trio of older ladies who regularly sat in the pew behind the pew Jeff and I regularly sat in. Our spot was on the left on an aisle in a row just about center of the back half of the chapel. Not too close to draw attention to ourselves, close enough to hear and see, with not too many people behind us, close enough to the rear bathroom that Jeff felt he wouldn’t have “walk the gauntlet” to get there. It was a good spot.

Truly, it wasn’t all that strategically chosen. It was, however, a good spot, because sometimes, when Jeff bowed his head in prayer, it stayed bowed a lot longer than other people’s. Especially, if it was later in the service. Or if he hadn’t eaten breakfast. Or if it was too warm. Mostly, nobody noticed. Jeff’s bowed head could easily be mistaken for lengthy prayer.

Unless he snored. Then, I’d have to elbow him. Occasionally, one of the trio would ask if he was ok. Jeff would smile and declare that he’d just been “praying hard.” Followed by a teasing wink.

Quote for the Week.

2018 04 03 Choosing a good seat jakorte

Many Times Over

On the verge of a migraine, day 2.

I’ve been more than tempted to just say, “Not this week…”  Staring off into space thinking about where we’ll go next, my blurred vision focused on a book shelf. Clearing on a black binding, I suddenly realized the season.

I drew it from its spot, wedged firmly between other versions of the same book in different formats and different languages. Flipping open the cover, I remembered why I had this treasure. The volume that caught my attention, didn’t originally belong to me. It does now, by default.

I’ll stress this up front. My love gave me gifts. The gift of acceptance, the gift of care; gifts of hope and light that meant a lot to me then, but even more to me now. The greatest of all these – love – has always been there, remains and endures.

I reiterate these truths from a season past:

I don’t want to own false grief.

I’m not happy about losing Jeff. I’m not angry, either.

I’m not questioning, “Why?” I know why, and I’m thankful.

I don’t want to own false hope.

I want to have faith that where I am headed will someday make sense to me, and maybe to some others.

I don’t want to own the responsibility of false vision, knowing all that lies ahead.

I want to affirm that life’s adventure is a gift, gladly opening each day as such.

I don’t want to own a false sense of security.

I want to believe with my whole soul that, as paths change, they will continue to be clearly marked in my rear-view mirror – under the direction of the only GPS necessary: God’s Positioning System.

 Ephesians 2:6: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. (NIV)

 I do believe. I do believe I’ve been gifted. I do believe I’ve been gifted, many times over.

Quote for the Week:

2018 03 27 the greatest of gifts became even greater jakorte

 

Take a Right

Before we were married, before we lived together, Jeff and I attended a work Christmas party together.

He’d had a few drinks and was tuckered out from dancing, so I offered to drive his truck home. He gave me some initial directions and then sat back for the ride. When, I’d reached the end of the first leg, I asked for the next set of directions. I had to wake him up, but he answered quite coherently. I followed his advice until I sort of knew where I was. As we neared Roger’s Highway, I wanted to be sure I didn’t miss his mom’s house, so I asked for guidance, again.

He was momentarily confused when I woke him up for that. But, after assessing our surroundings, told me to turn left onto Roger’s. I already knew that. “How far I should go?” I asked. Jeff said he’d let me know.

When it seemed I’d be driving longer than I expected, I looked over to see that he was asleep, again. So, I nudged him awake, again.

“Oh,” he said. “Where are we?” I read him the street sign we were passing. “Ok,” he said. “Take the next right.” So, I did. Another minute went by and nothing looked familiar, so I asked. “Jeff, where do I go next.”

“Oh,” he said. “Take the next right.”  I drove along on a dark country road for another few minutes. When I came to a set of railroad tracks, I had a feeling something had gone wrong. I came to a stop, pulled on his sleeve, and said, “Jeff, I don’t think this is right…”

Suddenly, he sat up straighter in his seat, turned to me and in all seriousness asked, “Where are we?!”

“What do you mean ‘Where are we?! I’ve been following your directions!”

“Oh,” he said. “I was sleeping!” I was startled into silence, while Jeff craned his neck around to try and get his bearings.

“Well, I’m not sure…” he started. Interrupted by clanging bells, flashing lights and the lowering of the railroad gate, he seemed even more stunned. “You must have missed mom’s,” he mused. I reminded him I’d been following his directions. Jeff reminded me that he’d been asleep.

“Are you awake now?” I asked. “Yeah, I’m awake now,” he affirmed, gesturing grandly toward the train rumbling by us.

“That’s great,” I nodded. Shivering and lost, I told Jeff to get out of the truck and change seats with me. “But… we’re almost home!,” he countered. Halfway out of the driver’s door, I half-laughed and full-on snorted “uh, huh.… and you’re going to stay awake and get us there!”

Another time, on the way back from a casino run to Mt. Pleasant, late at night, almost early in the morning, I was once again the designated driver. This time Jeff hadn’t had anything to drink, but he was super sleepy. So, I took the reins and drove the three of us back to my apartment. With Jeff in the passenger seat and my out-of-town friend in the back seat, we’d been on the nearly empty highway for about 30 minutes. She and I were keeping each other awake and talking and laughing, when suddenly Jeff flung his arm across in front of me, pointed and screamed, “Deer!!!!”

I, immediately, (unfamiliar with recommended and unrecommended deer avoidance actions) slammed on the brakes. My friend found her front half and one wildly waving arm over the center console, accidentally jabbing Jeff as she tumbled. In full-on panic, Jeff grabbed for the dash board. His head shot toward me as he bellowed, “Huh? What? Whoa! WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?”

“What do you mean ‘What am I doing?’” I shouted back. “You said there was a deer!”

“I didn’t see any deer!” he yelled. “I WAS SLEEPING!”

“You pointed at it!” My friend and I almost simultaneously shouted back.

Jeff never truly believed that I had been following his direction to his mom’s house. I’m not sure he believed me about the deer, either. At least this time, I had a witness. A slightly bruised, but very gracious witness. She and I still laugh about that. 

Quote for the Week: 

2018 03 20 some memories anchor jakorte

 

Dress De-Coding

We went to church. Then, we kept going to church. For the most part, I enjoyed it. I found similarities in prayers and biblical stories. When I skipped over the Jesus part, the sermon always had some good message. Once a month, I remembered I was an interloping fish out water. Communion stressed me out.

Staying seated in a small-ish church was an obvious choice. Despite the invisible but unmistakable arrow of non-belief over my head, greetings were sincerely cordial. “Just wait ‘til they find out,” I’d think to myself, running an uneducated scenario in my head. It was easy to envision stone-faced, blank-wall welcome-retraction.

I noticed while most members sported Sunday clothes, a few regularly did not. It seemed Jeff and I were over-dressed, based on the attire of other attendees in our age range. So, I asked him about the dress code. “I know,” Jeff said. “I just can’t wear jeans to church. It doesn’t seem right. I’d be uncomfortable. I think it’s kinda disrespectful.” Then, as usual, he gave me a choice in the matter by adding, “… but, you can, if you want to.”

I thought about and reached the same conclusion. I would never have worn jeans to a Friday night service. Without ever having done it, or been given the opportunity to, I instinctively felt I’d be uncomfortable, anyway. Dressing up with Jeff made the day feel more special. Sunday mornings became our version of date night. Over brunch we’d talk about the sermon and religion and the store, and whatever else came up. 

Pretty much unfailingly, following “Go in Peace,” Jeff would sort of hopefully ask, “Wanna go to coffee-hour?” At my request or rather my denial, coffee hour was a no-go. Because that would mean socializing, and that would mean questions. One day, Jeff told me he’d really like to go to coffee hour someday, just for a little bit. I explained I was dreading the day when someone would ask me why I don’t participate. “I mean,” I explained, with a double wrist wave  “I’m sure they’ve already figured it out, but…”

“Nah…” Jeff shrugged. “… they probably think you’re Catholic.”

Quote for the Week:

2018 02 13 we choose our clothes to reflect our attitude jakorte

 

 

 

 

Memorable

The first time we went to church, Jeff was reluctant to ask if anyone knew our caller. I’m not sure why. When I asked about it, he just said, “Next time.” I didn’t push it, because, well, I wasn’t the reason we were there.

The second time we went, I encouraged him to ask. Jeff said, “Ok.” He slid down the pew to ask a woman he sort-of knew. He remembered her name from years ago, as a friend of Nannee. Surprisingly, she remembered Jeff quite well, and enveloped him in a back-slapping hug.

It was surprising, to me, at the time. You’d think after about the 100th time someone he hadn’t seen in 30-40 years recognized him, remembered him and was happy to see him – that I wouldn’t be astonished.

I never got used to it, certainly never expected it. It happened a lot. Like the time Jeff and I were standing in line to pay at the food auction. When we were just a few people back from cashing out, Jeff left me to pay while he went to get the car. The woman behind me tapped me on the should and asked, “Is that Jeff?” I confirmed and she lit up with a huge smile. “I was his teacher!” As she told me he was such a nice young man, I was picturing a junior high connection.

When Jeff came back in to load up our purchases, he was greeted with a hug. He explained that she was one of his early grade-school teachers.  (3rd grade, maybe?) That surprised me because I’m sure he was a little shorter and had a lesser amount of facial hair at that age. I’d never seen him sans mustache ad beard, and momentarily wondered if I’d recognize him at first glance without them. 

The final recognition surprise came a few days after Jeff passed. I received a phone call from the coroner’s office. It was the medical examiner offering personal condolences with the explanation that he had been Jeff’s pediatrician when Jeff was very young. He wanted me to know that he remembered Jeff very well and fondly, too.

Thinking about it now, so many people saw something in Jeff that could easily be dismissed as recognition; but I think what they were really remembering was his never-changing soul.

(And the fact that his laugh was so distinct, someone an aisle over in the grocery store would rush around the corner and exclaim, “I knew it HAD to be YOU!” Happened. More than once.)

Quote for the Week:

2018 02 06 faces are easily recognizable jakorte

Bonus School Photo Collage (a gift, compiled by my niece):

Jeff school photo collage 20180206_190706~2

 

10 x 10 Gamble

With SMC in our heads and the possibility of a part time store with a bridal theme, we just went ‘to look’ at the open space at Selders’ Mall.

We were excited on the way over, set with our plan and pitch. One area of concern was required non-competition with the other stores. A bridal dress salon, a masseuse, a hair salon, a tax man, tuxedos, a seamstress and rental décor already occupied the mall. Jeff and I had poured through every page of products and were thinking wedding décor, wedding party gifts, table favors would fit in nicely.

We’d been told the space was small, but seeing it in person was a bit surprising. I skeptically surveyed the situation. What it really was, was a 10-foot by 10-foot alcove previously used as bridal gown dressing room, if that helps you imagine it any. There wasn’t a dedicated door, just a rod where a curtain had previously hung, and to be honest it was a bit dingy and very poorly lit.

I swiftly conjured up a list of things we’d need to change. Jeff declared it was a perfect size.

I saw the need for paint, carpet cleaning and a way to cover the one narrow door-side sized window without obliterating all of the small amount of natural light.

Jeff envisioned lining the walls with shelves, moving in a small desk and chair and setting up the cash register and credit card machines SMC had helped us obtain. Brides, mothers of brides, wedding planners are not solo shoppers. I worried that trying to get more than two people besides Jeff or I into the store would make it seem uninvitingly small.

In addition, we’d have to be ultra selective with our merchandise. To me, that made the tiny spot a big gamble. Reduced variety can only attract a reduced audience, and we hadn’t even established exactly who we thought our narrow-niche customers might be, yet.

I was impressed with the balloon and rental decor business our enthusiastic friends had set up. The other business owners/space renters seemed nice. Price wise, it fit our budget. The location was pretty good and would give our store-to-be a Tecumseh address. We spent a good amount of time speaking with the owner, asking if we could perhaps incorporate the entrance hallway into the room as part of the shop.

She was agreeable to that, but did not want us to use a side entrance to the building as our main in. I thought that was reasonable and a good business decision. It would give anyone looking for us an idea of what else was there, and us a chance to catch the attention of customers who didn’t arrive already planning to visit our gift shop.

While Jeff and the others were still talking, I slipped back to re-evaluate the room. Something about it reminded me of something I’d seen before. Another business in a microscopic space that managed to be jam-packed full of specifically themed merchandise.

I was still contemplating that as Jeff and I, our friends and the owner made our way into the parking lot.

What happened next was what Jeff would later refer to as a “menu moment.”

Quote for the Week:

2017 09 26 creativity is ability to change jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links: 

Small Shops: Design Ideas

Small Business: Weird Ideas

Inventory: Big Ideas