For The Count

 

Someone in some official capacity let me know that they were going to be in our bedroom for a quite while because they had to count all of Jeff’s pills.

You know… the major medications we’d finally got on track to fill at once, instead of making multiple trips to Schmidt’s Pharmacy per week. Yes, the multiple prescriptions that had just been filled a few days ago.

Somehow, our across-the-street neighbor got pulled into that and spent time counting along with I don’t know how many others. If I had to estimate, I’d say it’d probably taken an hour and some. But, then again, my reality clock wasn’t wholly functioning.

I did learn an interesting bit recently. I’m still not sure of the order of things, though.

Our next-door neighbor told me this.

She’d seen the line-up and flashing lights from her kitchen window and dropped everything to come over and see what was going on.

Shortly after she arrived, an officer came to find me. I was asked to return to our bedroom. My friend followed and was told she could not enter. Her response had been, “Where she goes, I go. I’m not leaving her alone.”

When asked who she was, she answered, “I’m a friend and I’m staying by her side. She’s not going anywhere without me.”

Pulled aside, it was explained to her. They wanted to see my reaction to my dead husband. Because she is a fiercely protective and feisty  Oklahoman, she set them straight. She pretty much told them they were crazy because everybody who knew us knew we were deeply in love. She stood her ground and stayed.

For all the irrational panicked murder-mystery thoughts I had, it never occurred to me they actually investigated our home as a crime scene and me as a suspect. It was quite a shock to me when I learned this 2 weeks ago.

I vaguely remember. I think it may have been the EMT, who’d told me that there had to be an investigation anytime anyone Jeff’s age died at home. I didn’t think that meant what it meant. I thought it was more like a “yeah, sorry, procedure” thing.

This part I remember on my own:

Walking toward the living room, I noticed there was one chair sitting in the middle of our living room. I stood in the dining room watching as an officer dragged a second seat away from the dining room table.

He asked me to sit. Seeing a notebook in his hand, I suggested we could just sit at the table.  He pointed to the chairs and said we could sit there.

So, I sat.

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Slightly Familiar & Fourth

 

Sometimes, if I move a certain way, it recalls the exact physical feeling; the act of turning away, turning my back on Jeff and the eerie finality of walking out our bedroom door.

I got as far as the dining room when the phone I amazingly still had in my grip, rang.

911 was calling me.

Apparently, I was supposed to stay on the line until it could be confirmed help had arrived. Until I was securely handed off to the next step.

I opened the door to find a man already standing in place, ready to move in, so I stepped back.

I registered the familiar face and was bit stupefied by that.

That and the fact that the situation had changed into something; moving, forward, fast.

With the screen door behind him and one foot inside our home, he said something official-sounding announcing he was who he was.

I don’t think I moved.

He told me his partner so-and-so had gone back to the ambulance for more equipment, then bent to grab what was already piled up on the porch.

I don’t think I said anything.

Which may have accounted for the curious look he glanced my way while straightening up.

When his focused eyes took me in, he actually sort-of smiled.

“I thought I recognized this address…” he said.

 

I couldn’t blame him for the almost grin. Jeff was a memorable rider, always joking. Even with acute pancreatitis.

Even the night that Nannee blew her airhorn. There was a lot of laughter that night. From everyone – Jeff, me, the crew of two. Nannee, as well.

This would be his fourth trip to our home.

 

“Yes.” I agreed with his observation.

A full beat passed before I added, “I can’t wake him up.”

“Where is he?”

“In bed.”

He glanced around.

I realized he was waiting for direction, so I led the way.

 

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Chucking Chuck

Splat.

It turned out that Jeff hadn’t been expecting me, at all. “No! No! Not you!” He exclaimed. “Sadie!” Jeff shouted and pointed. “It’s Sadie!” He waved his arms as he launched another piece of meat skyward, calling, “Here, Puppy, Puppy!”.

We completed an impressive, synchronized peer-over.

Hyper-girl was ping-ponging around, running a non-direct, Jack Russell route. She was making a bee-line toward the tree line, and Jeff was chucking chuck to get her to come back.

Our only slightly attentive lassie, was only slightly interested in what he had to say, but she was starting to sniff out the meat. Each morsel delay lasted about 2 seconds, then she’d turn her back and resume her directionally impaired run for freedom.

I resituated my grease-smudged glasses, and scooped the fallen bit from my sneaker top where it had finalized its landing. Struggling to quickly (aka ungracefully) open our escape-proof gate, I wasn’t exactly able to immediately bolt down the stairs.

Sadie saw me. Her homeward-galloping greeting was perfectly interrupted by another falling fragment. She was swift. I wasn’t swifter.

I had an advantage, though. By placing her tail-end toward me, I was in prime position to scoop up the little scoundrel just as she scarfed another bite of my supposed supper.

When she was safely back up-top, I set her down, and turned to Jeff. “How the heck did that happen?”

He’d been flipping a burger and caught a blur in the corner of his eye. When he fully turned towards it, he saw Sadie happily prancing along.

“Ok.” I said. “But, how did it happen? The gate was closed. I couldn’t get it open!”

“Hmm,” he remarked. “I kinda wondered what you were doing….”

Jeff and I mirrored surprise faces, and simultaneously scanned. She’d ghosted.

Sadie Bug Lady Bug and I played a one-sided game of tag, for a 5-minute while. Jeff watched and coached, offering wrangling advice and helpful stealth tactics. I finally got her.

Carrying Her Highness of Happiness up the stairs, again, I proposed we watch her to figure out her Houdini act. I waited at the bottom of the stairs. Jeff waited atop; at the barrier.

Soon enough, a patchwork head and two frisky paws popped through to the right of the door.

She was about to make a jump for it, but Jeff snagged her wiggly butt and hauled her back.

Sadie had, somewhat smartly, squeezed between the wider, wooden railing slats, and jumped down to the steps. We remedied with additional, in-between slats.

Since, we weren’t sure she’d be able to gauge the inappropriateness of a 5-foot leap to the ground, Sadie’s future deck-scapades were seriously supervised.

There were a few other canine escapes. The first one was accidentally resolved, which might have made my latter incident easier to resolve. If I’d known about that first one….

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That Looks Easy….

Jeff’s penchant for home improvement shows came in handy, sort of.

If you watch enough of them, you’ll absorb some basic knowledge. Most of that will need to be supplemented by online videos, step-by-step instructions or just jumping into the deep end to see how it goes.

Basic knowledge was enough to get me through numerous post Hurricane Katrina rebuilding missions with a construction based Michigan team, and various issues at home alone, later.

If Jeff was still here, he’d be telling humorous stories about some of our least successful attempts at home repair and renovation. We’d always start out thinking, “That looks easy enough.” We’d always end up bickering, and then, laughing at our bickering.

In mid-September, we finished an attempt to ‘easily’ replace the gate at the top of the back deck stairs. We needed one that  our dog, Sadie, wouldn’t be able to plow through, wiggle through or accidentally (or maybe not so accidentally) open. She’d managed to escape a few times, in all those ways.

The installation, actually, went pretty well. We had it done in a little under an hour, and tested our work. That’s when we realized we’d installed it to open the wrong way, by setting it in place upside-down.

“I thought that seemed a little harder than normal,” Jeff commented. Also, more difficult than ‘normal,’ the hardware wasn’t easily removed. Parts of screws broke off or were stripped, nuts fell between the cracks and tumbled down our long flight of stairs.

A lot of banging, two trips to the hardware store and four hours later, we were finished. To celebrate, Jeff suggested we fire up our newly repaired grill and cook-out.

The grill had been another frustrating fiasco. A 15-minute fix turned into two-hours of gentle Jeff cussing while installing a new lighter thingy.

I was inside cutting tomatoes and onions and gathering impromptu picnic supplies, when I heard Jeff shout.

“What the?”

“WHAT the?”

“Hey!”

“HEY!”

“Come here, YOU!”

As I ran to the slider, his voice volume was over-excitedly escalating.

“HEY!”

“Ouch!”

“Come HERE!”

“OUCH!”

Stupefied, I watched him pull and throw chucks of sizzling beef over the 5-foot drop at the back of our deck.

“Jeff!” Alarmingly concerned about his mental state, I slammed the screen door open. Suspecting he was having some sort of serious negative medication reaction, I blurted out, “I’m right here! What are you doing?”

Startled, he turned quickly, giving me a incredulous look, like I was the weirdo in this situation.

His stop-arm reaction time was a bit slower than his body turning time. Set in motion for an airborne release, he lobbed a glob of barely cooked ground in my direction.

I watched it wobble in a somewhat graceful arc, my mental slow-mo calculating: no – that’s not gonna happen.

It happened. Direct hit to my face.

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Home, to You

We chose our first dance song because we loved how it represented us.

The first verse was Jeff. The fourth verse was me. Everything in the middle, was us.

The song was a reflection of our daily mutual amazement that we found each other. It was true every day, especially for me.

When we were dating, Jeff was the light at the end of my week.

When we commuted together, Jeff was the light at the end of my workday.

When he was on disability, Jeff was the light at the end of my commute. He was my home, in every sense.

I’ll be honest with you. Every evening, driving (or being driven) home from Ann Arbor to Adrian, the same thought would cross my mind. I terrified myself wondering; will today be the day that I get home and find him dead?

I would pull into the driveway frightened. I would walk into our home frightened, only to be soothed by Jeff’s voice ringing out or reassured by sonic-size snoring.

Coming home, though, meant more to me than that. Spending evenings with Jeff were what I lived for. We didn’t do that much exciting stuff, anymore, but we never lacked for conversation.

We’d talk about the news, recipes, sports, tv shows. We’d talk about the store, about the book or magazine Jeff was reading, my job or some random fascinating fact that he had just discovered.

Jeff loved the ‘who-done-it’s. Shows like Dr G Medical Examiner, the First 48 and 24. He was loyal to mystery books and tv series, such as Stephen King and House. He loved some reality and ‘reveal’ shows. American Idol, Extreme Makeover, This Old House; but had no taste for Big Brother or The Bachelor. Oh, and cooking shows!

There wasn’t a cooking show Jeff hadn’t seen at least once. Iron Chef, Alton Brown, Paula Deen, and reruns of Two Fat Ladies were a few favorites. Almost fitting into the foodie category, competitive eating and shows about farming, ranked up there, too.

It was impossible not to learn something new every day. It also wasn’t premeditated, meaning that he didn’t set out to find an interesting topic to share. All topics were interesting.

It was fun to listen to Jeff while he was on the phone with my brother, Greg. Their conversation always seemed to turn into a fact-fest in a “one thing leads to another” way, which they both enjoyed. It was also amusing that Jeff could out-talk my brother, as Greg would initiate the conversation’s end with, “Ok, well, it was nice talking to you… I’m gonna go now.”

Jeff was my home and my haven, my teacher and my mentor, my everything for such a short while. For a bit, I’d been envious of those who had him for longer; the ones with longer lists of memories than I.

I’ve come to understand time in a different way, though. It isn’t the amount of time we have, or the memories we have to hold on to.  It isn’t about how many. It’s about the important ones; it’s about the memories that hold on to us.

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Listen to:  Home To You

 

 

 

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.”

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Sauce-a Huh?

We had a store coach. A fellow BNI member, with tons of enthusiasm.  He and Jeff got together once a month to brain storm. Jeff would bring him our ideas, and our monthly advertising budget. How much we spent didn’t exactly have a direct correlation to how much we earned. Mostly, we spent more on inventory than marketing. Some months, we’d spend more on advertising and less on product.

Jeff was super excited when I got home from work that day. In the meeting they had dreamt big. Then bigger; then bigger, yet. As he talked, it became clear he wasn’t really thinking budget.

The idea we had agreed to investigate further was to invite as many local non-chain restauranteurs as possible to a salsa meet-and-greet. Of course, there’d be tastings. Hopefully, some bulk sales, too. Serving salsa wasn’t an issue, we were licensed for that having taken the Lenawee County Health Department’s Food Safety course.  

When Jeff mentioned a local wine-maker and declared we could give samples of that, too, I had to stop him. “Um,” I said. “We don’t have a permit for that.” “I’ll check that out,” Jeff made a note. “Maybe he could do the samples for his own stuff.”

“Anyway,” he continued. “That’s not all of it.” He shuffled some papers around. “Here’s what I think we should do.” The title of the hand-written (almost illegibly scribbled, truly) was Sauce-a-Palooza. “I’m not sure we can use the ‘palooza’ part.” I interjected. “Might be copyrighted.”

“Ok,” he waved his hands. “But, that’s not all of it.”

“All of it” entailed tents, tables for crafters or businesses, a homemade salsa contest, hot sauce eating contest, bounce houses, live music, a live radio broadcast, and 20 different kinds of salsa for a vote-for-your-favorite American Red Cross fundraiser.  Each salsa would have a mason jar next to it. Each vote was 25 cents, but folks could put as much as they wanted over that in, too. The salsa with the most money in their jar would be the winner.

“The winner of what?” I asked. “No, wait… never mind that. Do you have any idea how much it costs just to rent tents? Do we need a permit for that? Live music? Where would we get a power source? I have no idea how much those bouncy things cost.  Do you?”

“Well,” Jeff was getting ready to explain, when I cut him off, again.

“Do we really want to serve homemade salsa from people we don’t know? We can’t just set out jars of salsa and let them sit there all day. We’d need to keep them cool. We’re gonna need to hire help for all this.” I took a deep breath. “Oh, no.” I reported. “We can’t possibly afford all that.”

“Well,” Jeff started.

“Maybe next year.” I emphatically ended the conversation, before adding, “So, what’s for dinner?”

Quote for the Week:

10 29 2018 There are only two types of business people jakorte