The Beginning of the Story of the End

 

13 years ago today, I think I knew before I knew.

It was the strangest feeling.

It still is.

.

I took a 20-mile detour on the way home from Lansing this past weekend.

Accidentally, really. Not even on auto-pilot, since it’d been so long since I went that way.

Just a missed turn while I was thinking about the rain and Frosty Boy and my Brookside destination.

Odd to travel that same path so close to the same days. The thing is, the story goes on.

And, again, a warning.

It’s only the beginning of the story of the end.

The reality that followed wasn’t pleasant. It was shocking, bizarre, surreal and sadly, in a glass-half-empty way, expected.

February’d found us listening to a rundown how things might go. How Jeff’s disease and complications would likely progress.

The order was correct: first, he’d be alive, and then, he wouldn’t be.

The timing, though, was fundamentally far-off, greatly misjudged, significantly skewed.

Even when you know what to expect, it’s still unexpected. Quite unbelievable, and unbelievingly challenging for the mind to process.

It’s the sort of thing the heart is much quicker to recognize.

In the same way that Sadie was waiting for me to figure it out, my certain heart was forced to wait for my uncertain mind to follow.

I picked up the phone and dialed 911.

Quote for the week: 2019 10 01 the heart will speak truthfully jakorte

to dance, without music

Once I assured myself Jeff’s mask situation was secure, I headed to the other end of our house. Out of courtesy. I doubt my husband would have woken up if I’d exercised my option to use our en suite. Since he was solidly sleeping, I didn’t want to take the chance.

By the end of August 2019, with the help of Jeff’s Salsapalooza plan, our still relatively tiny store (although, comparatively, a mansion to our minuscule starter-store) had broken even YTD. We were unbelievably ecstatic knowing we’d be heading into the holiday season in great shape.

Yes, we’d have to work hard to keep the momentum going. Hopefully, we’d need to keep purchasing stock. The final quarter of 2006 could be significantly profitable, fuel the future of our business and solidify our dream.

With any luck, MHSC could conceivably close out non-red in just our third year.

Of course, we weren’t planning on letting it be a luck thing. We’d never leave it up to that. It would be a face-to-face, phone-to-phone, email-to-email, direct mailbox mail, somewhat prehistoric print, semi-regular radio, and weekly BNI thing.

That same year, we’d also created a postcard mailing advert for Jeff’s next fantastic idea – Sauce of the Month Club. We simultaneously debuted the program in our web-store.

When the very first participant signed up and purchased the plan on-line, it was a banner day.

Jeff was hilariously giddy, grinning from ear to ear. I was right there with him because he waited until I got home to tell me.

“You’re the first person I’m telling this to,” Jeff started out of the office, as I came in the front door. Opening his arms wide, he declared. “I wanted to celebrate this with just us.”

Without knowing what we were celebrating, I jumped in for a hug. Once he had me in his arms, Jeff began to dance. I followed his lead, without any music, while he explained.

I smiled up at my love, as we took waltzing steps. Without any music, I got to thinking. Jeff took one look at my face and figured out I was contemplating.

“Now, now, now,” he admonished, with over-dramatic fake seriousness. “Don’t worry about any of this,” he confidently continued, clasping our hands over his heart. “I already talked to the guy and it’s a present for his Dad.”

“We made a list of stuff he’d like!” he beamed. “And, get this… he might even get his Dad to come in with him to get it each month. So, we might not need to do any mailing!”

Quote for the Week: 2019 08 27 to dance without music jakorte

Music to His Ears

I didn’t have to listen to AC/DC the entire drive

I don’t dislike AC/DC. The manic mouthiness is a little too raucous for early morning deer-watch drives. Absolutely, better suited to starting off a party right, then keeping you awake on a midnight swoop home.

On M-50, just outside of Tecumseh, Jeff nodded off.

Not unexpected, although that usually didn’t happen until Jackson. I made sure he was solidly snoozing, before I flipped the station, and commenced with a self-indulgent, quiet little country music sing-along.

Jeff shifted, sort of snorted, then settled down, again.

An hour and some later, at the end of the exit ramp in Lansing, I clicked the radio off, and nudged him. “Hey, wake-up,” I tickled his chin.

Jeff lifted his head as I turned the corner, checked his bearings, then turned to me and smiled. “I like listening to you sing,” he stated, sincerely.

The thing is – I can’t sing.

Evidence:

In 8th grade, it was strongly suggested choir might not be my best elective.

In summer theatre, I was given a silent part in Godspell – you know, a mime.

Admittedly,  I endlessly played each new vinyl record (yep, I’m that old) over and over trying to perfect a lyrical breath or catch an unusual beat-part. At some point, my father would reach a breaking point and yell down the stairs for me to stop singing. I always did. Except, for that one time, I decided to hum along. He told me to stop humming, because that as off-key, too.

I can’t explain Jeff’s enthusiasm for my voice, but that’s the kind of thing love does to a person. He once compared my weird warble to the angelic lilt of Alison Krauss.

I told him he was horribly mistaken, but isn’t it sweet how love can taint your ears?

Quote for the Week: 2019 07 30 LOVE hears your song 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

Gingerbread (Hot House)

I can’t place the timing, which always irks me. I wouldn’t even be questioning the timing, if there hadn’t been that recent ‘50 years ago’ today newspaper story. That startled me into a memory, too.

I know what happened, but I’m not always sure how or why what happened, happened. So, on that note, I confess: I’m not at all sure how I got to the beginning point of the story I’m about to tell you. Obviously, some things had to have happened first.

Like the conversation, Jeff and I had. That’s easy enough to recall, because… Wait, wait. It could have been something that came up in a BNI meeting, but it would have had to occur at the end of September 2006. I can’t help thinking that would have been pretty far in advance. I suppose, though, as area business were looking ahead to the holiday season, it might not have been unreasonable announce plans for an open-house and contest.

It’s something Jeff and I talked about, were excited about and planned to do: enter a gingerbread house contest at a local, main street yarn store. I’m sure they carried more than yarn, but the first time I entered the shop wasn’t to shop. I was there to drop off our creation. Near tears, I didn’t linger.

Physically, it was only my creation, assembled in the weeks following Jeff’s death. I didn’t have much time, and I’d never made a gingerbread house, before. The ideas and enthusiasm were just as much shared as everything in our lives was.

Jeff started it, so I expected Jeff would be making it, too. But, there I was, a few weeks into widowhood, thinking about how much fun it would have been to do it together. Perhaps, well probably, I was still in a sort of shock. Functioning and trying to keep moving along. I decided to keep the plan, and set out into the internet world of gingerbread and patterns and royal icing.

My edges weren’t straight, my technique was terrible. My royal icing either didn’t harden fast enough or hardened too fast to use. Eventually, I baked and sugar-solder assembled on a plain cardboard base something that happily looked like a lot house. I stared at the pile of decorations I’d amassed and the naked shell for a while wondering, “Now, what?”

I decided to let the structural bones set-up overnight and dragged out the top of our Tupperware cake carrier to protect it.

Quote for the Week: 

2018 01 02 A good overnight set could either make a lot jakorte

Bonus Photo & Story:

Tecumseh Herald Gingerbread House Jeff and Eric 1967

 

 

Stocking Sauce

Once in motion, we spent every spare moment immersed. I’d come home from work and ask Jeff what he’d accomplished during the day and what we were going to work that night.

One evening he replied that he’d spent the day ‘getting sauced.’ The next day he’d said, “I got more sauced!” Each time a creative answer followed. “I’m having a saucy day!” “I got saucified!” “Saucing!” 

We spent three weekends preparing, in grocery stores, on the web, on Food Network, and on the phone locating our opening stock.

In stores, because we didn’t want to duplicate easily found sauces, and it was likely we wouldn’t be able to match the big store low price.

On the web, looking for other hot sauce ventures: makers, sellers, stores, web sites. Yes, it’s true. We culled the names of the more popular brands and small start-ups.

On Food Network because BBQ challenges, and the many city specific food discovery shows featuring small business owners and local specialties.

There were a ton of tiny outfits. We learned that even if a popular brand was already stocked in mainstream or gourmet specialty stores, often the hotter-hottest of the line was not.

Jeff made friends. And, I’m talking more than acquaintances. Even over the phone, he had the gift of friendliness.

Within a few days free samples began rolling in. Some came from new makers/suppliers Jeff discovered. Two of the larger branded names couldn’t accommodate our small 2-4 or at most 6 bottle orders, but they were willing to provide the name of businesses who would.

Jeff spoke to both sources and within a day, after Jeff and I had agreed and disagreed on some items, our first order was placed.

The disagreement was about anything with the name or word ‘fart’ or ‘ass’ included. I know it’s more of a man thing than a Jeff thing, but no matter what, I just didn’t find it funny. I never understood the guffawing over the fart scene in Blazing Saddles, either. Especially after seeing it for the umpteenth time. I will admit the only time I’ve ever found a fart funny was when Peter Sellers was involved.

My vision was more gourmet, experimental, unique. Jeff didn’t think anyone would ever be interested in olive salsa or crab salsa, but his approach was, “Why not? Let’s see what happens.” 

On a Wednesday, two big boxes of serious shipment had arrived.  I only remember it was a Wednesday because we were debating the merits of waiting until we could get the shipments to the store or opening them now and just being excited.

 With enthusiasm we tore open the loot. The first thing Jeff pulled out delighted him and annoyed me…

Quotes (from friends and I) for the Week:

2017 10 30 The Tecumseh Herald Oct 2004 opening jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

 

 Funny?: flatulence

What?: popcorn farts

How?: like this