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

The Missing Third

(Ok, ugh. Out of order. Somehow  I managed to skip this post between Around the Corner and Murky. It’s a big important emotional chunk, too. So a restart – to bring us back to that point.)

I blew the car horn three times, in quick succession, then, let one long loud one linger.

That sort of worked.

Jeff didn’t wake with his usual start. He opened his eyes slowly and stared straight ahead.

“Do you see it?” I asked

“See what?”

I considered Jeff’s sleep-talking history and noticed that he didn’t seem to be blinking.

“Hey!” I solidly smacked his arm. “Are you awake?”

He shrugged away from me like I was a loon. “Yeah, I’m awake. A car horn woke me up.”

“That was me! I wanted you to see! Look!” I pointed.

“Look at what?” Jeff searched the distance. “You used the horn?”

“Yes! To wake you up.”

“Why didn’t you just wake me up?” He puzzled.

‘Ugh!” I threw my hands up, pointing again. “Look at the rainbows! There are three of them!”

Jeff squinted and swiveled. “I only see two.”

“There are three!” I directed him to tree-top landmarks; to guide his eye up to the faintest of the triple arches.

“I don’t see it.” He repeated.

Realizing my vision might be clearer because of my colored lenses, I whipped off my sunglasses. “Look through these!” I demanded.

“These are way too small.” Jeff laughed, pinwheeling them.

Overcome with urgency, I shouted “I don’t care! Just put them on, before it’s too late!”

“Ok,” he agreed, but furthered his logical reluctance.

“You know they’re gonna get stretched out and won’t fit your pea-head, anymore.” Said, the man with a head the approximate exaggerated  size of an early-season pumpkin and the scale-confirmed weight of a bowling ball, to the woman who buys her ballcaps and sunglasses in the youth sections of stores.)

I watch Jeff bob his head up and down, peering through them.

“Nope,” he re-concluded. “Don’t see it.”

By then, the third had almost faded away. An unsettling sadness rolled through my heart into my eyes. Jeff stared at me, shocked. “Why are you crying?”

“I really wanted you to see it,” I whispered, to avoid sobbing. “It’s very… comforting.”

“Comforting?” Jeff repeated, his expression equally confused and concerned. “Why is it comforting?”

“I don’t know… it just…  is.” I was just as baffled by my reaction as he was.

I was so truly disappointed for him. In those few moments, it had felt like such an important thing; significant.

I’d never seen a triple rainbow before, and Jeff still hadn’t.

Quote for the Week: 2019 09 10 delicate things jakorte

(about this photo, i was sitting at a sunny high top table taking a little rest during a warmish march traverse city wine tour earlier this year. i looked over at this nook, and thought, “i should take a picture.” then, i thought, “why?” then, i thought, “well, those are some interesting angles.” then, i thought, “i’m gonna look like a loon.” but, it kept drawing my attention, so i got up and took a short burst series. back on the bus, i scrolled through some of the day’s photos while waiting for the rest of the riders to board. brought tears to my eyes.  i can’t always see exactly what i’m shooting in sun glares. happens a lot on weekend morning strolls. especially with spider webs and rainbows.)

A Jeff Day

We had an awesome visit, laughing and listening to Jeff stories; g-rated versions, revised for the one, single-digit aged member of his audience. Covering youth into adulthood, he regaled us, and our impressionable-aged nephew, with hilarious MIS and other misadventures.

Falling asleep in the bathroom for hours, being so unruly his brother and buddies stuffed him into a race tire. How his Mustang got totaled without his help, sitting on the front lawn with a for sale sign, in park.

Jeff recounted having fun jamming his buddies (all the same size and stature) into a tiny Fiesta. Driving to Ohio, for bowling and drinking and a breakfast they called, “a heart attack on a plate.”

He’d said that he’d consume a pound of bacon, a loaf of toast, and a half-dozen eggs. I’m not sure that part wasn’t a bit of an exaggeration. Although, I don’t have any doubt it was a necessarily-big, semi-sobering meal before the return drive home.

“Don’t do that.” Jeff said when he told this particular story. “Don’t drink and drive. We’re lucky we’re all still alive.”

All of these stories, I knew well. I enjoyed them, because he was enjoying himself. It was so much fun to watch others hear them for the first time.

Jeff would end each hilarious story, endearingly, with a serious advisement. “I tell you this,” he’d said to our nephew, numerous times. “I tell you this, so you know what not to do!”

Reminiscence is therapeutic. Sometimes. Sometimes, not. I found myself sadly wishing that everyone could have had a last “leave them laughing” day with Jeff like this one.

Paused, sweet revelation allows me to gift you this tear-drying truth:

This Jeff day was like any other – truly, like every other. Filled with stories and laughter; wisdom and care.

No matter who you are, no matter when that last day was, every single person who ever knew Jeff  had a last Jeff day – exactly like this one.

Quote for the Week: 2019 08 06 It’s a rare person who doesn’t leave behind jakorte

to a kid –

I almost believed him.

“Oooooo – k.” I took my time stretching it out.

“If you’re sure…” I added, in an identifiably skeptic tone. The one Jeff had come to recognize as my ‘that might not be the best way to handle this‘ voice.

“Actually,” he hedged. “Mmm. Maybe, you should pick me up.”

                                                                         ∼

The thing was, until I was picked up for the ride home, I’d forgotten that my other end-of-the-line back-up driver wasn’t with me.

I decided to stop at the store on the way home, to see for myself. When I got there, he was sleeping. He woke up immediately, but was mildly disoriented for a few moments.

I couldn’t take him in the commuter van – that was an unauthorized no-no, which could have disbanded the van pool.

I considered parking the van at the store and driving the Buick home. But, we had a visiting trip planned for Saturday, and wouldn’t be able to pick-it up until Sunday.

The thought of leaving it in the parking lot made me nervous. If anything happened to the van while it was parked there, I’d be responsible.

I asked Jeff to call around, and see if someone could meet me at home in Adrian, and then drive me back to Tecumseh., so I could turn around drive him home. That wasn’t easy, either. After a lot of attempts, Jeff finally found someone.

There ended up being some sort of confusion; some sort of delay. Jeff announced he’d just drive himself home. He didn’t want to put anybody out.

I put the ka-bosh on that, attempting to entice him with the promise of stopping anywhere he wanted to for dinner on the way home. He said he’d wait, but he wasn’t really hungry.

My whole trip from the store to home, and back to the store, took about an hour. By the time I got back there, Jeff was feeling better, and feeling badly, that he’d cause so much concern.

Our rescuer was a sweet, new-ish driver, whom Jeff had been giving cooking lessons to, and who happily referred to him as ‘Uncle Jeff.’

I gotta tell you; this. It never ceased to amaze me how kids gravitated to him, and how strong those bonds became. Little people didn’t look up and see a huge, hairy scary giant. They instinctively recognized him as a big, loveable kid. There wasn’t a single one who was afraid of him.

In fact, there was one little boy, we were about to meet who had developmental problems. We’d been told he was terrified of new people, and had been known to throw himself on the floor in tantrum when faced with an unfamiliar situation. We’d been warned, it probably wouldn’t go well.

We were prepared for that. Actually, I was prepared for that. Jeff wasn’t prone to pre-conceived notions. He’d just step into any situation, and wait and see how it’d go.

What I wasn’t prepared for was for the little guy to walk right up to Jeff, shake his hand, and say, “Hello.” It was truly special.

And, a profound moment for me. I didn’t suddenly learn something new about my husband. There was no Godly beam of light or angels chorusing, but my heart swelled, as if there were.

I know some of those kids still remember him, because they still talk about him. About all the silly, outrageous, playful things he did. About his patience and the knowledge he loved to share.

As I’ve told you before, he was kinda unforgettable. Even more so, to a kid.

Quote for the Week: 2019 06 18 Its normal to reconcile the world in relationship jakorte

 

Typical, I’m Ok.

There’s a memory gap, between the time I left the house Friday morning and the time I got the phone call.

I don’t remember what I was working on at the time. I don’t remember if it was before lunch or after lunch, or what time it was when I answered my phone.

At the time, the conversation didn’t shock me. It does, now, though. Because of the way the mind works.

Jeff’s body had already cried “wolf” so many times, it wasn’t too terribly concerning. We were operating under the well-documented and demonstrated assumption that he would rally, of course.

“Jeff told me not to call,” she said. “He’s going to be mad I called you, but I felt I should.”

Typical for Jeff, he had fallen asleep in his squeaky, red-glitter vinyl, swivel chair behind the display case. Importantly, the swivel and squeak would often jolt him awake, if he happened to drift off. They had saved him from falling back, or falling front, or falling off.

“I had a hard time waking him up,” she said. “A really, really hard time. I thought he should go to the hospital, but couldn’t get him to go. He doesn’t look so good.”

Thanking her, I hung up, and immediately dialed Jeff.

I rushed over his typical, jovial greeting. Hi, just calling to check up on you. How’s it goin’? ”

“It’s goin’!” he joked. “Had two customers today.”

“Cool. So … how are you feeling?”

“Oh, I’m, uh, feelin’ ok.” He stammered.

“Really?” I asked. “What’s been going on there?”

After a beat, Jeff huffed. “She called you, didn’t she?”

“Yep. You wanna tell me what happened?”

“Nah. It was nothin’.”

“Really?” I ppersisted. “She thought it was somethin’. Said you scared her.”

He explained he’d arrived there later than he had planned (typical). “Was walkin’  around, then, I was out of breath, and I was sweatin’ real hard. So, I set down to drink my pop.”

“Mt Dew?” I prompted, knowing he’d likely have to  answer ‘yes.’

Knowing I’d be annoyed and prone to not so subtly reminding him, again, that sugar and caffeine were not a diabetic’s friend, Jeff decided to skip right over that rote role-play.

“Aw, I didn’t mean to fall asleep,” he almost whined. Continuing on a sigh, he finished in typically optimistic Jeff style, “… but, it was a good sleep, so, I must have needed it.”

“So, you’re totally fine, now?”

“Yeah,” he answered. “Kinda a little bit dizzy, sick to my stomach.”

“Maybe, you shouldn’t finish the Mt Dew,” I poked.

“Oh, I already drank it, all.” Jeff confessed. “And I think it helped, some. I’m not so tired now.”

“Uh, huh, sure.” I snarked. His expected chuckle sounded a little off, not quite right.

“Hey,” I gentled my tone. “You sure? You feel ok to drive home?”

“I’m ok.” Jeff assured me.

Quote for the Week:2019 06 11 a true friend is willing to go behind your back

It’s Ok to Step Away

It’s ok to step away.

One foot off the path isn’t usually trouble.

Remember, you know the way back.

Don’t be too hard on yourself, if you’re not ready to return.

Loss is only measurable by the strength of the relationship;

By  breadth of share, by depth of care, and trueness of the heart.

 

Experience hasn’t taught me what to say, but, that’s ok.

I’ve learned other things; to whole-heartedly listen, to laugh along.

To remain steadfast and patient; waiting for the heralding moment.

To acknowledge clear tears of realization; there will be no more memories made.

To stand by and let you know: it’s ok to step away.

 

Quote for the Week: 2019 05 14 It’s ok to step away jakorte

Couched

To say that I’d become accustomed to coming home to some sort of weird situation, is putting it mildly.

This time, Jeff was sitting-up on our living room couch. His head was bent as if he were scrutinizing his foot-ware. It took me a moment to realize he was fast asleep.

The sitting-up-sleeping thing wasn’t the unusual part. It was the fact that he’d couched. We rarely used our formal living room, even though it was right inside our front door.

All the good stuff, like the TV, stereo, surround-sound, book cases and treadmill lived in the den. It was where we spent the majority of our evenings, at home.

He woke up as I finished rustling in. “Oh, hey!” he said, cheerfully, like he hadn’t been completely conked-out. “You’re home early!”

I checked my watch. It was, indeed, a few minutes earlier than normal. “You’re right,” I agreed. “It’s only 5:45.”

“Huh. 5:45?” Jeff frowned. “I was just resting a minute after… oops!”

Wind-milling his legs for propulsion, he pushed off the couch, unsteadily heading toward our Dale Earnhardt shrine-home office.

Paused in the doorway, Jeff threw his arms up in frustration. “Aw, dang it! I never got the groceries put up!”

“When did you go shopping?” I asked, following. Gathering up bags, Jeff answered, “On my way back from dropping off the boxes.”

“When was that?” I prodded. He thought for a few seconds.

“I dunno.” He replied, pulling on his beard. “Sometime around 2:30-ish, I guess. I think I was home by 3:30.”

I was still processing that Jeff had been shoe-inspecting, sleep-sitting for over two hours, when the house phone rang.

Grabbing a few bags on my way to the kitchen to answer the call, I commented over my shoulder. “The milk’s probably no good, but everything else should be ok.”

“The milk’s probably ok, too,” Jeff hopefully argued, as he followed me.

I wrinkled my nose. He just laughed, and headed back to the other end of the house for the rest of the goods.

“Well, you’re the one that’s going to have to drink it…” I amusedly called after him.

I set the groceries on the counter near the phone, and picked up the receiver.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Hon!” the cheerful voice on the other end greeted me. We were lucky enough to have the sweetest, most sunshiny neighbor.

“Oh, I’m just checkin'” she chuckled. “Did Jeff tell you about the car, today?”

“About the car?” I squeaked.

Quote for the Week:2019 04 23 Resiliency adaptation jakorte