Lover's Key, Florida

Lover's Key, Florida

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Saturday, April 30, 2011


This morning I was up bright and early and then off to the stadium to assume my volunteer ticket taker duties at commencement exercises.  I believed someone who told me that it was going to be sunny and warm and dressed accordingly.  It was cold, cloudy and blustery.  As always seems to be the case, I had some strong memories of way back in 1964 when I received my M. A. Degree at the stadium and Lyndon B. Johnson was the speaker, not too long after he had succeeded the assassinated, John F. Kenney.  On that occasion he announced his War on Poverty.  A sweet, happy time in spite of our sorrow over the killing of John F. Kennedy.  Gwen was there, as were my folks, maybe other family members, I don't remember.  

Today was different.  There were probably in excess of 40,000 people in attendance, and many of them hadn't read the rules posted outside the stadium and in an e-mail sent to them; specifically the rule about purses not being allowed in the stadium.  Maybe the cold and my being terribly under dressed for it contributed to  the insight I had while patiently explaining to a matronly  woman that, "yes, I'm happy that you and your husband contribute much to the university, and it's only a small purse, and it's such a long walk back to the car, but, these are the rules that all must obey."  No Purse.  Usually people are understanding, and the husband or boyfriend always gives a cursory "I told you so," and they head back to their cars. In this instance the woman and her husband left in a huff, taking into question who my parent may have been, and promising to talk to someone about this.  As they left, the insight arrived: "You have a Masters Degree and a Doctors Degree from this university, and here you are, shivering in the cold, being insulted by a well-intentioned but misinformed person.  This makes no sense at all."  Perhaps it's time to reassess where I will put my volunteer efforts in the fall.  I'm quite certain I'll be watching UM football on TV, not as a volunteer usher.

The nostalgia for the past that I experienced while at the stadium prompted other more recent memories.  On my walk back to my car I remembered Roger and Barb, who were in the first support group that Gwen and I attended in the year after she was first diagnosed.  Roger is a retired UM professor, and Barb was a retired teacher with the Ann Arbor Public Schools.  We became quite good friends with them, and this morning I remembered a chance encounter with Barb in a hardware store a couple of months before she died of ovarian cancer.  We attended her funeral, and afterwards I was moved by a little story that Roger told about the  night Barb died:


 At the funeral, Roger told us a story
about how, on the night Barb died,
he was driving home from the hospital,
when he saw a deer, on the side of the road.

He stopped to let it cross the road.
Traffic piled up behind him.
I imagine car horns were blown.

Roger told us how, when he got home,
he rushed into the house,
anxious to tell Barb about the deer.

Then, he told us that,
of all the people at Barb’s funeral,
he was most glad to see us.

We were part of his and Barb’s life.
We would understand his story.
We did.
John A. Bayerl
July 26, 2007

Those now precious times when you were with me, Dear, are such a source of warm memories, even though they make me cry.  I can see us sitting at a table in the church basement listening to Roger tell that story in his geeky, birdwatcher way. We both cried then.  

Friday, April 29, 2011

Tears at Weddings

Today has been an emotional, yet rewarding day.  I finally got a good night's sleep and slept in late.  Then, off to the gym for an hour.  Dick and Mary had paid me the honor of asking me to give a toast at their Golden Wedding Anniversary Dinner tonight, so I spent some time preparing some comments for that.  Then I finally had time to view the royal wedding that I had taped.  Quite surprisingly, I found myself crying all the way through it.  Everything, every word just had so much more meaning.  The beautiful bride reminded me of my beautiful bride.  The words "for better of for worse," "in sickness and in health," and "until death do us part," were like hearing them for the first time.  The whole ceremony was so beautiful.  Gwen loved all that pomp and circumstance, I so wished she could have been watching  it with me.  The delicious tears I cried were a gift from her, a reminder of her continued presence in my life.

Tonight I enjoyed the anniversary celebration with Dick and Mary, family and friends.  My "toast speech" went well, except that I began by addressing the wrong side of the room.  There was another party in with us.  You had to be there.  The only tough part was when I talked about how fond Gwen was of  our sister-in-law, Mary.  She often talked about how she enjoyed Mary's company, and I know they often schemed against the brothers they had married.  Now it's home and off to bed.  I volunteered to serve as an usher at the UM Commencement Ceremonies at the Big House tomorrow, and have to be there at 7:00 a. m.

This poem was sent to me today.  I think our children will find some joy in it:


Mid April already, and the wild plums
bloom at the roadside, a lacy white
against the exuberant, jubilant green
of new grass an the dusty, fading black
of burned-out ditches. No leaves, not yet,
only the delicate, star-petaled
blossoms, sweet with their timeless perfume.

You have been gone a month today
and have missed three rains and one nightlong
watch for tornadoes. I sat in the cellar
from six to eight while fat spring clouds
went somersaulting, rumbling east. Then it poured,
a storm that walked on legs of lightning,
dragging its shaggy belly over the fields.

The meadowlarks are back, and the finches
are turning from green to gold. Those same
two geese have come to the pond again this year,
honking in over the trees and splashing down.
They never nest, but stay a week or two
then leave. The peonies are up, the red sprouts
burning in circles like birthday candles,

for this is the month of my birth, as you know,
the best month to be born in, thanks to you,
everything ready to burst with living.
There will be no more new flannel nightshirts
sewn on your old black Singer, no birthday card
addressed in a shaky but businesslike hand.
You asked me if I would be sad when it happened

and I am sad. But the iris I moved from your house
now hold in the dusty dry fists of their roots
green knives and forks as if waiting for dinner,
as if spring were a feast. I thank you for that.
Were it not for the way you taught me to look
at the world, to see the life at play in everything,
I would have to be lonely forever.
"Mother" by Ted Kooser, from Delights & Shadows. © Copper Canyon Press, 2004. Reprinted with permission.

 Thank you, Dear, for teaching us so much about how to look at life--with great courage, determination and, always, good cheer.   

Thursday, April 28, 2011


It's been another roller coaster kind of day.  I didn't sleep well at all last night, and had to be up bright and early because workmen were coming to put a sump pump in our basement--something to do with making sure rain water goes into the storm sewer, not the sanitary sewer.  They were here pretty much all day, but I was able to get away to my golf lesson.  Dave, my instructor, is amazing.  Today he said, "Judge a shot by the way it looks, not by the way it feels."  Golfers will know what that means.  Late in the day I had a nice visit with one of the bereavement counselors from Arbor Hospice.  She helped me see some things I hadn't thought of before, especially with regard to spirituality.  She must have done something right because after the workmen left I went to Mass at 5:10;  the list of people I need to pray for has piled up recently.

This evening I participated in my online bereavement group with people around the country.  There were some exceptionally hard stories tonight.  In  the middle of it, my sister Terri called to tell me that her friend, Reyna, who was diagnosed with leukemia four and one half months ago, died today.  I wasn't totally surprised at the news, Gwen's mom died of leukemia and I kind of knew about how deadly it is if not caught in the early stages.  Damn cancer!  A member of the bereavement group whose husband died about the same time as Gwen reported that she was told by her doctor today that there were suspicious results from and x-ray and she would need a CT scan.  It's a well known fact that caregivers have a higher probability of becoming ill after the one for whom they have been caring dies.  Sometimes I think I should just get away from all this cancer-related stuff and get on with living.  That sounds so simple, except that the ache in my heart never goes away, and all of these things help me accept the pain.  I can't run away from it, it has to be faced, examined, shaken a bit, and then it can be finally discarded.  It's a long, slow process that will take as long as it takes.  I haven't forgotten what my friend Dave told me right after Gwen died, "When the grief has you down on your knees you have only once choice and that is to find a way to stand up again."  This is a poem about that long, slow process:


It’s like washing my hands in the winter,
this grief of mine.
I turn on the faucet marked hot
and the water is always cold.

It’s never ever changes.
Wait patiently for the warmth
to take away the cold pain;
the water stays cold,
sometimes even gets colder.

I fill my hands with foam,
rub them briskly,
sing happy birthday to myself,
rinse in the clear, cold water,
long for the warmth.

In what seems like forever winter
I turn on the faucet,
the one with the red H,
and it’s always cold.

John A. Bayerl, April 28, 2011

I have had exceptionally fond memories of you today, Dear.  We're learning that "always and forever" means just what it says.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

One of Those Days

I talked with all of our children today; that always cheers me.  However, even that wasn't enough to counteract the effects of one of those "blue" days that  suddenly and unexpectedly bedevil those of us who grieve.  Today was a cascade of reminders that the one who made my life complete is no longer in my life.

Having gotten home quite late last night, one of the first things I did today was to sort through the mail that accumulated in my absence.  Here is a notification from the UM Comprehensive Cancer Center that their annual celebration for cancer survivors is coming up in a couple of weeks.  Gwen and I loved attending that.  Included with the announcement was an RSVP card that included the option to have our name removed from their mailing list.  At least they didn't ask for a reason.  Next there was a notification from BCBSM about some remaining insurance issues that needed to be resolved by having me mail them a copy of Gwen's death certificate.  I hadn't look at it since right after the funeral.  I hate it--there it is in cold legalese.  The telephone rang; it was someone from the cemetery telling me that our gravestone monument was being placed today.  Oh me, oh my.  There was a stack of bills that had to be paid.  I keep the check book in Gwen's purse, where she always kept it.  It is necessary to look up some addresses; there they are, written in Gwen's impeccable handwriting.  I watched a taped Jon Stewart show, and he interviewed Gigi Ibraham, a young Egyptian woman who was a hero of the recent uprising there.  Out of habit, at one point I turned to talk with Gwen about what an an amazingly courageous young woman she was.  Oops!  Fortunately I had decided early to attend an evening Mass tonight, which I did, and had myself a nice cry.  Is it any wonder that  one of the lines from and old Dionne Warwick song has been going through my mind all day?  ". . .you don't know what you got 'til it's gone."

Oh, but we knew what we had, didn't we, Dear?  I wonder if the time will ever come when I can see reminders or a picture of you and not feel a giant hole in my heart.  And all will be well.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


I enjoyed my visit in Colorado.  My heart still aches a bit when I remember how disappointed my grandson was in his performance at the track meet he participated in.  He's in grade seven, such a vulnerable time of finding out who we are and where we fit in the scheme of things.

My flight home last night was uneventful until I realized that I hadn't remembered to remember exactly where I parked my car in the parking garage.  It didn't do me much good to remember that somebody somewhere within  the past few months warned me that part of the grief process is a lack of focus and paying attention to details when I was wandering about the parking ramp at midnight feeling fairly confident that that there was a red 2 on the wall near where my car was parked.  That is, until I discovered that there were several walls with red 2's on them.  The day before I had stubbed my toe on chair, and it hurt.  After wandering about for a while, I realized that, just as if I were lost in a forest, I had walked in a circle.  I stopped to consider what to do next, and, lo and behold, I saw my car one row away.  This was one probably the first time since Gwen's death that I didn't wish she were with me.  It would not have been a pretty scene.  She had a keen sense of direction, whereas mine pretty much stops after Up, Down, Left and Right.  On the other hand, she, in all likelihood, would have remembered where the car was parked.  Her presence was needed more than ever.  Anyway, it was late by time I drove to Ann Arbor, and had to face one more challenge--walking into the empty house.

Today, while at the gym, I got to thinking about what a difference it would have made if in my younger years I had access to the kind of training equipment I now use routinely.  That line of thinking got me to thinking about what an athletic person Gwen was, and, although I played at sports, I wasn't nearly the disciplined and accomplished athlete as she.  As I pursued that line of thinking a cute little poem began to form in my mind.  Later in the day a friend sent me an e-mail message with a picture of the prom I attended  in 1955.  Bashful and shy then, my friends arranged for me to go with a young woman who was a minister's daughter.  Not that there's anything wrong with minister's daughters, it's just that I was Catholic and she was protestant--not a good thing back then.  How did I get sidetracked?


They were such opposites
in most ways.

She, athletic and beautiful,
queen of homecoming,
cheerleader captain,
honor student always
admired by all who knew her.

He, a skinny farm boy,
liked sports
an arranged prom date
barely made the top fifth of his class,
anonymous to all but a few.

Yet, they found each other,
fell deeply in love—
she took off his rough edges,
he smoothed her sharp edges,
they made each other complete.
And, the world became a better place;
at least for the two of them.

John A. Bayerl, April 26, 2011

Your presence was needed more than ever last night, Dear, as it always is.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Looking Back

Lately I've been looking back at some of my earlier postings.  It's interesting to notice how the topics of concern shift over time--or don't change at all.  One thing that doesn't change is the sense of bewilderment, bordering on befuddlement, that continues to tinge everything I do.  At times it's like I'm wandering about in a place where the landmarks all look familiar, but none of them make any sense.  It isn't a foreign place, it's a place I'm accustomed to, it just doesn't feel like I belong there.

Yesterday we had such a nice visit and meal with Bob's sister, Kathie, and her husband, Tom, and their two children, Hannah and  Megan.  They were gracious and welcoming and the meal was terrific.  Yet, at times I found myself disconnecting from all that was going on.  I would be reminded that the last time we were at this place Gwen was with me, and there was no disease, no wheelchair, no thinking about dying.  At one point I found myself staring out a window at the cold rain that was falling, and, for a moment, desolation was everywhere.  Then, always the miracle of Gwen's felt presence, Jeanne, my daughter, stood beside me and put her hand on my back; "Are you all right, dad.?"  was all she said, but it was everything.  She is, after all, a direct link to her mother.  I immediately felt comforted.   Where were we here?  Oh, politics seem always to be on the front burner at these gatherings, and this was no exception.  Today's topic:  Is it deliberate amnesia or willful ignorance that plagues the body politic?  Hmmmm. . . that will take some discussion.  When we left, there were hugs all around; again, the sense that those who are younger seem to have an intuitive sense of my pain, I can see it in the warmth in their eyes and of their hugs.

 I've tried to capture what it feels like to live what at times seems to be two lives.  There's the public "I'm fine. See, nothing's bothering me." person who knows how to navigate social settings, and then there's the "Gosh, will this ever end?  Maybe I don't want it to end." person who hasn't a clue about how to navigate through the turbulent seas in which he finds himself.   I deliberately  put this  in the first person because it feels that way, as though one is observing oneself.

Thank you, Dear, for the loving kindness of children who show me they care

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Sunday

It is good  that I decided to spend Easter here with Jeanne and her family.  Jeanne, Izzy and I went to Mass together this morning at a little, local church in Louisville, where they live.  I had attended Mass there once before--with Gwen.  It wasn't as difficult as I thought it might be, especially with Izzy sitting next to me and Jeane being loving and nurturing.  Later today we will have a meal at Bob's sister's house, she and her family live only few blocks away.  I haven't seen Tom and Kathy in quite a while, so it will be good to see them again.  I recall getting a most sincere and moving note of condolence from them after Gwen died.

 Easter has been a time of deep reflection for me.  Recently I commented to a friend that since Gwen died I have thought about all the things I just never had time to think about while she was still with me.  In that way, this has become a most decisive time in my life--beginning with, "What do you do for the rest of your life."  

In church today I had this great insight that once one has the faith that Jesus got up out of the grave and walked around on the face of the earth, then the rest falls into place.  All the things we question, and doubt and worry about, and criticize are really just window dressing placed there by generations of people of sincere belief.  I recently read an article that talked about the "Sad, beautiful fact that we're going to miss almost everything," in which it was argued that so much knowledge has been accumulated over the ages that the smartest thing to do is to admit that you'll never know everything.  I recall learning that one Saturday afternoon when I was in the Graduate Library at UM  working on my doctoral dissertation.  Taking a break from my studies, I wandered about in the shelves of books stacked nearby.  Then I noticed that the books were all about math and science and all written in German.  I had the sudden realization that, although my field was not math and science, those books represented just the tiniest  part of the accumulated knowledge over the ages, and, even if I were able to read German,  it was doubtful that I would understand most of the math and science in them.  At that point I realized that  all I could know was all I could know, and that was OK.   And, that's how it is now with all these heavy thoughts I have about the impact of  Gwen's death on me.  Certainly, I had contemplated what her death might mean before she died; but, I could not know what that would feel like until it happened.  Things don't mean anything until they mean something.  Now it has happened, and I'm learning, day by day,  what it means.  On this Easter Sunday, there is one thing of which I'm sure; Gwen and I shared a love that did not die with her.  We'll meet again, and it will be a happy time.

Happy Easter, Dear.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


A trusted friend sent me this caveat about Easter and all "anniversaries" pertaining to Gwen's death.  STAY BUSY!  Good advice, and there is a truth to it.  During the time I've been visiting out here in Colorado I find that by staying connected to and involved with Jeanne and Bob and Nick and Izzy I have less time to be by myself; feeling blue. (Recently, however, when I was home alone, listening to music on my iPod, a polka came up on one of my playlists, and I found myself dancing around the living room.  Now that's not feeling blue, especially for an old guy with an artificial knee!)  I like saying "feeling blue" because it was a favorite phrase Gwen used  when describing her own sad moods.  Kind of old fashioned, I suppose, that word doesn't get used much anymore, more commonly we might hear the phrase "bummed out."  "Feeling Blue"also reminds me of the old song Blue Moon, and I can envision dancing with Gwen, feeling her close, smelling her hair, crushing our bodies together.  Ah  me. . .I wonder if kids dancing to the music of Lady Gaga get that same blissful feeling.

I looked out the window this morning when I awoke, and it was snowing.  Hmmm. . .I didn't exactly dress for this.  Then the sun shines and everything is better.

I'll return to this later; we are getting ready for a trip to Loveland where my daughter intends to purchase a new car.

--- Five hours later.  It was a fun afternoon.  First a nice lunch, then the ride to the car dealership.  Riding home with Jeanne and Izzy in her Mini-Cooper, seeing and hearing all the excitement about getting used to a new car for the first time in many years, was fun in itself.  And, of course, the new car smell.  We stopped for an ice cream cone, and on the way back to the car Izzy put her arm around my waist and walked side by side with me.  Those granddaughters just know instinctively what to do.  It was her way of telling me that she misses grandma too, and will take her place for a while.  Another of those moments when Gwen smiled on us.  The car dealership was in Loveland, and, coincidentally, this poem is kind of about the land of love:


Fifty years with
the girl of my dreams
taught me much
about life and love.

About life
she taught me that
words like please and thank you
are required in normal discourse,
and though they need not always
 be said
between lovers
we should be nice
and say them anyway.

About love
she taught me that
the words I love you
need not be spoken
in those quiet times
when love is a certainty.

And that is why
we always said them
at those precious times.

John A. Bayerl, April 23, 2011

Easter Sunday is tomorrow.  I will miss you, Dear, and I don't think I can keep busy enough to entirely avoid the pain. I have a couple thing for Nick and Izzy, and, of course, the Peeps.  You like that, I know.

One of the really nice things about the Internet Age in which we are living is the access I have to others, literally around the world, who are also grieving the loss of a spouse.  I've come across  superb writers in Canada,  Nevada, Washington  and  England,  and when I have their permission I will add their links to my blog.

A good Good Friday

This will have to be brief tonight.  It's late, and I'm tired, it's been a good day.  Izzy and I went for a walk to the store today.  She's a real chatterbox, but at one point she just stopped in mid-sentence, like a ten-year old will do, and said, "I really like having you for a grandpa."  Right there I felt Gwen smiling down.  She also commented about the fact that Brooke has only me, so I have to be two grandpas as well as two grandmas.  I assured her that Brooke is please with the way I'm doing that.

Later Jeanne and Izzy and I saw a movie and then played nine holes of pitch and putt golf.  When Bob and Nick got home we had dinner in downtown Louisville at a new restaurant, and the food was scrumptious.  Bob and Jeanne and there family are vegetarians, so eating meat on Good Friday was not a concern.  We concluded the day by spending some time at Izzy's gymnastic practice where Jeanne and I had a good conversation about stuff that daughters and fathers  normally don't get to talk about.  For the hundredth time, I am so blessed to have our children supporting and loving me.

You were there with me today, Dear.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Although I forgot to turn on my alarm clock last night, by some miracle I awakened at 4:45 a. m.  and was able to make it to the airport in time for a 6:20 flight.  When I arrived in Denver Jeanne was there right on time.  It was raining.  Wait! It never rains in Denver.  Anyway, it's been nice getting settled in here until next Monday.  Jeanne and I had a nice lunch, wee ate outside, in the sunshine.  Isabelle returned from school an hour or so ago, and we have been enjoying being grandpa and granddaughter.  Nick is on the track team, so he won't be home for a while.

It's still kind of hard doing these things for the first time without Gwen.  A year ago no one could have told me what this would feel like.  It's hard, and, although it happens all the time, I wouldn't wish it on anyone.  We'll do some exciting and fun things while I'm here, and it is good to be away for a while.  I again count myself among the lucky to have children that Gwen helped me raise who are so loving and caring.  I don't think everyone who has lost a spouse is able to say that.

Through some sort of miracle there was only one empty seat on the plane this morning, and it was right next to me.  I wrote about it:


The sadness overtakes me,
as I sit here, by myself,
on this airplane
bound for happy times
with those who love me

I miss her nervous excitement.
Each time we flew
was like the first time ever for her;
so many things to worry about.
I always kept her safe.

 The seat beside me
remains empty;
the one where she
should be sitting.

Bored, more than tired,
she would lay her head
on my shoulder,
look up at me
with her big, blue eyes,
breathe softly on my neck.

The sadness overtakes me.

John A. Bayerl, April 21, 2011

This afternoon we watched some old family videos that you were in.  It was so nice to hear your voice and see your face, Dear.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Turtle necks for Cancun

This will be somewhat brief; I'm all packed and ready to fly out to Colorado very early tomorrow morning.  I can't stay up late as I've been doing lately.  Tonight after dinner I drove out to John's for a short visit.  Amy and Brooke were at tumbling class, which was perfect because I left with John some gifts I had bought for Brooke at Easter.  We enjoyed a good laugh about the gifts because, although I enjoy getting gifts for our grandchildren, it is really Gwen who is the driving force behind it.  She would find a way to reach down and smack me if I were to forget the sacred obligation of getting grandkid gifts at holidays, birthdays, special days and just about any day she decided that one of them needed something new that only she could provide.

A little later our daughter, Anne, called and we had a few laughs at Gwen's tendency to over pack whenever we went on a trip.  In particular, she remembered the trip we took to Cancun with the whole family the year she was diagnosed.  After Gwen had fallen and broken her ankle and learned that we would have to fly back to Ann  Arbor on Christmas Day, Anne helped her pack her suitcase, and was flabbergasted to discover that her mother had packed a turtle-neck sweater.   One never knows when it might be necessary to wear a turtle neck sweater to the beach in Cancun in December.  It helps me to talk about Gwen with our children because they bring out who she was with all of her human flaws and quirks.  I tend to remember only the good stuff--and there was a lot of good stuff.

I may have to take a break from writing tomorrow; I'm not real sure what the plan will be at Jeanne and Bob's home.  Tomorrow will be hard, Dear, getting on that plane all by myself.  You'll be there with me, of that I'm sure.    

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Busy Day

I kept myself busy today.  They say it helps to ease the pain and loneliness of being without my partner and pal.  Golf lesson this morning, then the follow-up meeting for the hospice bereavement group (It was at the same time as my lesson, I arrived when everyone was leaving.), a guy from the city came to do an inspection in the basement for installing sump pumps that will keep storm water out of the sanitary drains, or something like that, all I know is that it won't cost anything.  Mike called, and we had a nice conversation; slowly but surely I'm learning about bees.

There was an article in the paper today about Vada Murray, a UM football player who became an Ann Arbor police officer.  He recently died of lung cancer.  He was in top physical condition, and never smoked a day in his life.  His widow is suing the city, claiming that radon and asbestos insulation in the basement of the police station where he spent many hours were the cause of his cancer.  I often wonder that about Gwen, she quite smoking 35 years ago.  An interesting aside in the article was a statement by Dr. Kalemkarian, a doctor we often saw for second opinions at the UM Comprehensive Cancer Center.  He said that Vada, who lived two years after he was diagnosed, lived three times longer than could have been expected.  Gwen had essentially the same diagnosis, and she lived almost five years.  Pretty amazing.  Of course, none of this really means anything, no matter what the cause and treatment, she's still dead.  Gee, that sounds cold, but sometimes there's no other way to say it.  I've never been one for euphemisms.  You can call it poop all you want, but, when all is said and done, a shit sandwich is still a shit sandwich!

Tomorrow I'll pack for my flight out to Denver to spend a few days with Jeanne and her family. Wish you were here to help me and then go with me, sweetheart.  I need you to send some poems my way, I'm feeling pretty dry and empty.  

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday morning

It's very early in the morning as I begin this post, about 5:00 a. m.. another restless night.  My alarm clock just went off, another day when I get up before I'm supposed to get up.  Will there ever be a time when I have anything even resembling normal sleeping habits?  Not that it matters, I can always take a  nap later.  When I went upstairs to turn off the alarm I glanced out the window and noticed snow on the roof of my neighbor's house.  Snow on April 18; it reminded me of what my dad would say when it snowed late in the spring, "poor farmer's manure" he called it.  Those of us with farm backgrounds will know what that means, everyone else will just have to figure it out.  Later this morning I have a final visit with one of the student teachers I supervise for NMU.  I'll have to get back to this later.  Snow on April 18?  When did Ann Arbor move to the U. P.?

The drive over to Clarkston High was pretty messy, driving home was better, the snow had stopped and the roads were mostly dry.  There are probably a couple of inches on snow on the ground, it will be gone by tomorrow.  This is another of those days when I miss Gwen so much.  Driving up the freeway this morning brings back all the times we would head off on exciting adventures or home to visit the folks.  I remember too the trips in the old Ford station wagon with four kids on board.  Seat belts were pretty much unheard of in those days.  I have memories of kids jumping around from seat to seat, and the inevitable squabbles about who got hit by whom.  I'm  sure my kids could tell some good stories about those trips. Now they're off on their own, making  memories for themselves.

After my workout at the gym I ran into a former student in some of my classes at EMU who is now a counselor at a middle school in town.  Her mom, who was in a support group with Gwen and me for a while,  died of lung cancer about three years ago.    Counselors know all the right things to say and how to say them; this one was no exception.   They're also give good hugs.   It was another of those chance encounters that leave me feeling blessed to have so many  friends who care for me.

As I drive down the road, I still finding myself reaching over to the other seat, hoping to find a hand hold, a knee to squeeze.  We had such good times, and you were always there with me, Honey-bunch.  That's a lot to miss.  Who wouldn't be sad?

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Sundays are as closed to normal as life gets for me, and it certainly is nowhere near what things were like when Gwen was with me.  Be that as it is, there is a pattern and rhythm to Sundays that makes me almost feel like Gwen is with me.  I'll be reading something in the paper and put it down to tell her about an interesting article or something like that.  Such disappointment when I begin to say something and then realize I'm alone.  It's not as pathetic as that sounds, but always a slap in the face compliments of cold reality.  There's a poem rumbling around in me about this.  I don't have the details, but the title is going to be something I heard someone say at a meeting about trying to make the one we love be less gone.

After a nice breakfast I was off to church, I leave an hour early because we have choir practice before Mass.  After Mass I decided I wanted to have lunch at the Afternoon Delight, where Gwen and I often enjoyed eating, but the line was way too long, so I didn't do that.  After Mass I had a nice visit with Jenny, a high school friend of John's and Jeanne's.  We hadn't seen each other since Gwen's death, so that was kind of tough.  Her dad has Alzheimer's, and is not doing well.  I told her how hard I know it must before her mom to be the primary caregiver for him.  Gwen and I were friends with her parents.  Later in the afternoon I talked on the phone with Lou Ann Hansen, our friend in Tacoma whom  we knew  the year we lived in Portland.  We reminisce and commiserate about how it is now without our caregiver responsibilities.  I still plan to take a trip out there this summer to visit with her and another friend from that era.  Also, of course, I look forward to visiting with my nephew and nieces in Portland.

In some regards, a kind of normal Sunday, except:


There are times when I become
aware, like the first time,
that you will never again
be part of those tiny little things,
like reading a newspaper, that add
up to a lifetime of love.

Your missing presence speaks to me
of when you were with me still:

that gentle smile,
a simple taste of you,
your soft yielding touch,
the sweet smell of you,
words spoken tenderly,
all your eyes told me.

When you were with me still.

John A. Bayerl, June 16, 2011

Sunday night, our favorite time to unwind, get ready for Monday.  Be with me still.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

It's late.

It's past 11:00 p. m.; a busy day.  Lunch with a dear old friend, then chores around the house.  Later in the afternoon it was off to the school of music for a recital by Elise, my church choir director, who is completing work for an M. A. Degree in music.  She's a soprano, and her performance was astounding,.  Of course, it's one of  those "you had to be there" experiences, so there's little more I can add.  Then it was off to a meeting of the Faculty Discussion Group from church for an annual event; a Seder followed by a Mass and then a great meal.  This was another of those first without Gwen, I think I put on a good act.  My friend Marie was there.  We were in the bereavement group together.  She lost her husband a few months before Gwen died.  We have that in common, and it was good to talk with her at the meeting.  It's hard, but necessary to do these things.

I plan to write more tomorrow.

Friday, April 15, 2011


Maybe it's the weather, kind of windy, cold, rainy.  Maybe it's just the way this grief process goes.  Whatever it is, today was weird.  In many ways, a very good day, a nice workout at the gym (I'm still not comfortable with the old friends that Gwen and I knew when she went there with me, it's not their fault, I'm just not there yet.), then a nice lunch with friends from the old Forestbrooke neighborhood.  Then, John asked me to join him and Brooke downtown in Ann Arbor for dinner.  What could be better than that?  And, it was wonderful, Brooke is so sweet and growing up so quickly; John always has interesting stories to tell from the education wars.  In between, phone calls with Jeanne, Anne and Gwen's brother, Ted.  A call to Jeanne Bonetti in Iron River found her not home, but, in a stroke of good fortune, Gwen's friend from high school, Rene, was visiting at Jeanne's, and we had the nicest conversation.

All-in-all, who could ask for a better day at this stage of the grieving process?  Why then, did I have a meltdown this morning?  Just cried and sobbed and missed my sweetheart.  Later, when I parked the car in Ann Arbor, it was across the street from a Polish restaurant that Gwen and I had been to with a friend and his wife a while ago.  Just the memory of that evening, remembering how Gwen thought it so perfect that boiled potatoes were served with her meal, the way her grandmother would have, brought forth the tears again.  As I read this over it occurs to me that it's a perfect description of what it's like to be what my friend calls giving an academy award performance--nice and happy and smiley on the outside.  Once beyond the red carpet, however, the sadness and loneliness and inexplicable waves of grief continue to have their way with us.  And so it goes.

Another Friday night with all that entails:


Each Friday night
I can’t help but recall the words
we spoke as young lovers:

“I don’t like getting used to not having you
with me; my week seem almost useless,
weekends fly by.”

Now, when a weekend is just a weekend;
two empty day, one following the other,
I fear I’ll never get used to not having you
with me. I long to just once more
wait for the weekend
like a child waits for Christmas.

John A. Bayerl, April 15, 2011

I always feel your presence when I'm with Brooke, Dear, and I know you'll be with me next week when I visit Nick and Izzy.  Good night, sweetheart.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


It's the ordinary things and events of life that take on such increased meaning when the love of one's life is removed from them; certainly an unanticipated example of addition by subtraction.  I thought of that the other day when I was at the mall shopping for something or other.  Taking the time to notice the people I encountered, I couldn't help but be humbled by knowing that each one of them had a story to tell.  I was again reminded that in the sea of humanity I am not the first and only person who has been set adrift by the death of a partner who filled all the empty spaces in life.  My next thought was about how great it would be if I could redo some of the shopping trips Gwen and I took; this time with awareness and appreciation of just how special and rare it is to have someone you love at your side.  This poem came to me this morning:


If through some miracle
she were with me today
and we walked together
through a mall, let’s say,
two people, past their prime,
holding hands with each other.

People might notice us,
I suppose, thought most
busy with their own lives
might not see such an
ordinary couple, holding hands
and enjoying every moment.

John A. Bayerl, April 14, 2011

It's still so hard, trying not to miss you, Dear, especially in all the ordinary things I do.  Ours was not an ordinary love.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

So it goes.

I continue to struggle with figuring out how my life should be now.  It's been so long since it's been just me without Gwen.  I have tried getting out more and doing more things.  Today I had a nice walk  and talk in Gallup Park with a friend I've met through a bereavement group I attended earlier this year. It's good to share the sense of loneliness that only the lonely can experience.  God, that sounds awful melodramatic; or a title from a 60s song.  Anyway, I continue to struggle with the task of deciding what it's going to be like next.  Also had my writing group today and then a nice phone conversation with Mary and Milt this evening.  The nicer weather makes it easier to get out more,  and that always helps.

When I was at Gallup Park this afternoon I was reminded of the last time I was there with Anne and Gwen in her wheel chair.  It's at times like that when I miss you most of all, Dear, I know how much you loved being out of doors.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

April 12, an important date.

Aside from the fact that I had a golf lesson this morning and then, since the sun was shining, I spent a little time on the course practicing what I learned.; all day long I've thinking it is important for me to write in this blog todayl

It's early evening now, and it was about this time, five months ago, that Gwen's coughing became notably worse, and, within a short time, I would have to see what I could never have imagined,  her lying dead in bed.  We knew that there was always going to be another day, and it was inconceivable that it had come to an end.  It is that feeling of finality that is perhaps the most difficult for me to accept, even now.   I must accept the finality of that and do what I can to continue bringing the love that Gwen and I shared to the world each day.  But, on days like today, I feel justified in wallowing in my grief a bit.

There is an up side to this day.  It was on this date in 1962 that Gwen and I discovered that we had fallen deeply in love with each other.  Even now I am able to recall the joyous certainty of saying the words "I love you" to her, and the bliss I felt when she repeated them to me. Then, of course, her always-pragmatic reasoning led her to say, "Maybe we ought to think about getting married."  Oh happy day!    Reliving that joy helps to ease the pain of being separated from my perfect partner.  Of course, the memory of that young love also sharpens the pain of her loss.

There is a humorous side to this.  In an earlier blog I wrote about how we moved to Marquette right after our marriage so that I could take a course that I needed to enroll in the program at the UM in the fall.  Then, of course we moved to Ann Arbor and Gwen worked at the Veteran's Hospital while I attended school.  At the end of that year, son John was born and we moved to Reedsville, Wisconsin.  A year later, daughter Jeanne was born, and we moved to Portaland, Oregon, where I would again pursue graduate studies.  We then moved to Flint, and stability came into our life--it was two years before we moved again.  Son Michael was born in Flint, and, following our move to Ann Arbor, our daughter Anne Marie came into our lives.  I don't recall that there was ever a moment when Gwen looked me in the eyes and said, "John, now look what you did, we have four kids and  we forgot to take a  honeymoon!" Although our marriage suffered from being "honeymoon challenged," we never felt deprived in that way.  Life had been good to us and we enjoyed every moment of it.

 What happened five months ago need to be grieved.  Beautiful memories from a  life-time of love need to be celebrated.  These anniversary dates also fill me with gratitude for the four children Gwen had such an important role in raising.  They don't know it, but I see so much of her in them, especially  the way they never fail to tell me that they love me, and the way they show that love by being available but never intrusive and by being there for me without being all over me.  Thanks, kids.   (Oh, gee, I got such tears in my eyes as I typed that last part.  Thanks, Gwen.)

Monday, April 11, 2011

A better day.

I had a nice visit with the doctor this morning.  He's a real reassuring kind of guy, and I like him.  I'm back taking some OTC medicine I had been taking before, and everything is fine.  He does want me to quite caffeine, that's a challenge; sure gonna miss that cup of coffee in the morning.  When I stopped at the Wellness Community on the way home I was pleased to see the leaf on their tree of life that has Gwen's name painted in gold lettering.  On a whim, I decided to play golf this afternoon, kind of cold and windy, but good to get out of doors.  Tonight I attended a spirituality group meeting, we talked about courage,  and I told them that without a doubt the most courageous person in my life has been Gwen.  A nice surprise was a phone call from Craig, a caregiver support group friend, whom I hadn't heard  from in a while. He was doing some work in Ann Arbor, and invited me to join him for dinner, which I did.  He invited me to his place up north, but I can't make it this weekend, some day I will.

I have some poems simmering inside me.  Just need a little time to make them happen.  Tomorrow will not be an easy day, another of those arbitrary anniversaries we who grieve remember to mark.  Meanwhile, life goes on, doesn't it?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Quiet Sunday

It's been a beautiful day, temperature near 80 degrees.  Although I'm not feeling real well today, I did get to the driving range.  Fortunately, I have an appointment with my doctor early tomorrow morning.  I try to take care of myself, and it pays off; I usually feel fine.  When there are there are days like today when I don't feel 100%, in a way it's a sweet reminder of Gwen.  I can hear her asking, her voice full of love and concern, "Who will take care of you when I'm gone, John?"  I always assured her, as I do now, it's OK, you taught me well to care for myself.  All will be well, I'm sure of it.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Loving the present.

This will be short and sweet.  I've been wrestling with this quote from Anthony de Mello:

Say goodbye
to golden yesterdays
--or your heart will never learn
to love
the present.

I understand how being bogged down in the past can spoil my enjoyment of the present moment.  And, that's probably true most of the time. I might argue that this is different.  As I see it, Gwen and I enjoyed our life together, and I I have many good memories of  that.  On the other hand, there isn't a whole lot to like about  knowing that she is gone forever--not much to love about that kind of a present.  It all ties into what I talked about yesterday; it's a hard job trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.  All I can do is come back to what I know is true, Gwen would not want me to be miserable.  That, and God still has things for me to do.  Eventually, I'll just have to learn to get on with life as it evolves for me.

Friday, April 8, 2011


It's a rainy day, but at least it's getting warmer; a good day to take it easy, lounge around the house and be good to myself. One of these days the sun will shine and it will be time to get the bicycle off the hook in the ceiling of the garage. Until then, this afternoon it will be off to the gym for me. I'm a little tired today anyway; stayed up late watching the UM hockey team upset a favored North Dakota team in the Frozen Four. Though I am tired, it was kind of nice to do something normal like that. I suppose that gradually some of the old patterns of behavior will begin to return and whatever my new version of reality is going to be will take some form and shape. I know that Gwen wants me to live well. (As I finished typing that last sentence a robin landed on a wire right outside the living room window.  I see it as a message from Gwen; for sure it is a harbinger of spring, a time for renewal.)

When I talk with friends who are also grieving the loss of someone they loved dearly and deeply,  a common experience is that of coming to terms with  knowing  life has gone on as usual.  We, on the other hand, know that the world as we knew it  no longer exists nor will it ever exist that way again.  We keep in our memories the events leading up to the death of our loved one, the death itself, and then everything that follows.  So, as one of my friends put if, we wear our mask with the smiley faces,  and go about the business of living.  Another friend reminded me that there has to also be an element of simply letting go and allowing things to evolve.  It's struggle for me to try  to find words to express what this feels like.  The best I can do is to repeat what I've said many times since Gwen died.--the only way one can know what it feels like is for one to know what it feels like.  Even those words seem clumsy to me.  I wrote this poem yesterday, I think it captures somewhat the essence of what I'm trying to express here:


You ended your task, here
on earth, with me, now
for a while I must go on as before
we met and fell in love, seems
like forever ago, when life was sweet.

I wait for something to tug, at me
the way your memory does, maybe
then I could see my task, clearly
though it seems like my vision will
always be blurred by tears.

John A. Bayerl, April 7, 2011

I haven't forgotten the most important things, Dear, the big tasks of being father, grandfather, relative, friend and someone who keeps present the love we shared.  Once again the words of  St. Julian of Norwich are so meaningful as I consider the direction is which my life will go " All will be well, and all will be well, all manner of things shall be well".  


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

More about Gwen's accomplishments.

Once we decided that we were meant for each other and ought to get married, Gwen and I settled into new jobs that we would hold for a year; mine as a commercial teacher at Stephenson High School and hers as chief bookkeeper at a construction company in Iron River.   It has always bothered me that what she did that year never received the recognition it deserved.  When she began the job in July she was still only 19 years old.  She would have a hand in all of the the financial matters of a construction company with more than  300 employees.  Her responsibilities included issuing paychecks, preparing profit and loss statements, checking job estimates, making  payments, understanding union guidelines and meeting with auditors, just to name a few.  Initially she was terribly confused by it all.  She sought perfection in what she did, and worried incessantly about doing things right.  I would tease her that I never had to worry about anything because she did enough for both of us. By the end of the year she was in complete control, and, when she left to marry me, her job was divided among several other employees, one of the few times I heard her say she was really proud of of her accomplishments.   The way she said it was, "They're going to spread my job among several employees. Pretty good, hey, John."

Although she maintained that she was only working to help pay for our wedding I could tell that by the time she left the job she had come to somewhat enjoy  it.  However, she never did acquire a liking for the company owner, who was in an office next to her.  I remember when deer season came around how disappointed she was that he shot a buck on opening day,  because it meant that he would be sitting in his office the next day.  "The big man is sitting in his office today," is how she would say it, always somewhat derisively.

One of the things I most admired about the love of my life was her proactive nature. If something wasn't the way she thought it ought to be she did whatever it took to make it right.   At Christmas time she was disappointed that no one in the office did any decorating.  On a weekend before the holiday I enjoyed helping her cut a tree that we put up in her office and decorated    The big man apparently thought that was OK.

In any of the jobs that she held, Gwen always received superb  ratings. That had been the case the summer before we met when she was employed as a clerk in procurement for the U. S. Air Force at what was then K. I. Sawyer Airfield in Gwinn, near Marquette.  When I attended U. M. the year after we were married, she obtained a clerical position in the Dietetic Department at the Veteran's Hospital in Ann Arbor, and again obtained outstanding job reviews.  Later she  worked as a nurse with U. M. Hospitals for many years, a position at which she also excelled.  She never blew her own horn, choosing to simply go to work and do the best job she knew how to do;  a trait she carried over to the love she showed me, our children, family members and all who knew her.  Tonight I had dinner with a group of friends who had participated in cancer support groups with Gwen and me.  I mentioned that I would be writing this blog later, and one of them said to be sure to say that wherever Gwen went she lit up the room.  I think my sweetheart may have, in her self-deprecating way,  disagreed with that statement.  Nonetheless, it's true, and just one of the many things we miss about her.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

That Awful Day

April 5, 2006, was a beautiful spring day.  Gwen and I had completed training as volunteers for Arbor Hospice earlier that year, and we chose that morning to visit hospice patients at the nursing home that was attached to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Saline.  She was  so much better at it than I, with a natural empathy for the patients we visited.

Gwen had developed a chronic cough,  and her doctor had ordered an X-ray of her lungs a few day earlier.  When we arrived home from our volunteer duties we saw that her doctor had called and left a message.  We turned on the answer machine and heard her doctor say that she would like Gwen to call her office. When  I called, and asked to speak to the doctor,  I began to feel uneasy when the receptionist immediately transferred my call to the doctor, who said that she would like us to come to her office to see the results of Gwen's X-rays.  I had something planned for that afternoon, and asked whether it would be OK if Gwen came by herself.  "No", she said, "it's important that you come with her."  My heart sank.   Both Gwen and I were anxious about the doctor's request, but reassured ourselves that the X-ray probably showed that she had pneumonia and would have to be hospitalized.  It never occurred to us that the diagnosis might be cancer.  Needless to say, the fifteen minute drive to the doctor's office seemed to take forever.

When we arrived at the doctor's office we were promptly seated in one of the examination rooms, and the doctor came in almost immediately.  She sat down and gravely told us that Gwen's X-ray showed that she had cancer in both lobes of her lungs and her lymph nodes.   Needless to say, we were stunned; and our sense of disbelief grew as the doctor described the serious nature of Gwen's disease.  Surgery was not an option, but chemotherapy might be able to slow the cancer and provide a decent quality of life.  She also urged us to immediately schedule an appointment with a pulmonologist who could perform a bronchoscopy to determine the exact nature and extent of the disease.  We numbly nodded as she called and arranged for an appointment.

On the ride home we talked about our inability to process the information we had just received.  It just didn't seem possible that one short visit with a doctor could so radically and suddenly change everything about our life as we knew it.  All of our dreams about the future had gone up in smoke, life as we knew it no longer existed.  Upon our arrival at home we sat on a couch, close to each other, I hugged and rocked her, and we cried.  What else were we to do?  Then I began calling John, Jeanne, Mike and Anne.

It is now five years from that awful day.  When told that, under the best of circumstances she could expect to live for nine months to a year, Gwen vowed  that she would not go gently into the dark, dark night, a promise that she kept for four years, seven months and a week.  And, she did it with a sense of grace and dignity that inspired all who knew her..  We who love her  miss her dearly, even as we honor her memory.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Some long overdue recognition.

Sleep didn't come easily last night, so I was up early and then off to the gym.  It's a cloudy, rainy day, but the temperature is in the 60s; so, off to the driving range after the gym.   I needed a few things at the grocery store, and had trouble remembering a particular product I wanted to buy, reached for my cell phone, and prepared to call Gwen to ask her.  I hate when I do that, but, at the same time, love it.

When I returned home I did a little cleaning up in the flower garden in front of the house.  Wish I could say I enjoyed it, but, unlike some of my siblings, I just didn't inherit the gardening gene. Or, maybe it's just a natural consequence of too many hours as a child spent pulling mustard in the oats field, hoeing corn, picking beans and cucumbers, and so forth.  I must add, however, that, when I raked away the leaves and other remnants of winter I was pleased to uncover a beautiful, paper-white crocus.  Another gift from Gwen.

Lately I've been thinking about how I would like for Gwen to be more appreciated.  She was really quite a remarkable person.  She wanted to write some memoirs, but her decline became rather rapid, and she was never able to do it.  Perhaps I can write a little about her, things that I know to be true, and in that way at least some of her history will be recorded.

 First and foremost, she was a far better student than I ever was.  As a child, she insisted on attending the Catholic school, I believe it was called St. Agnes, in Iron River, and in addition to getting a solid education she was always at the top of her class.  During her four years at Stambaugh High School she was on the all A honor roll during several marking periods, and graduated as one of the top five students in her class.  For three of those four years she received certificates for perfect attendance.  She was seen as a leader by her classmates.  Her election as homecoming queen during her senior year is well documented.  In her freshman year and each year thereafter she was selected as a cheerleader.  This was an honor that was not easily achieved. Tryouts were in the gym before the whole student body as well as a panel of teachers, coaches and students. She and her friend Rene were so proud of accomplishing that four years in a row.  And, being a cheerleader was a yearly commitment, not only during the football season, but also basketball.

Other honors she achieved in high school included the Betty Crocker Homemaker of the Year Award and the Margaret Wallace Scholarship when she enrolled at N. M. U.  Those who knew Gwen always tell me about how much they admired and respected her.  As far as talking about her own accomplishments is concerned, it is fair to say that if one were to look up the word unassuming in the dictionary Gwen's picture would be on the page.

I plan to attend a union meeting with son John soon.  Tomorrow I'll talk more about why marrying Gwen was the smartest thing I ever did.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


A beautiful Cardinal just arrived at our bird feeder.  Gwen loved seeing  a cardinal as much as she did a hummingbird.  That flash of bright red did much to lift the mood of what's been an otherwise pretty gloomy day--cloudy, rain, sleet, even a little snow.    A perfect ending to a week when I seem to have regressed somewhat; whatever that means.  I've been sad and lonely much of the time and can't seem to shake it.  Going to church this morning helped, we sang songs that were favorites for Gwen and me.  Even there I cried quite often.  I  know a lot of it has to do with the upcoming Tuesday, the five year remembrance of the diagnosis that changed everything.  Then, a week after that is the six-month remembrance of her death.

On days like this, any reminder of her can get the tears flowing.  I laundered the bedding today, and while taking things out of the dryer remembered the little things Gwen would do, like teaching me how to fold a fitted sheet.  When I made up the bed I was again reminded of her when I did that little trick  with the 45 degree angle on the corner of the mattress.  It's all those things we never think of while we're about the business of living.  What a price we pay to have the ordinary made precious.  Remember, John,  when things are hard, it's best to go easy.

A dear old friend sent me a poem that he thought captured the sort of love he saw Gwen and me share.  He said it was OK for me to post it here:

True Love is the vibrations of tuning forks,
Each seeking a Dream of intensive beauty.

And,when their souls meet,
They share the excitement and joys,

Of performing in the orchestra of Love,
For Ever and Always.

I love the poem.  You always signed your letters that way, Dear; Forever and Always.   Sunday nights remind me of the many times we would cry when it was time to say goodbye until next Friday. 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Healing Tears

I've been crying the last couple of days.  In a good way.  Yesterday afternoon it was during a conversation with a friend who lost the love of her life in December.  Last night, at bed time, I just plain missed my perfect partner and  I cried.  For a while I haven't been able to cry; it feels good to be able to do it again.

This morning my brother and a family friend picked me up and we attended the Physics Lecture at UM.  This one was about magic, and very interesting and informative.  I met a couple of friends there.  Jeff, from the support group at SJMHS was there, and I got caught up on how things are going with him and his wife, who is battling cancer as hard as she can.  An old neighbor, whom Gwen and I had seen at the lung cancer clinic two years ago when he had been just diagnosed with  Stage IIIA lung cancer, was also there.  I had a nice talk with him, and learned that his cancer had been caught early enough and was completely eradicated.  I couldn't help but feel envious and sad.  Overall I was happy for him.  He was one of those anomalies as far as  cancer was concerned; never smoked a day in his life, swam regularly, bicycled everywhere, yet he had lung cancer.

This afternoon I've been home alone and enjoying it.  Jeanne called from Spain where she is attending an affair hosted by ALCATEL.  All my kids have checked in this weekend.  I like it that as the days since Gwen's death have increased I have felt a stronger and stronger bond with each one of our children.  I love being the best dad I know how to be.  Also this afternoon I decided to watch a movie that came up on HBO, Leap Year.  Amy Adams is in it, and I enjoyed her in the movie about Julia Childs.  This was a romantic comedy, the kind of move Gwen would have loved.  I couldn't help it, I cried at a lot of scenes, predictable as they may have been.  The movie took place in Ireland, and there was a wedding scene where the bride stood and said the following:

I'd like to give thanks to my husband.

May you never steal, lie or cheat.

If you must steal, 
then steal away my sorrows.

If you must lie,
lie with me all the  nights of my life.

If you must cheat,
then please cheat death,
because I couldn't live a day without you.
Oh my, I know it sounds kind of corny and dumb in cold print like this, but those words grabbed me in a place that I didn't know existed until after Gwen died.  That last part about not being able to live a day without you has taken on such new meaning.  Yes, I cried and cried and cried.

That's pretty much the way we saw our whole relationship, Dear, and I feel blessed and grateful that we were able to share a love like that.


Friday, April 1, 2011


It's too weird.  Today, on impulse, I once again decided to drive over to the Drowsy Parrot coffee shop in Saline after my workout at the gym.  Just as a couple of weeks ago, I walked in and, sitting at a table were my friend Lou Thayer and his family.  We call it serendipity, but it's more than that. He said it's the first time he's been there on a Friday in three years.  I have been there on a Friday probably never. I enjoyed getting to know his two daughters, his granddaughter and his son-in-law. A nice way to start the day.  This afternoon I had a long  healing talk with a friend.  Look forward to the lecture with brother Dick tomorrow morning and then a quiet weekend.

At the gym today I reminisced about the times when Gwen and I would go there together.  It was a bit of an effort to get up and go, but, once there, always worth it.  Afterwards, we enjoyed going to breakfast somewhere,  Gosh, how I miss those quiet times, talking about nothing in particular but, as I now see, it was everything.  I thought too about how those special moments were taken for granted at the time. This poem is about that:


My smart phone tells me
I’m hearing smart music
Mozart, Piano Concerto in D.
Music to pump iron by.

Others like me gather;
pulling, pushing, pedaling,
practicing healthy habits
trying to stay a while
longer, if not relevant
at least present.  Bless them.

When you were there with me
we saw through a different window
the figure skaters, graceful
beauties, captivated you.

Arms around each other,
we stood and watched.

Then, off for a quiet breakfast.
We took it all for granted.
Hoped it would last forever.

Today I sit behind the steering wheel,
kiss your memory, write these words.

John A. Bayerl, April 1, 2011

In a way, it does last forever.