Lover's Key, Florida

Lover's Key, Florida

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Friday, September 30, 2011

Free Association Friday

Today started out dark, cold and rainy.  Then, around noon, a cold wind blew in from Canada  (Did you do that, Ginette?) , and dried things out so that I was able to get out and mow the lawn later this afternoon.  Walking behind the lawn mower is always a time for free association for me--I think about things, and, as the Gestalt people say, one thing leads to another.

Today I got to thinking about a a topic my friends in the grieving community often discuss--masks.  I've been reading an article by Oscar Wilde lately, and he makes this statement:". . . .those who want a mask have to wear it."   Often we ask for a mask out of a sense of sensitivity to our friends and family who don't feel the pain of loss on an ongoing basis as we do.  In the morning, my first thought is that Gwen isn't there.  When I go to sleep at night, my  last thought is that Gwen isn't there.

As I was mowing the lawn I became aware that I could mow the lawn until dark, and, aside from neighbors who might resent the noise, no one would really care.  People driving by might  notice me, but to them I would be a guy in the suburbs trying to get his lawn mowed before the next rain.  And, no one would be waiting in the house for me to finish and come on in the the house.  That's the mask we wear, and, in a way, it is a kindness to those who have gone on with their lives and don't go to sleep each night and awake each  morning to the reality that someone who was loved dearly has died. Life goes on.  It always sound so sad and pathetic when I write things like this; yet, it is important to do it.  Wilde also said this; "Behind each sorrow there is a soul."

What  a blessing it is, Dear, to share with you the gift of a love that makes me feel sorrow that reaches the depths of my soul.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Easter, 2010


Easter 2010 024


Today I continue to feel that I'm beginning to turn some sort of corner.  Even the gloomy rainy day did little to spoil my mood.

This morning I visited another student teacher--this one, in AP Physics at Pioneer High School here in Ann Arbor.  The critic teacher, Steve Armstrong, is also a good friend.  It was good to once again see a really competent student teacher teach a superb lesson.  I reflected that this has been a week of contrast for me.  Tuesday I visited Kara, the second-grade teacher, and she taught students how to count coins in a piggy-bank.  This morning it was a complex lecture on acceleration and gravity.  On the way out I was able to visit with one of the counselors at PHS whom I know.

It's hard for me to give myself permission to enjoy myself in these new ways of being.

This was fun doing, and it shows a side of Gwen that not many people knew:


We went out dancing on our first anniversary.
She was radiant in her blue silk dress,
wore my favorite fragrance.
I was clean shaven,
hair Bryl-Creamed back,
at my Aqua-Velva best.

The band played Blue Moon,
I held her close,
she pressed her body close to mine,
laid her head on my shoulder,
looked up with her big blue eyes,
said in her sexy, teasing voice:
“You smell like the backseat of our ’58 Chevy.”

John A. Bayerl, September 29, 2011

Slowly, Dear, I am learning to honor you and your wish that I go on living.  We were given a gift, and it was such fun--all of it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Today has been another day when I felt myself being two people.  I was out in the world, doing things, enjoying myself, laughing, being the kind of person people expect me to be.  Then there was that other John. . .

John in the world went to his memoir-writing class, received much positive feedback on his accounting of lessons learned on his trip to the Pacific Northwest in August.  On  the way out, one of the women in the group took me aside and reminded me to be grateful for the gift that the love Gwen and I have is not a common occurrence.  I thanked her sincerely, it is hard to keep that in mind when I miss her so much every day.  There is much to be thankful for.

Then, it was off to my singing lesson with Kyle.  I have an idea for a great memoir about my experience in the world of vocal music.  It will be pretty funny.  As I was leaving the School of  music I was taken by flowers that were in bloom in one of the gardens near the entrance.  They looked like crocuses, but were a lot larger.  It seemed strange to see crocuses blooming in the fall.  I also noticed a tree filled with choke cherries, the fact that I was noticing these things told me that I was becoming more mindful of the world around me.  The juxtaposition of newly-blossoming spring-like flowers and a cherry tree loaded with ripe fruit reminded me of the life I now live.

Yes, I am enjoying life as it reaches fullness; then there are those memories of love in bloom:


Carefully, cautiously we approached each other
during our first autumn;
talked the talk and walked the walk,
played the games and danced the dance.

Was it the balmy spring night that thawed more than snow;
warmed cautious hearts, brought us closer than ever before?
There was more than magic in the air that night.
We looked in each other’s eyes, saw something there,
something we’d never seen before,
something that made us tremble in fear and awe,
then knew it for what it was.

From then on, I love you is easy to say—
always and forever.

John A. Bayerl, September 28, 2011

It was a rare and beautiful gift we received that spring night, Dear.  Tonight I looked out the kitchen window and saw the red leaves on the maple trees in front of the house--a reminder, life has its seasons 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

An uplifting experience.

This morning, for the first time in a long time, I had quite an uplifting experience.  One of the two student teachers I am supervising for NMU this semester has a placement at Creekside Elementary School in Hartland, and and it was time for my first visit.  The young woman whom I was going to observe had been placed late in the year, so I hadn't had a chance to meet her beforehand.  Although the student teachers NMU sends out are always superbly prepared, one never can be sure until there is a chance to see them in a classroom setting.  There's always a little trepidation before the first meeting.

Kara and I had exchanged e-mail messages, and she sounded enthusiastic and excited about working with the second-grade students in her classroom; but, one never know. . .

It was a pure delight meeting her in person and seeing her in action.  When I arrived she and Becky, her supervising teacher, welcomed me while getting a class of 30 youngsters organized.  It was easy to spot who Kara was; she was the center of attention of a gaggle of students, some asking her questions, others tugging on her hands, and one leaning her head on her shoulder.  "This is going to be fun," I thought to myself.  And, it was.  Kara did a masterful job of teaching the lesson she had prepared, and I was introduced to modern classroom technology in the form of something called a Smart Board.

After her lesson was completed, I met with Kara to give her some feedback--all positive, and her principal made her way to the classroom to join us.  She too was young, attractive and enthusiastic. On the way home I thought about how fortunate I am to have opportunities like this to be with both the young students and committed educators who are passionate about their profession.  It certainly helps me to continue feeling young.

An added bonus was when I learned that Kara had been a diver in high school and that she had attended NMU on an athletic scholarship as a member of their swimming and diving team.  All four of our children were divers, and Mike dove at UM.  It was good to have that extra connection with this student teacher.

Of course, you were on my mind all morning, Dear; it was still hard walking in the door of the house and not being able to tell you about my uplifting experience.  I console myself in knowing that you heartily approve of what I was doing; it's the kind of thing you hoped I would continue doing. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

We walk by faith

It's another rainy Monday.  I'm beginning to like them; life gets simpler, it seems, when options are limited.

One of the things I loved most about Gwen was that she tried always to be busy doing things that were worthwhile.  While writing this I leaned back and closed my eyes for a moment.  I then felt Gwen's presence in the chair across from me; she was knitting something.  It's comforting when I am made aware of how thin the veil is that separates us.

I'm reminded again of something she once wrote in a letter to me: "I don’t know what I’d do without you for the rest of my life. I love you, and need to be with you always."  At the time those words were written they were her way of telling me how much she cherished what we called the miracle of our love.  Now, although it is I who am made to wonder what I will do without her for the rest of my life, I believe that she is with me always, as promised.

One of the blessings in all of this is that it forces me to seriously consider things that until now I had only given passing assent.  Things like; love lives on forever.  Each day that passes strengthens my conviction that Gwen is with me and encouraging me to continue doing things that matter.  And, certain events have recently transpired in my life that lead me to believe that she has a hand in them.  Sometimes I think about the wisdom of putting this out there for the whole world to see, and I imagine that there are those who will see it as delusional--I know that I would; if I didn't know better.

It is so comforting when I feel you near me, Dear; I don't know what I would do without you for the rest of my life.  

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Love is letting go of fear.

A long time ago I read a book by Jacob Jampolski called  Love is Letting Go of  Fear.  That title exactly describes what I'm going through at this time.  The question I confront is whether or not I can live a loving life without Gwen in it, and, therein lies the fear.  I know I can do it; I've been doing it since November 12, 2010, the day Gwen died.  And, I feel so blessed and fortunate to have friends, family and three grandchildren and four children whom I love dearly.  It's just that sometimes it seems so utterly pointless. . .  A day at a time, a day at a time.

Friends help so much in this struggle.  A couple of days ago my friend, Mary, graciously agreed to attend a Gordon Lightfoot concert with me.  We agreed that the concert was OK, but, in general, kind of disappointing.  We have each lost someone whom we dearly loved, and it is somewhat disconcerting to face up to the fact that if we are going to make something of our lives there will be more occasions when we must face the fear that accompanies doing things that seem strange and uncomfortable.  We understand that we simply are not the kind of people who will lead pointless lives.

That was three days ago; now it's Saturday night, and I've come home from the football game, and it feels good to sit down and relax.  Today has been another of those days when I've had these intensely real remembrances of Gwen.  Until this year, when I was away at the game I would find it comforting to call Gwen and tell her about my day.  She was always interested, and would  tell me that she was glad that I was out doing things, but would be so happy to see me when I got home.  There were so many times today when I thought of giving Gwen a call.

After the game, I got caught up in traffic, and found myself feeling impatient and in a hurry.  Then the thought came to me that there was no need to be feeling that way.  I would get home when I got home, and the house would be just as empty two hours from now as it would be an hour from now.  I always feel kind of whiny when I write about feeling that way, and I don't intend it to be that way; it's just an attempt on my part to talk about how it feels to recognize and accept that someone whom I loved dearly and who made me a complete person is gone--forever.

So, Dear, tonight I'm feeling pretty blue; and missing you.  I look at the picture of that happy couple at the house on Eli, and feel fortunate and blessed that I had that life with you. I look back over the long course of our life and love together and realize that, no matter when, you were always so beautiful. Eventually I suppose that will be enough, but tonight I wish it it didn't have to be only a memory.  The love I feel for you will always be greater than any of my fears.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Back in business.

It took a phone call to India, another to Dallas, a visit inside the house by a technician, a successful installation of a new router (by me), and a visit from an outside the house technician, and, finally, after four days of frustration, I once again have Internet access, TV, and telephone service.  It's late, and, although I have much to write about, I have to be up early and at the stadium for the game tomorrow by 7:30 a. m.

Sometimes we just need something to cheer us.  This did the trick for me:

This is in honor of your love of dancing, Dear.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Friends and hummingbirds.

My internet connection is still not working, so I'm writing this in a coffee shop, and will be brief.  This afternoon is my memoir-writing class, and then at 5:00 there's a Mass for Gwen that I will attend.  I also have tickets for a Gordon Lightfoot concert at the Michigan Theater.  More about that later.  In a way, each day the pain lessens, but the dull ache is constant.

Back in August a friend sent me this poem:

In the quiet moments of the brisk morning, came to me
The distinct humming sounds of a humming bird wings.
In that quiet moment, Gwen came to me
A song of thanks this bird's wings did sing.

Ginette Walton, August 2, 2011

How I wish you were going to that concert with me, Dear; you so loved that sort of thing.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Blue Monday X 2

Today is an exceptionally Blue Monday.  I was reminded of how Gwen would always say that her Mondays were blue the day after we parted for another week.  The weather certainly contributes today.  It's one of days that my friend, Tom, and I used to call "D" days--dark, dank, damp, dismal, dreary, dull, drippy and, if that weren't enough; depressing.  It's a day in September in Michigan; a day when a husband likes to have his wife with him; even when Gwen was very sick, just having her in the house always added a ray of sunshine to an otherwise gloomy day.  She simply did not believe in allowing oneself to become down.  She would always ask the question: "What should we do today?"  And, I better have an answer, even if it was simply going for a ride in the car.  Sitting and doing nothing, worse yet, feeling sorry for yourself,  just wasn't an option.  Just writing about her, and remembering yet another of the things about her that made her so special in my eyes and to all who knew her, has already begun to lift my mood.  It also makes me so much more aware of the thin veil that separates us from those who have gone before us.

Overall, I would say that getting away for four days on a golf outing was a good idea.  It was heartwarming how some of the young, macho dudes that were a part of the outing and knew that Gwen had died didn't express anything in words.  Instead, there were several well-appreciated, totally unexpected hugs.  They obviously hadn't read the "I'm Soooo Sorry for Your Loss" book, and in this setting I was thankful for it.  It's always better to walk your talk.

At one point during one of the days on the golf course I was walking, by myself, down a path bordered by flowers and apple trees filled with fruit.  I had the most reassuring feeling that Gwen was there with me, holding my hand as we walked together.  Now, looking back at it, I know that it was not my imagine running wild; at that moment it was as real as the smell of freshly-mowed grass, which also can't be seen.  At that moment I clearly understood what the writer in a book I recently read meant when he said that we are all living together in eternity.

When I walked into the cold, empty house last night, Dear, it was another of those moments when I am keenly aware that you will never again greet me with a smile and embrace.  Yet, it was so good to be back home, where your presence is everywhere.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


It's early in the morning; I'm going to post a few words before I head north.  The sun is shining brightly;  always a good tonic for whatever down mood I might be in.  I had to finish doing the laundry before I leave this morning.  If I stay open, words sometimes come to me in the strangest places:


Today while doing the laundry
the reason for my vague uneasiness
each time I filled the wash machine
or emptied the dryer
became suddenly apparent.

There were no bras.

No longer do I have to remember
to wash them on the delicate cycle;
to hang them  separately to dry;
Gwen would caution me.

I miss them, and the way
their sheer, intimate nature
would excite memories
of a miraculous love
and shared pleasures.

John A. Bayerl, September 14, 2011

Yes, Dear, I especially miss those little, intimate moments we shared, even when it was just getting instructions on the proper care of a bra. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

There's no new normal.

My memoir-writing group had its first meeting of the year today.  There are a lot of new members, and it's a large group, so I'm not sure I'll stay with it.  I did prepare something to read today--it had to do with events leading up to my trip to the Pacific Northwest last month.  My intention is to chronicle that whole trip as some sort of memoir.  It was a good thing for me to do, and it will be helpful for me to write about what I learned from it.

Late this afternoon my friend called and we played golf for a couple of hours.  Rain moved in as we were finishing up, and it was somehow comforting to come home and make a nice salad for dinner and warm some soup.  Then. . .reality once again sets in, and I find myself wishing Gwen were here with me.  Although it doesn't happen as frequently, there are still many moments during each day when I get that sinking feeling in my stomach, and I must once again come to grips with the fact that Gwen will never again be with me.  It was particularly poignant yesterday afternoon after my appointment with Dave, the psychologist I've been seeing.  We had a really good session, and, as I was walking toward the elevator on my way home, I was anxious to get home and tell Gwen all about it.  Then it's sort of that stupid feeling that has to do with acknowledging that if Gwen were home waiting for me I would not have needed to have the counseling session.  It confuses me to think about this, and yet I know that I am on the verge of a great insight about it, and I need to keep on working it through.  As I re-read what I have just written, I was reminded that Gwen's brother, Ted, often made the observation that we "apple knockers" think too much.  No matter; I miss Gwen terribly right now.

Tomorrow I am driving up north to Gladwin for a four-day golf outing with other retired teachers. During Gwen's illness I didn't want to leave her for that length of time, so it's been a while since I attended.  The outing will be at Vaughn Filsinger's cottage at the Sugar Spring Resort.  Vaughn was a principal at Forsythe Middle School where I worked for several years, and one of the best bosses I've ever had; he died of cancer several years ago, but his two sons maintain the tradition of having the golf outing.  In a way, if I'm going to leave my nest I'd rather spend time visiting with one of our children, but perhaps it will be good for me to get away and do something I haven't done for a while.  It's just that I don't kid myself for one moment that this will be getting back to normal.  Normal would be having Gwen waiting for me when I return home.  This is something different; that's all.

I'm not sure whether or not I'll have Internet access where I'm going.  In all likelihood I will take a break from posting to this blog until Sunday.

Dear, I know that you told me to go on living and enjoy myself after you were gone.  The go on living part seems to be working, but enjoying will take some doing.  I love you and miss you dearly.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


It's hard for me to write today.  It's one of those days when I have that awful sense of longing to once again be able to do the things with Gwen that we enjoyed doing together.  It's a beautiful fall day, cool and dry, one of those days when she and I might have enjoyed simply going for a walk; or, when we lived in Marquette, a good day to load Max our dog in the car and spend an afternoon on an isolated beach we found near Big Bay.  It occurred to me that these are such ordinary things that we all do each and every day of our lives, yet, with Gwen's death they have become quite extraordinary.  Is any genuine love ever ordinary?


It’s a blessing now to know
that ordinary things can
become extraordinary.

The memory of a mischievous smile.
A long, slow dip to the floor
at the end of a waltz.
Romping on the beach.

Holding hands at the movie—
long after that should mean anything.

A wink and a promise—later.
Watching snow drift on the deck
in the middle of a blizzard.
Just lying in bed next to each other.

Thank God for things unnoticed at the time,
now consecrated as extraordinary;
by a love that lives beyond ordinary.

John A. Bayerl, September 13, 2011

I need to remind myself and be grateful, Dear, that we were never ordinary in each other's hearts.  When we were together, especially during those last days, ordinary became sublime.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Ten months have passed.

Tonight, as I finally sat down to write, there was a brilliant full moon shining through the big old oak tree in the back yard.  It brought back warm memories of when Gwen and I would sit on the deck at our cottage in Canada and watch the moon rise over Lake Huron; I can almost hear the loons calling.  As much as I miss those special moments, I am also aware of how fortunate we were to have them.  Those memories are tinged with sadness a little more than usual tonight--it is September 12, and Gwen died on November 12, ten months ago.  Has it really been that long?

It was important to try to keep myself busy today.  Golf league was this morning, and immediately after that Anne and I had lunch together before I drove her to the airport for her return to Dallas.  At 2:00 I had my singing lesson, which I enjoyed immensely.  After that I mowed the lawn, and then showered and got dressed and attended a meeting at the Cancer Support Community.  Now I'm finally unwinding after that very busy day, and allowing the memories to flood in.  I also haven't forgotten the family breakfast that John and Anne and Amy and Brooke helped prepare and serve yesterday morning.  It was quite a gathering, and everyone enjoyed themselves immensely.  I try not to take for granted how fortunate I am that the children Gwen and I raised know how to do things the right way, and my sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews, and special people like Sharon all go out of their way to help me ease the pain of having Gwen missing from our lives.

While at John's yesterday I took inventory of the items from Gwen's and my life in Gaastra that are now hanging on the wall in the family/sun room.  It all tells a story--two sets of deer horns from Barney, a beaver pelt and a muskrat pelt stretched on round, home-made frames; two mink that Barney caught and had made into a neck scarf for Gwen, an otter pelt, and, my favorite, hanging on one of the sets of deer horns; one of Barney's old hats.  All-in-all, it is quite a display of a life that is now part of an era that has passed.  As I gazed around the room at the items on the wall, I remembered attachments to most of them: the beaver that I helped Barney drag up the embankment next to the spillway on the dam he built, the otter he and I found in one of the creeks running into Chicaguoan Lake,  Barney wearing that hat, and Gwen looking more beautiful than ever when she wore the mink scarf to Midnight Mass our first Christmas together--and tonight I am forced to remember our last night together.  Guys as sentimental as I am shouldn't have to do this. . .

Today, Dear, my sister, Terri, commented that she felt your presence at the breakfast yesterday morning.  That you were there in so many ways takes some of the sting out of the significance of today's date.  

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Totally Unoriginal Poem

This will be a short posting--soon I will get all dressed up in my M Go Blue outfit, and Anne will drop me off at the Big House where I'll remain until probably after midnight.

Lately I've been enjoying listening to country music.  While we were growing up on the farm, we listened to what we then called hillbilly music all the time.  During my undergraduate days at NMU my roommate, Smitty, loved country music.  How we loved that song Long Black Veil by Lefty Frizzell:


In June of 1998, when I moved to Marquette to begin as director of the school-counselor training program, Gwen had to continue working as a nurse at Kellogg Eye Center until her birthday on October 9, and each weekend she drove up to  Marquette.  During that time she also developed a liking for country music, and from then on we always enjoyed listening to it on many of our trips.  Now, when I listen to it, it get that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as I listen to the heart-rending lyrics of many of the songs.  How does that match up with my total enjoyment of Mozart?

Although I have every reason to be grateful for the many gifts I receive daily, today I miss you, Dear,  with an urgency and poignancy that confirms the depth of our love.  Here's that silly little poem I wrote for you a long time ago; somehow it fits my mood today:

A Totally Unoriginal Poem

Roses are red,
violets are blue,
I love Gwen,
and she loves me too.

In a letter to Gwen, October 3, 1962


Friday, September 9, 2011


It's been nice having Anne home from Texas today.  I picked her up at the airport this afternoon, and she always adds such a spark of life and excitement to life.  We we went grocery shopping this afternoon in preparation of Sunday's brunch at John's and Amy's home.  It appears that it will be quite a gathering--kind of like Christmas Eve in September.  Will John have his Festivus Pole on display?

A couple of years ago I clipped a coupon from the Sunday paper and ordered some miraculous raspberry bushes.  They didn't do much last year, nothing at all approaching miraculous, but, this year, they just keep producing berries.  Last year, Gwen loved it whenever I found some berries on the bushes and brought a handful in for her.  That seemed so ordinary then--can it only be a year ago?

The rain we've been having finally quit long enough for me to get out and pick some berries.  My friend, Dan,--I think of him as my friend now, I know that I can count on him for anything I might need--came out and talked with me.  It sets such contradictory feelings in emotion when I think of how I didn't get to know him until this year.  Prior to now, matters inside the house concerned me so much more than what might be happening in my back yard.

This all ties together, Dear, in this poem that I wrote back when the next weekend with you was all that mattered.  Now, I find the simple words prophetic and so relevant to today:


Love is pretty, love is fun;
love is two, acting as one.

Love is forgetting things given up,
and thinking instead of what we have.

Yes, love is pretty, love is fun;
but not when you’re far away from your hon.

In a letter to Gwen, September 25, 1962

. . .far away from your hon. . .once again, thing don't mean anything until they mean something.  Gosh, how I miss being away from you.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

. . . .the assurance of things hoped for. . .

At the place where I have my golf lessons there is a big putting green.  Obviously people smoke while they practice putting, and next to the green there's a sign that reads: PUT YOUR BUTTS IN THE RECEPTICAL.  The double meaning of the word BUTTS aside; for a year now the misspelling of the word RECEPTACLE bothered me every time I walked by the sign.  Today, when my lesson was completed, I pulled the sign out of the ground, marched into the Miles of Golf Store, and told the guy behind the counter that they should change the spelling on the sign.  He happened to be one of the owners; he thanked me, and assured me that the sign would be corrected.  As I was driving home I reflected upon how easy it had been to take a proactive action to eliminate something in my life that annoyed me.  Then, I thought, "were it that easy to fix the sign in my heart that reads: Gwen is gone, forever."

It's that word forever.  Gwen and I used it a lot.  As recently as two years ago Gwen signed a birthday card that way: You are the love of my life, and I'll love you forever.  Since that time, since Gwen died, the word forever has taken on a whole new meaning.  Now I understand that forever is not a measurement of time, it is beyond time.  I am reminded again of the words spoken by Fr. Dan at Gwen's funeral: "Fall in love. Stay in love.  It will decide everything."  As do all people who open their hearts to love, Gwen and and I fell in love, stayed in love, and, as a consequence of that we now continue nurturing that precious, miraculous love that was ours alone.  As I write these words I am aware that there are those who might think they are idealistic, naive, sentimental hogwash.  I agree, that is a decision that could be taken. Confronting the forever nature of death, at least for me, does not allow me to come to that conclusion.

What you and I share, Dear, is the faith that St. Paul talked about when he said:  "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Now, I see in a glass darkly. Then, I shall see face-to-face."

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Today has been cloudy, cool and rainy day; the kind of day that Gwen and I would enjoy because we could stay indoors and read, talk, not be in a hurry about anything--a well-deserved lazy day.  Missing her and that unexpected, informal intimacy certainly adds to the melancholy feelings a day like this can bring.  I was glad to get out of the house in the morning for a dentist appointment--imagine that, happy to see the dentist as a distraction.  Actually, I do enjoy meeting with my dentist; he and I have been seeing each other for many, many years.  He is an avid fisherman, and always has interesting stories to tell and pictures to show me.  Most of the day after that I spent playing with my printer/scanner and learning how to do marvelous things with old pictures.  RTFM doesn't mean anything to me; when I read a technical manual none of it make sense; I'm far better able to learn how to use technology by fooling around with it until it works the way it is supposed to.  Then, of course, the problem is in having to remember just what it was that I did.  Sigh. . .

This evening I did some grocery shopping, and became engaged in conversation with the young woman at the checkout counter.  The guidance counselor in me never goes away, and I asked her whether she was a college student.  She told me that she had recently graduated from college, and I immediately said, "liberal arts."  She laughed, and said that yes, she majored in creative writing.  I then told her about this blog, and she asked me to send her a link to it, which I will do.  The best part of that whole encounter was when, after paying for the things I had purchased, the cash register lottery rewarded me with a coupon good for $5.00 off my next shopping venture at that store.  I promptly handed it to the young woman  who was unloading her cart behind me.  She thanked me, saying that, as a college student it meant a lot to her.  It doesn't cost a lot to be nice; Gwen didn't like  me giving away free money, but in her heart she was always proud of me when I did things like that.

This is a poem I wrote for you this morning, Dear:


I lie here in my bed at 6:32 a. m.
feeling yet again how all alone
all alone can feel.

Your remembered sweet voice comes to me,
asking my plans for the day;
I tell you that I have no idea
what today may bring for me
except that, whatever it is,
it will surely involve missing you.

John A. Bayerl, September 7, 2011

Life was so good then.

Earlier Times



Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Gather Ye Rosebuds

Yesterday was Labor Day, and I tried not to think about that day six years ago.  This morning, as I sorted through some tee-shirts, I came across the one that said, "Mackinac Bridge Walk, 2005."  I bought it for Gwen after she and I had completed the five-mile walk across the bridge that connects Michigan's Lower Peninsula with the Upper Peninsula--a Michigan tradition.  The night before, Dick and Mary had joined us at our cottage on St. Joseph Island, and Mike and Deann were also there with their kayaks--they chose not to make the bridge walk with us.  Gwen did not enjoy being in high places, but, true to her adventurous spirit, she joined in on the fun with her sister-in-law Mary at her side. 

As I look back at that day, and remember Gwen's vibrant good health, I still find it hard to believe that only six months later she would receive the devastating diagnosis that would change the life of our family forever.  What I draw from this is the importance of appreciating what I have while I have it; even now, as I struggle to find meaning in my life without my perfect partner.  "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may," came to mind, and I found the first stanza of that well-known poem by Robert Herrick:

Gather ye rosebud while ye may,
Old time is still a flying:
And this flower that smiles today,
Tomorrow will be dying.

Today, Dear, as I stood looking out at our yard and your garden, I saw a hummingbird flitting about some of your flowers.  My heart always leaps when I see one of those tiny birds, remembering how much you enjoyed watching them.  It's nowhere near the same as having you here, but it does make my heart a little less lonely; gather ye rosebuds. . .

Monday, September 5, 2011

I don't have the words. . .

Today I don't have the words to describe my mood.  The closest I can come is "mellow/melancholy,"  aside from the alliteration, it describes feeling happy, safe and warm on a cool, cloudy day while simultaneously feeling terribly blue because Gwen isn't on the couch next to me, waiting to have her feet massaged.   Gwen often used the word blue to describe how she felt when we were apart.

The thermostat on the wall has a feature that displays the outside temperature.  This morning, as I prepared to mow the lawn, it read 56 degrees.  "That can't be right," I thought, "it was 96 degrees yesterday."  When I raised the garage door to take the lawn mower out, a blast of cold wind hit me, and I realized that the thermometer told the truth--its was downright chilly.  I went back inside for a sweatshirt, and thought about Anne in Dallas where the temperature has been in the 100 degree range for the past six weeks; how welcome this weather would be for her.  I found a sweatshirt to wear; it was white with roses and the famous maize and blue, winged helmet on the front along with the words, "Wolverines 1992 Rose Bowl."  It was a shirt that Gwen loved to "borrow;" I could see her wearing it, sleeves all rolled up,  as she helped me rake leaves in the fall; remember how good it made me feel to have her scent on it afterward--here come those blues again.  On the other hand, whatever would I do without these loving memories of simpler, happier times?  Memories that keep her present.

Today a dear friend, Jim, sent me a message about how he and his wife, Chris, have found themselves leading a life that is richer and fuller than before since talking with me about what it has felt like to lose Gwen.  "I can NOT imagine life without Chris and how I might wish to go on," he said, while also acknowledging that he knows that sooner or later one will be without the other.  My response is the same as it has always been, love her while you have her. 

As I was getting dressed this morning, Dear, I glanced up at your picture, the one where you are so beautiful that it still makes me weak in the knees, and, just for an instant, you winked, and then a  tear appeared in the corner of your eye.  We continue to console each other.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A most interesting day.

Today was my first day in my new duties as a volunteer at the UM football game.  Throughout the day I found myself with Gwen on my mind.  One of the things I thought of was of how much I took her for granted when in the past she and I would attend games with friends.  Today I desperately needed her to be at home waiting for me, and had to face the reality that she would not be there--there were so many things I wanted to tell her about a most interesting day that included people in the crowd of near 110,000 dropping like flies from heat exhaustion--a woman literally fell at my feet and asked me to help her. Severe thunder storms arrived late in the third quarter, and, for the first time that any people could remember, the game was ended and Michigan declared the winner, 34-10.  Then I walked to a friend's home, where I had left my bicycle, intending to ride home, but a torrential rain thoroughly soaked me, and they drove me home, promising to bring my bike home tomorrow.  Oh, how I wanted Gwen to be there when I walked in the door soaking wet.  Throughout the day I found myself rehearsing things I would tell her when we were together.

Things don't just happen--today I only saw a few people whom I knew, but their connection to Gwen was absolute.  First, there was Debbie, who facilitated the cancer survivor group that Gwen attended for so many years.  Then, there was Edith, a nurse and friend of Gwen's when she worked in the OR at Kellogg Eye Center. Of course, I couldn't wait to get home and tell Gwen about it. . .

The day was not all gloom and doom.  Terri and Roy went to breakfast with me before the game, and we enjoyed a nice visit as well as some fine "curb-side shopping" on the way to the restaurant.  Gwen would have been embarrassed, but secretly pleased at the treasures we found.  She was not one to easily allow me to blithely drive by a garage sale sign on a Saturday morning, and here was free stuff.

I'm so tired tonight, Dear, that I can barely think the next thought.  A while ago I was fortunate to attend a workshop conducted by a singer/song writer named John Angotti.  One of the things he said that stuck with me is:  "Our primary purpose is to love.  We are defined by whom and what we love--how we choose to make a difference."   That's how it was with us, and that's why it's still so hard for me to forgive myself for the times I took you for granted.  I am so grateful for the many times when we chose to make a difference by defining ourselves through the love we shared. . ."you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone."

Friday, September 2, 2011

May I have this dance. . .

I don't know what I'd do without you for the rest of my life.  I love you, and need to be with you always. Gwen wrote those words to me during the long year we waited for June 8 to arrive, our wedding date.  I know that when I first read those words my heart filled with love and a deep sense of gratitude for the miracle that had somehow brought a young woman and a young man to the point where they both were able to openly and honestly express their need and longing for each other.  I cherished moments like that when Gwen succeeded in in expressing what at time seemed inexpressible to us.  We knew, and had no choice but to say that we knew.  I know too that I always felt emotions that were a mixture of elation and a cautious sense of disbelief that someone as perfect as Gwen could feel that way about me.  "Please," I would say to myself, "don't let her find out what an ordinary, undeserving kind of person I really am."  The real miracle is that, as our marriage and relationship grew and flourished, she saw who I was--and loved me anyway!

In the world I live in today; after an early morning round of golf I had lunch with our neighbors from a long time ago.  It's getting easier to not feel like a "fifth wheel" when I am with all the happy couples.  Yes, there were times when I caught myself staring into space.

Our neighbor, Robyn, just came out to water her flowers, and she commented about how that little garden in the corner is "alive with color."  Proudly, I reminded her that it is "Gwen's Garden."  Thanks, Terri and Roy, and Dick and Mary--and Brooke for the Fathers' Day gift of petunias.

Today I heard the old Anne Murray song, May I Have This Dance for the Rest of My Life.  I could feel Gwen's head on my shoulder as we danced to it--for the rest of our lives.

Now, as I learn what it's like to be without you, Dear, I love you and needs to be with you always.  

Thursday, September 1, 2011

My best friend. . .

"She was my best friend and most honest critic."  Recently I found myself saying these words to one of my nephews.  What a blessing it is to be able to say that.  How sad it makes me that I must say it.  I will always miss my best friend Gwen.  When there were things to be done, we did them together.  When there were challenges to face, we faced them together.  If there were new places to explore, we explored them together.  And, in the end, when  death had become a reality, we did not shy away from it.  We were literally friends to the end.

While I miss my best friend dearly; more than that I miss my most honest critic.  It goes all the way back to something my mother wrote to her future daughter-in-law when our engagements was announced.  In her note to Gwen, she said that she saw changes in me that could only be attributed to her levelheadedness.  And, it's that levelheadedness that I now miss in my life.  More and more often, I find myself asking: "What would Gwen do in this situation?"  The answer is always the same as it was when she learned that she had cancer. She said, "John," we'll face it, we'll figure out a way to beat it, and if we aren't able to do that, we'll fight it as hard as we can for as long as we can."  She never had an ounce of quit in her.  "Prepare for the worst, but expect the best," sustained her, and me, during her long battle with the hidden evil that took over her body.  Now I thank her for showing me the way.

Once again I am writing these words in the back yard, where the flowers that were planted in her honor on Memorial Day now celebrate her life in full bloom as Labor Day approaches.

When I begin writing, Dear, I seldom know what I will say.  Today it was you who gave me the words.