Lover's Key, Florida

Lover's Key, Florida

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Thursday, May 31, 2012


This tiredness
that at times overcomes me
is a mood, a feeling
an awareness
of a lack of adequacy
it isn’t a healthy tired
after a job well done
this is bone-weary tired
that even a long night’s sleep
can’t ease
a longing for just one
of those nights
when true peace and serenity
were there for the asking
or the doing
that love makes possible--
and I tell myself
you’re doing what you said you would
and the question remains
deep in my heart
is anyone better for it
am I?

She reminds me:
I will love you always.

My soul
no longer tired.

John A. Bayerl, May 31, 2012

One of my many friends named Mary; the one who lives near Toronto, reminded me of the importance of writing something each day.  The way to write is to write.  

Tonight I was invited to a reception at the Cancer Support Community where Gwen and I attended support group meetings from when she was first diagnosed.  One of the people there is a social worker who conducted the survivor group that Gwen participated in; she did one of those things that are so important to those of us who never forget the love of our life but fear that others may-she reminded me that it was Gwen who always kept things moving, never giving in to despair, always hopeful, stubbornly making every moment of life count.  I too cherish those memories of Gwen as one who just kept going; she breathed life into every day, even on the day she took her last breath.  

Tonight I also met Dave and Mary who were in the lung cancer support group at UM Comprehensive Cancer Center.  There's always that twinge of resentment that they are still enjoying  time together on this earth.  Then I remember, as the poem says, Dear, that the gift of love we shared didn't die with you; it goes on forever.  You signed your letters that way: Yours, forever.

Monday, May 28, 2012

It's a cake, by golly.

O. K., it's a little crooked; so nobody's perfect.

Could have used your help on that frosting Dear, but, all's well that ends well.  Bring on the candles and the ice cream~

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Oh, I’ll be OK I told her
when she asked how it would be
without her
little did I know how strong
I would have to be
for this one simple thing
being alone
each day anew it is forced on  me
as I wander about
this big empty house of ours
once filled with laughter
and love
now the echo of her voice
is only heard
deep in my heart.

John A. Bayerl, May 27, 2012

Lately I've been missing Gwen as though it were a year and a half ago, just after she died.  She was so right for me, and I miss her presence in my life as a sure and constant center where I could always find peace.  

Gwen always baked a made-from-scratch German Chocolate cake for my birthday.  In memory of that, I will do the same today.   She'll be there in the kitchen with me.

Dear, I'll miss your keen eye that knew just when the frosting that I stirred and stirred over medium heat was a perfect golden brown

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Side by side
they gather round
the campfire
of their glowing screens
listen to written words
with eyes so soft
as they battle their battles
struggle their struggles
grieve alone
in the company of others
by miles
and seas
and time zones
and area codes
and zip codes
filled with hope
they form community
forge life-giving bonds
of easy friendship.

John A. Bayerl, May 13, 2012

This is something I shared with my friends on a online bereavement group in which I participate. It was written the day after the date that marked 18 months since Gwen died.  Today I feel buoyed and lifted by the friendships I've formed through this blog and other places where it is posted.  Also today, two  special friends, one in Nevada and the other in England are commemorating the day they lost the love of their life.   Susie and Dianne, and the many, many others who encourage and support me each day make real the Swedish Proverb: "shared joy is a doubled joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow."

From the very beginning, ours was always an easy friendship, Dear.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Five dollars for a goddam hot dog and cup of coffee!

The weather today has been absolutely perfect.  Bright and sunny, a cool dry breeze, temperature in the 70s; it didn't take much convincing for me to join Ed for a round of golf.  On my way home I realized that it had been a while since I'd had a rueben sandwich from Zingerman's Delicatessen, an Ann Arbor tradition.  After phoning in my order, I had about 20 minutes to kill, and, when I heard applause, laughter and a woman's voice on a P. A. system from the farmer's market adjacent to Zingerman's, I meandered over to see what was happening.  On the way there I strolled by the little shop where Gwen bought the leather coat made by peasants in Uruguay that I've mentioned before--what a great memory that was. The coat still hangs in my closet.  

The event for the evening, under the farmer's market canopy, was the First Annual Ann Arbor Bicycle-Commuitng Bash. where a king and queen of commuter-bicycling were going to be crowned.  After a competition involving four women and three men, the king and queen were crowned.  As near as I could tell, the woman who got to wear the queen's crown was elected on the basis of her being able to twirl a toy baton while riding one-handed on  her bicycle.  The man selected as king impressed everyone by asking his two children to vacate the cart that was fastened behind his bicycle in order for him to do a hand stand in it.   That received a lot of well-deserved applause.  My only regret was that my son-in-law, Bob, and his brother-in-law, Tom, who live near Denver and ride their bicycles to work every day, weren't with me.  They would have won the competition hands down by solving quadratic equations while balancing on their bicycles.

When the excitement over the crowning of bicycle-commuting royalty had subsided, a warm, bespectacled woman with her hair in a bun invited me to join in a drum circle.  Chairs had been placed in a circle, and in front of each chair was a drum.  The leader of the circle would beat a rhythm and the rest of us--young children along with a septuagenarian like me--would follow her lead and create a joyful sound.  This was a bittersweet moment as it brought back memories of a weekend camp that Gwen and I had attended shortly after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  As part of the weekend we participated in a drum circle like the one I participated in tonight.  Gwen liked it a lot, and when Gwen liked something a lot it was a dead certainty that it would soon be featured at a family gathering.  Recently, while engaging in my seemingly endless task of organizing and de-cluttering my life, I came across a CD of drum rhythms that Gwen had convinced me to buy, and the drum sticks are are still on the fireplace hearth.  My participation in the drum circle tonight reminded me to attempt to institute a drum circle as part of our next family gathering.

When I returned to Zingerman's to pick up my sandwich I was reminded of Gwen's graduation from nursing school, when Casimir and Bertha, her dad and mom, paid us a visit. As was always the case when we entertained visitors from the hinterlands of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, a visit to Zingerman's was a must.  Casimir, a. k. a. Barney, couldn't be convinced to try one of the famous ruben sandwiches, but he did order a hot dog and cup of coffee.  I knew what was going to happen next:  when it came time to pay for our meal; Barney would insist on paying, and I would simply ignore his request and pay it myself.  He reluctantly acquiesced to my demand to pick up the tab, and, try as I might, I wasn't able to keep him from taking a peek at the itemized bill.  "Five dollars for a goddam  hot dog and a cup of coffee," he bellowed, "I used to work all day in the mine for five dollars!"   "Please, please," I prayed, "make the hot dog as good as Zingerman's claims it is--and the coffee even better"   As always, Bertha came to the rescue, and told Barney in  no uncertain terms that he should be thankful that her daughter was in such high estate that she could afford to spend five dollars for a hot dog and cup of coffee.  "Just be thankful that you have something to fill your belly," she said.   After grumbling a bit, Barney filled his hot dog bun with onions, slathered on some mustard and enjoyed his hot dog.  He even grudgingly conceded that the coffee was petty good, though not as good as the coffee he carried in his thermos to the mine each day.  Today's  pleasant May evening was made even more special by this fond memory.  

Dear, as I recalled special remembrances of what at the time were seemingly ordinary events,  I am grateful for all we had and shared--we were blessed in so many ways.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


A year ago; on a stormy day, I posted this.  Today is a bright, shiny day.

Now I walk through life
as best I can without her
in a reality tinged with sadness.

Yet, she is with me,
hovering in the background,
always in the corner of my eye;
gently prodding, encouraging me onward.

Let our love live,
she tells me, find ways
to let it shine in the world.

John A. Bayerl, May 21, 2011

Our son, John, Jr., has a beautiful  picture of Marquette taken from a beach on Lake Superior.  It makes me happy/sad; I can see Gwen enjoying being at the beach, she loved Lake Superior, while our dog Max relentlessly stalks seagulls and sticks floating in the water.  I had the same kind of feeling on the golf course yesterday; it seemed so unfair that Gwen wasn't there enjoying a beautiful summer evening with me.  That's what it's like to miss someone who was such a constant source of love in your life.   I've learned that Gwen's death has had a way of sharpening my priorities; I came to the realization that there are few things in this world that really matter much beyond the three F's--faith, family and friends.  Most of the rest of it is, as the song says, blowing in the wind.  So, I'll feel sorry for myself and cry if I want to.

My friend, Frank, called this morning to tell me that his wife, Caroline, died yesterday morning.  We talked for at least an hour.  Like Gwen, she fought lung cancer for a much longer time than had been predicted.  Also, she was a non-smoker.  We first met them at a support group meeting at St. Joseph Mercy Cancer Center back in 2006.  Her funeral Mass is Saturday morning.  Many of our friends will be there,  while it will be great to see them all again, it promises to be another tearful event. . .  good for the soul kind of tears.

It's mid afternoon and a storm has arrived; it's gotten terribly dark, there's lightning and thunder, the wind is driving big raindrops against the antique school bell on the post outside my window.   Especially, on a stormy day; love needs to shine in the world--as always,  the poem is for you, Dear.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


A day for mothers
filled with memories.

Mother Claire
gave me life itself
then filled it with love
of reading
and learning
and music
gave me to myself.

Mother-in-law Bertha
gave my life
joyful noise
with stories
and polkas
and a grin
gave me her daughter.

Wife Gwen
Mother of our children
gave me love itself
then filled it with life
made emptiness full
made us into each other.
gave me all of her

John A. Bayerl, May 11, 20

Happy Mother's Day, Dear.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


It must be
that this happens
to all who grieve—
there is a separation
a distancing
that draws things nearer—
what is now
no longer bears the mark
of what was then
the connection is
in many ways
stronger,  more grounded
less urgent
yet more immediate
soft embraces
all that follows
so very different now
so very much the same

          put another way

the young robin perches
out on a limb
ready for first flight
the soft feathered nest beckons.

John A. Bayerl, May 12, 2012

So what is a 74 year old man doing talking about separation anxiety?  Doesn't that happen in early childhood, before the child reaches the age of 18 month?  Doesn't it have to do with the child feeling anxious about being separated from its primary caregiver, usually the mother?   Shouldn't an old guy be in Erickson's Stage 8, integrity versus despair--reflecting on his life and finding a sense of fulfillment in his accomplishments, accepting death as inevitable?  

Today, May 12, marks 18 months since Gwen died.  Tomorrow will be Mother's Day.  For me, as I reflect on these two events,  there are times when I am overtaken by this sense of feeling alone, adrift, far from the safety that the love Gwen and I shared provided.  Yes, death is inevitable.  Yet, there remains much to accomplish in honor and recognition of the love that bound us for 50 years. It is a blessing, this being able to sense that I am between the two poles of the inevitable finality of death and the hope that springs from entering into the ongoing flow of life. It's not such a bad place to be.  It feels redemptive.

In one of her letters Gwen sent me this quote she had read somewhere, in her usual, common-sense way, she said: "this makes sense:"

When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know, but, if you listen, you may learn something.

Sometimes, Dear, before I talk, I listen to my heart and what you have left me there--I always learn something,--when I listen.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


I caress the lining
of her leather coat
and think of all the times
she was there
 next to the satin
filled with love
shielded from the cold
feeling safe, secure
in my embrace.

I am reassured
that she is here
one more time
let me help you with your coat

John A. Bayerl, May 10, 2012

Perhaps it's the reminder in the store where I looked for Mother's Day cards.  I remembered how  I would tease that she wouldn't get a card from me--she wasn't my mother.  Now, I couldn't look at those cards, what fun it would have been to pick one out just for her, usually it would contain a reference to something that only she and I knew about.  She was the mother of our children.

On the lighter side, I noticed a previously unseen category for Mother's Day cards..Ex-Daughter-in-Law. I suppose. . .

Monday, May 7, 2012


Off to the track.

Saturday I was at the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Yes, there really is a Brooklyn in Michigan.)  Son John, Jr., who is a science/technology teacher at the Michael Berry Career Center in Dearborn, asked me to serve as a parent volunteer at a "competition" involving teams from high schools in Michigan that participate in an event sponsored by SQUARE ONE, a non-profit foundation that encourages high-school students to creatively design and build a car, using a frame similar to one that might be found on a dune buggy and an electric motor and batteries.

It's too complicated to try to explain it all, but essentially it is a very successful effort that seeks to encourage students in high school to use their creativity and ingenuity to design, engineer and build a car that incorporates innovative elements and is also energy efficient.  The car that  John's students built is shown in the top picture.  The bottom picture shows Cecelia, who drove the car in a couple of events doing some last minute preparations to the ear piece that she wore.

While most of the teams that entered were able to build their cars in their school's shop facilities, John took pride in knowing that his team was comprised of students in a computer class that he teaches.  His "shop" was a bench in his carpeted, computer classroom.   They even had to provide their own tools.  American ingenuity at its best.

What impressed me most about the day was seeing students involved in a real-life learning experience where they had to learn to think on their feet and problem solve.  Additionally, and most importantly from my perspective, I saw young people experiencing the many good things that result from teamwork and cooperation.  As a bonus, in my role of parent volunteer I attended the main entrance to the raceway, and was able to greet and talk with many proud parent who had come to support their children.  All-in-all, a most satisfying day.

Of course, Dear, this would have meant so much more had you been there with me; beaming with pride about your son and enjoying meeting the young people from their diverse cultures and backgrounds.  

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


It hangs on a hook
in  the closet
where she left it
caramel-color leather
not real big
just right for someone petite.

Her wallet is still inside
driver’s license, now expired,
insurance cards
no longer needed
little note she wrote
to herself—
buy John a B. D. card—
later delivered
with a kiss.

All a sweet reminder
from her
that she was here
in full force
keeping our life on track
inside her purse
where she kept her treasures—
and tissues for tears.

The things I value most
I keep in the purse
hanging there on the wall
where she left it.

John A. Bayerl, April 25, 2012

Gwen was a diabetic for for 40 years.  When she was diagnosed with cancer she joked, with that gallows humor of hers, that she was sure that the diabetes that would get her, and now this.  Like all other obstacles in  her life, she managed the diabetes and never allowed it to define who she was;  returned to school, earned her BSN, and then had a long career as an OR nurse in the Kellogg Eye Center.  

In addition to the many things a woman carries in her purse, including a round hair brush, she also had all of her insulin supplies:  glucometer, needles, and test strips.  Searching for a comb, pen or stick of gum in her purse was an adventure.  When she was able to begin using an insulin pump, we welcomed how much easier it made things, and her purse breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Now all of her insulin supplies have been donated, and her purse, including a depleted wallet hangs in the closet.  She always kept the family checkbook in there, a tradition that I still maintain.  For me, it is a sacred relic of sorts, a solid reminder of the how the most mundane things in  life take on unexpected, pleasant, overwhelming meaning.  We convince ourselves that we can prepare for death, know what to expect.  Not true, at least, not for me. No one can know what it feels like to face the death of one who made life complete until one knows what it feels like.  And, there's only one way to do that. 

I've begun "dating," Dear; it's weird--it was so much easier when I was a teenager.  I know you are in this with me; but damn, you set the pole awfully high.