Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Cut the Cable - Part 2

I cut the cable today! I loaded the cable box and all the cords in my basket and turned it all in. Oddly, they didn't even try to talk me out of it or ask why. The only cable TV I've watched in months was the last season of Downton Abbey. Netflix and Amazon seem to be all I need these days. More than I need, actually. I watch what I want, when I want, with no commercials. No scrolling through an endless TV Guide and still finding nothing worth watching. I've particularly liked NOT watching the news or keeping up with politics this year. I originally intended to avoid news for a year, but I think I'll hold off even longer.

I have actually been thinking of doing this for some time.  At one time, we had 3 cable boxes for TVs around the house. I had already turned in two ages ago, but held off turning in the last one till I was truly sure.

Last spring I looked up all sorts of information about cutting cable. I wrote about my findings here - Cut the Cable Part 1. By the way, I have a Roku 3 and just love it. If you have a smart TV, you won't need that at all. I don't have a TV antenna and probably won't get one.

This is one more step in simplifying my life. It feels good.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Saying Goodbye to Uncle Clyne

Clyne Veal died today.  He was one of the most influential people in Rudy's life.

Clyne and Lorene

I began hearing about Clyne (and his sweet wife, Lorene) soon after Rudy and I started dating.  Rudy's family is quite large, but it became obvious that Clyne was a VIP in the family.  Over the years, he justified that high regard over and over.

The Veal clan - that's Clyne in the Navy uniform
I told you it was a large family!

Clyne was a humble man and lived simply.  He didn't have to.  He could have bought anything he wanted.  He was soft spoken. He had all sorts of things to brag about if he'd been that type of person, but that wasn't in his nature.  Thinking about those sentences, I can't help feeling they are inadequate.  The thing is, his nature is what was so admirable.  It's what made him so loved.  He didn't need to be loud and out-going.  He didn't need to bring attention to himself.  People were drawn to him. No one wanted to disappoint him.  They wanted to make him proud.  Interestingly, if someone did do something "disappointing", most often Clyne seemed to see it as a lesson.

Clyne was a World War II vet.  His war experiences were like something you might see in a movie.  He served on the USS Emmons.  The Emmons was attacked by five kamikaze planes and sunk in April of 1945.  Clyne was the second from the last to get off the ship.  He saved the captain's life.  The captain was in such bad shape (from burns I think) that for years Clyne assumed he hadn't lived.  But he did.  Clyne was interviewed by a number of newspapers for his 90th birthday.  You can see more about that HERE.  

Clyne in his USS Emmons hat

Rudy came up with the wonderful idea to give Clyne a cap with the USS Emmons emblem on it.  Of all the gift giving I've seen over the years, I do believe that was the all time best.  There was no doubt it was appreciated.  He hardly left home without it for the next 5 years.  Many times Lorene and Clyne would be out eating and a stranger would see that cap and secretly pay for their meal to thank him for his service.  I remember hearing about it the first time it happened.  They were so amazed and absolutely delighted!

Clyne liked keeping things simple.  He was Rudy's biggest mentor when it came to the simple life, though Rudy was never able to come even close to Clyne's simple style.  He was frugal and careful.  There was nothing fancy about Clyne Veal!

He gardened up until a few years ago.  Most of those years, he plowed using a mule.  A mule was far better than a tiller!  Clyne's mules and horses were always fun to see when visiting.  I imagine those mules were more than happy to do whatever Clyne wanted them to do.  Even Clyne's animals seemed to be enchanted with him.

One thing I always thought significant about Clyne's gardening was that he didn't believe in planting the summer crops till after Mother's Day.  Many people are in such a rush to plant.  Clyne wanted to be certain frost would not undo his work.  He was an incredibly patient man.  To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

Clyne was a hard and diligent worker.  For a number of years he raised chickens.  Lots and lots and LOTS of chickens.  His barn was huge.  Rudy and his brother Jimmy used to spend summers with Clyne and Lorene.  Rudy helped some with the chickens and was awed by how much work that involved.  He'd ask Clyne about how he could continue to work that hard day after day.  I don't know the exact answer, but the takeaway was that you just focused on what you were doing at the moment and you kept going.  Rudy said Clyne was never in a big hurry, but he was incredibly steady and long lasting.  The long lasting part is certainly true in more ways than one.  He lived to be 95.

A number of generations learned things from Clyne - including how to make whistles from a branch.

Staying with Lorene and Clyne was a memory Rudy treasured.  Other cousins in the family stayed with them, too.  The female cousins always wondered why the boys were so lucky.  The girls weren't left out actually.  They had fun at the same time with other aunts and uncles.  Clyne knew how to keep boys out of mischief and teach them a lot at the same time.

Rudy used to go hunting with Clyne.  They'd start the day quite early with a huge breakfast from Lorene.  Lorene's biscuits were also a memory Rudy treasured.  Rudy would stick a few extra in his pockets and off they'd go.  Anyone who knows Rudy knows that he was NOT a hunter.  He couldn't kill a thing unless it was threatening someone he loved.  Clyne went pretty light on hunts with Rudy.  Mostly, they just went out and ran the dogs and let them chase some things.

Rudy was with Clyne when he bought THE truck.  The 65 Ford pick up.

Clyne sold the truck to Rudy in 1998.  Rudy was so proud to have it.  After Rudy died, the truck went to Daniel.  I hardly thought it was possible anyone could love the truck more than Rudy, but I believe Daniel has proved that wrong.  The truck is really wonderful, but more than that, it's a piece of family history.  No amount of money would have persuaded me to sell this truck outside of the family, though many offered to "take it off my hands".  

By the way, I still have the wagon Clyne built and later gave to Rudy. Rudy had helped him build it... or rather Clyne let him think he was helping. Actually, I think Rudy paid more attention to Clyne's building skills than anyone realized. The chassis had been an Army ammunition carrier that was pulled by a jeep.  It's wonderful.  It, too, is something I hope will stay in the family.  If any of you Veal's are interested, let me know!  It's a beauty and is still in GREAT shape.  You have to promise to keep it and cherish it!  You can read more about the wagon HERE.

Clyne's wagon

Clyne was quiet spoken.  I loved to watch him at family reunions.  He was usually back from the crowd just a tad, but watching him was like watching a beloved king holding court.  Everyone made sure to go talk to Clyne.  He could be funny, too.  And astute.  I often would hear him say things that I considered profound.  Usually just a short sentence that spoke volumes.

Clyne and Vicki, 2006 reunion
Clyne and Lorene were married for 67 years.  They were hardly apart during that time, right up to the end.  Clyne waited till Lorene was back in the room to take his last breaths.  Their anniversary was last Saturday.  Just before they got together, Clyne had been dating another girl.  Lorene explained to Clyne why that girl wasn't right for him and the rest is history.  If you know Lorene, get her to tell you the story.  It's really funny!


Another reason Rudy loved being around Clyne and Lorene is because they were so happy with each other.  Rudy loved watching Clyne tease Lorene.  He loved how they stayed totally smitten with each other over the years.  Clyne loved Lorene with all his heart til the day he died.  No.  That's probably wrong.  I'm sure even in Heaven, he loves her still and will be watching over her.  He'll expect his whole family to show her the love he no longer can.  And we will.  She's so sweet and fun.  It's not hard to love Lorene.

Some would say that Clyne and Lorene didn't have any children of their own. would certainly say that.  But it wouldn't be true.  They had dozens.  He was sort of the father of the family.  It's hard to explain the truth of that, but if you know any of the cousins in the Veal clan, you've probably heard them try to explain the Clyne mystique.  It's just impossible to come up with the right words for how loved he is and how connected we all feel to him.

If it's true that your loved ones greet you when you go to heaven (and I believe it is), then Clyne was greeted by a huge crowd.  HUGE.  He was loved by so many and a good many of those are no longer here with us.  I know Rudy and Jimmy were there as well as too many others in the family.  I started counting who all would be there to greet him, but I ran out of fingers and toes.  I'm certain it's an amazing reunion.  But here on Earth, we're going to miss him so much.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Somewhere Over the Rainbow is a Heart

In yesterday's post, I described a rainbow incident that happened around a year and a half ago.  Here's what I wroteI attempted to find a good photo of Rudy for the DURING time period, but they all made me cry, even the ones where he was smiling.  This photo was taken Nov 23, 2014.  Rudy was at home, sick as could be.  I was on my way home, I think from the pharmacy picking up yet another unit-nausea medication.  I was losing my mind and in the midst of a really good cry.  Suddenly,  I saw a rainbow.  It was fabulous.  I stopped and took some photos of it but the rainbow wouldn't show up at all in any of them.  None. I kept snapping over and over trying to get it to show up.   What did that mean?  I was sure it meant something.  Looking back, maybe it meant I was seeing hope when there was absolutely no hope at all.  The invisible rainbow experience did help me that day.  I become so preoccupied with the oddness of it that it put an end to my meltdown.  I pulled myself back together and was able to go back home and focus on what needed to be done.  It's heartbreaking to think how sick he was that week.  That was definitely one of the worst weeks of his illness.

Here's the photo of the rainbow that wouldn't show up -

Every time I looked through the missing rainbow photos, my focus was always on looking at the sky for any shadows that might have been a bit of the rainbow.  There's something in the photo I completely missed.

My friend Shirley commented on it on my Facebook page.  She saw it right away.  It's a cloud shaped like a heart. 

The crazy thing is, ever since Rudy died, she and I have seen a ton of heart clouds.  Shirley sends me photos of them from all over - in Georgia, South Carolina, Canada, and even New Zealand. Shirley gets around!  She sees them while she's in boats or cars or planes, or just walking about.  I see them, too.  You may think us crazy, but they always seem to be signs from Rudy.  They seem to appear when I'm having a low moment.  I find it interesting that we never saw this heart til now.

Here's one I saw in January -

I especially love when the heart cloud is the only cloud in the sky.

Here's a heart photo from Shirley. It seems to have two hearts, actually. She's sent me a couple of others that are even more spectacular and I can't find them on my computer. Daring.  I've been organizing photos lately, but still have a ways to go.  I used to be known for my organizational skills, but I seem to have blown my reputation since retiring.  

I also have been finding feathers.  I usually find them when I'm walking the dogs.  I never find them when I'm with my dad.  I only find them when it's just me and I'm usually deep in thought.  I've been keeping them for the last few months and have them on display in a pretty glass jar.  

One day as I was walking, I pondered these "signs".  My first thought, when I get a sign, is usually that I'm so sure it was a sign from Rudy, but my second thought is often skepticism.   I just reading into it what I want to see.  I have a good imagination, but I also have a very realistic side.   

One day recently, I let myself think about the possibility that it was real.  So many miraculous things happen here on earth.  There's more to life than we could possibly know.  So how would it work if Rudy wanted to send me a little comfort?   It seems like it would be pretty easy to send a cloud sign.  One cloud could be seen from many vantage points.  I could be most anywhere on my property and appreciate a cloud.  Plus, if need be,  a cloud could be blown here or there for better viewing.  

A feather would be harder.  First, a bird would have to be in some sort of distress to lose that feather.  It would fall in a particular spot on the ground and trickiest of all, I would have to go to that exact spot and look down just in time to see the feather.  When I walk with my dad, we almost always walk the fence path.  Same path every day.  But, I never find feathers when I'm walking with him, at least not yet.  When it's just me, I vary my route. I wander around.  I cut through and across and explore the property.  We have 12 fenced acres to walk and I cover it all.  What direction I head is mostly based on whims.  So, if Rudy is putting a feather out for me to find, how would he know where to put it?  A few weeks ago, I was pondering this.  It occurred to me that maybe my whims were not my own.  Maybe Rudy guided me.  I thought to myself, right now I might just head over to here, so did Rudy put that thought in my head?  Then a crazy thing happened.  As soon as I finished that thought and headed in that new direction, I took 4 steps and there was a feather. So I ask you, is this just a coincidence?   I think not.  You can believe whatever you want to believe.  I'm certain Rudy is with me.  Often.  And whenever I have doubts, he convinces me it's real.

By the way, I hear Rudy in my head all the time.  I can hear what he'd say about lots of things.  It's not always good.  He still complains when I use my left foot on the brake.  He was never a fan of my driving.  

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Eleven Months - Before, During and After

While organizing and cleaning out photos on my computer, I have realized my adult life seems to now be divided into three eras - before, during, and after Rudy's cancer.

When illness is involved, I think there is a third - DURING.

BEFORE.   Lung cancer apparently takes a long time to show symptoms, so when I see photos of Rudy from anytime before 2014, I wonder, Did he have a tumor then?  Was he at stage 1 or 2 or 3?  Could he have been cured if it was discovered then? His face looks a bit tired in that photo.  Why didn't I notice and send him to a doctor?  The answer to that last one is that he was working really long hours and his tired look was easy to attribute to the fact that he had every reason to be tired. I wonder too, how I could have been preoccupied with mundane things and not realize that time was running out for happiness.  How could I have acted like it would last forever?  When I catch myself second guessing about the past, I try to think about something else.  Second guessing is a sure road to insanity.  I might actually be close to that destination right now.  I'm hoping to head in a different direction, but there doesn't seem to be a map. Also of note, all of these questions are stupid.  Of course I had no way of knowing what was in store.  We were both just living normal lives.  A normal life doesn't include foreseeing doom or worrying about what awful thing may happen.  That's no way to live.  But in grief, my questions don't have to be smart, nor do they need to make sense.  

Taken July 29, 2014.  Our world would crash less than two months after this photo was taken.  Ignorance was bliss.

DURING.  The Facebook newsfeed now picks random posts from a year before to show on your newsfeed.  That's fine if the previous year was happy.  It's not fine when it was a nightmare.  Can that feature be turned off?  I don't want to be reminded.  (Actually, It can't exactly be turned off, but you can block date ranges and people! I blocked about 2 years!) One popped up today showing a post I had shared last April about the joys of blowing bubbles.  Luckily, it wasn't a photo showing Rudy sick with a month left to live.  Still, a post about bubbles???  How silly.   I know exactly what was going through my head.  I tried so hard to look for joy while Rudy was sick.  I was so determined to be positive for him, as if that were incredibly important.  I wanted to make his time as pleasant as possible.  I didn't think he needed to see me falling apart.  (I fell apart privately. I wonder if he ever knew how often I did that.)   I wish I'd talked more to him about the deep stuff. I wish I hadn't hidden so many of my feelings. That's a huge regret.  We did have some deep conversations.  Those were the ones I value most.  Why didn't we do it more? Truthfully, he couldn't talk for long, especially in the last months.  It would bring on a bout of nausea.  Also, I never wanted to be the one to bring up the heavy stuff.  I waited for signs he wanted to talk.  He was probably not wanting to burden me.  Huge regret.  Huge.  Thoughts like this are yet another road to insanity.  Apparently, all my roads lead there.

I attempted to find a good photo of Rudy for the DURING time period, but they all made me cry, even the ones where he was smiling.  This photo was taken Nov 23, 2014.  Rudy was at home, sick as could be.  I was on my way home, I think from the pharmacy picking up yet another unit-nausea medication.  I was losing my mind and in the midst of a really good cry.  Suddenly,  I saw a rainbow.  It was fabulous.  I stopped and took some photos of it but the rainbow wouldn't show up at all in any of them.  None. I kept snapping over and over trying to get it to show up.   What did that mean?  I was sure it meant something.  Looking back, maybe it meant I was seeing hope when there was absolutely no hope at all.  The invisible rainbow experience did help me that day.  I become so preoccupied with the oddness of it that it put an end to my meltdown.  I pulled myself back together and was able to go back home and focus on what needed to be done.  It's heartbreaking to think how sick he was that week.  That was definitely one of the worst weeks of his illness.

AFTER.   I have gone through so many phases of grief in the 11 months since he died.  I have tried to be positive and to know that one day I will feel alive again.  I understand that grief is a series of highs and lows.  I've heard that the highs and lows are extreme at first, but slowly the waves become less drastic.  As you can probably tell from this post, I'm feeling a little out of sorts these days.  I don't want anyone to worry.  I know I'll perk up.  There's not a thing anyone can do to help.  I don't need to be taken off and distracted.  This has nothing to do with boredom.  I'm not bored by any means!  I just need to work through these emotions.  I'm a bit reluctant to talk about it, but I'm going to do it for the widows who read my page.  These monthly grief posts seem to help other widows feel less alone. There are other widowed bloggers that have written posts that helped me.  I'm paying it forward.

What does this low feel like?  Here's what I'm feeling.  It's emotion based, rather than sensible. I hope it's not the truth, but it feels true right now.    It feels like real life is over for me.  Rudy was the love of my life and there's not likely to be another.  I will be left living a half life and entertaining myself as best I can for the rest of my days, without any one person to confide in.  I will never again be happy-go-lucky.  I will never again be able to casually say goodbye to anyone without wondering if there will be some catastrophe before we see each other again.  There have been too many deaths and serious illnesses in the last year to people I know - of all ages.  I've been shaken over and over (I have even fallen apart over people I'd never actually met who died unexpectedly - friends of friends.)  My negative thoughts really need to be snuffed out.

The line from Joni Mitchell's song is so true -You don't know what you've got till it's gone.  So much is gone from my life without Rudy.  Lately, I've been thinking about how it felt to be carefree and think my life would most likely be about the same tomorrow as it was today.  I've been thinking about how it felt to make plans and set goals with a reasonable certainty that I could make it happen. That there will be more time with the people I love.  We all know that one day, people we love will pass.  We know in our heads that for some, it could possibly be an early, unexpected death, but we tell ourselves the people we love most won't pass until they have lived a good long life.  But once a person loses someone really dear to an untimely death, I don't think it's possible to live carefree again.  I could be wrong.  Maybe I'll get over that weighty feeling.  I try.  The worry is exhausting.  But, this isn't my first experience with untimely deaths.  In the past, I came back from that fear over time (it takes years).   I doubt I'll get over it this time.  On the other hand, maybe I'll give up the worry completely and learn to throw caution to the wind and accept that I can't control a darned thing in life.  I might as well get on with life with a screw-it attitude and have some fun.  That's my be-fearless pep talk.  It's what Rudy would say, only his language would be a bit more colorful. Sometimes, this pep talk actually works for me.

Here's a weird little thing.  You might think I'm crazy for even thinking about it.  I'm not into palm reading, but many years ago, I learned a tiny bit about it.  Enough to identify a few lines on my hand.  Not much more.  I remember looking at my lifeline and wondering about it.  It's long, but there is a big gap in it.  The line virtually disappears for a little over a quarter of an inch.  I remember thinking that I really didn't want to hear what anyone had to say about that because it sure didn't seem like it would be a happy thing.  Maybe there's something to palm reading because I must be right smack in the midst of that gap.  It makes sense.  I am missing right now.  Not really living.  I go through the motions.  I laugh and have adventures with friends.  Stay busy.   I look normal, act normal, and function really well considering.  But I am not really present.  I seem to be observing myself, rather than being myself.  I'm a Stepford widow.  I'm faking it till I make it. The life line does reappear and actually looks really great on the other side of the gap.  Hopefully, that means I'll find myself eventually.  It's just hard to picture it right now.

So.  This is a real downer post, isn't it?  But I'm a positive person, dammit, so let me end with happier things.

One thing that saves me during the worst of my alone times is Netflix and Amazon Prime.  I should write them a thank you note.  I don't even watch regular TV or cable anymore.  When I am feeling too low, I can turn on whatever series I'm working through and it takes me away... without commercials.   My latest series has been Call the Midwife.  It was really good.  I also watch about everything put out by BBC and/or PBS.  I've gone through a number of series in the last year.  Some of my other favs - The Good Wife, Grace and Frankie (season 2 premieres May 5th!), and surprisingly for me, Orange is the New Black.  That last one is crazy.  Can't believe I watched it. It's so unlike my normal viewing preferences.  It has put me on the straight and narrow and I'm determined to stay out of prison, but should I ever go (for a crime I obviously did not commit) I would stay safe by helping the ladies write parole letters and coaching them on what to say at their hearings.  Apparently, you need a skill or a commodity to survive in prison!   Can you tell I spent some time working this all out (just in case I go completely nuts and take up a life of crime)?

I have all sorts of projects going on around the house.  The biggest projects involve landscaping and painting.  There are plenty of things that need to be attended to.  I know I'll feel much better once these things have been taken care of.  I have to keep this house up until I move to my little dream cottage.

I'm considering some big changes to this area at the side of the house. - much more involved than just trimming bushes (which is what I'm doing in this photo).   And by the way, that 3 ft star on the porch is coming down.  I need a change.


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