Simple Words of Strength

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My husband Richard passed away three years ago tonight, but I find myself celebrating in a way.

Sure his life was cut too short, and his early onset dementia was cruel, yet most of his days were good ones.

It seems Richard knew how to live well.

His life was never a rich one monetarily, but it was in experiences, accomplishments, and in his work with the arts community.

Richard also knew how to laugh.

A lot.

And mostly, at himself.

The first time I met Richard at a dinner party, he was already making the others guests hysterical while describing a crazy New Year’s Eve just spent with an elderly aunt in Boston.

And Richard would always be the first to chuckle at the graduate school pictures of himself from the 70’s with his long brown hair, skinny torso, and Barnaby Street bell bottom suits.

By the time I met him a decade later at the party, he was sporting instead a marine cut, balding white hair, and a slight Santa pot belly masked under preppy flannels.

I believe I admired most Richard’s ability to share his loving heart with others.

And often to those with the greatest need.

Richard was the first to mention the idea of adopting a very special 12 year old girl from Russia. And did he ever LOVE to spoil this girl after our adoption was finalized and we all came back together to the U.S.

That special girl grew to become one very special lady. She, along with her young family, came over today for a belated Christmas celebration.

We had a joyful time dancing in our family room and I hadn’t thought about today’s anniversary until she pulled out one of Richard’s old graduate school photos from her purse. I then glanced briefly at some later photos of Richard on the book shelves behind her and smiled.

Perhaps in this last week of 2016, I should now be thinking about jotting down my resolutions for the new year.

Like lose that extra ten pounds or find the best job ever.

But I don’t really need too.

I’ve just realized my resolutions have been right here behind me in my family room, and in bold, ever since I down sized into my new home.

Just three short words can say it all, and I will practice them every day.

“Live, laugh, love.”

Sounds like a whole lot more fun than going on a diet.

And after all, life is just too short.

Love Connection/Life Connection

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My first connection with handsome man Rex last month was somthing akin to speed dating.

I’d entered a room ripe in potential for love connections immediately upon arrival at the shelter.

“Hey there handsome guy,” I announced while approaching Rex’s pen, sandwiched tight between some boisterous hound dog brothers.

Only Rex turned around, cocking his elfin head, and thrusting his little chest forward.

We made immediate eye contact, then he ran over to greet me extending a tiny paw through the fencing in the gate.

Labeled extremely shy when he’d first arrived, this handsome man had made a miraculous recovery.

I hailed a kindly volunteer over to escort Rex and I to a ‘meet and greet’ room where we soon were sharing savory snacks and sparkling water.

I told him I really wasn’t looking for a year old pup, “being an aging woman and all, but I just wanted to meet you”.

He looked disappointed.

“You see Rex, I’m not one of those cougar women you hear about.”

He then gazed back up at me, seeming to understand, yet still determined to charm.

And boy, did he ever.

Rex was soon showing off his talents with the commands he’d already learned such as “sit”, “stay”, and “no”.

Rex also proudly displayed finesse at walking on a leash, an important gift to this graying woman before him for trips into the city.

I slid down onto the tile floor, where Rex immediately climbed onto my lap.

I told him tales of my sweet senior corgi, Maddie and her spunky senior Yorkie brother.

“That Tucker’s still got plenty of attitude”.

Rex looked up at me with his tiny brown eyes, amused.

Maybe that look of amusement, those brown eyes, and that blithe spirit is what finally captured my heart.

And my soul.

Especially when Rex kept sweetly licking my hand as I shared stories of the two senior dogs I lost last year.

“I’m guess I’m trading in loss for life,” I told him.

I shared part of our story with the shelter where I adopted Rex. https://quiltofmissingmemories.wordpress.com/2016/01/24/love-connectionlife-connection/

It’s since appeared on their Facebook page.

One popular comment was posted there afterwards asking, “Who rescued who?”

I know for sure I didn’t rescue Rex.

Nor did Rex rescue me.

I just fell in love that day with a little young man.

And I’m hoping he’s fallen in love with little old me.

Riding the waves

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I set my timer for an hour.

And then this unintentional hoarder bagged up 60 items in 60 minutes last Sunday.

Some things went straight to the trash bag, the good stuff to the one marked charity.

Most of the items were owned by other family members. My late parents, my late husband, my daughter, my granddaughter.

Every storm in recent years resulted in an urgent move for a family member. As a result, additional possessions quickly poured into my already packed 1300 foot rambler.

So I was feeling proud for the traction I was making until I opened a closet bursting with old photo albums.

I needed to stop to pick up dozens of loose, fading pictures that went twirling down to the floor.

The first one was of my late brother Scott and my husband on a cloudy San Diego beach.

Scott’s waiving at me, as if to grab my attention and directing me on to the photo above.

It’s a shot of my younger self, so full of joy and dancing on the same beach.

Underneath it I discover another picture. This time it’s a stormy beach in Maine.

And I’m wearing that same expression of pure joy.

I soon find joy’s in every ocean photo of me from the foggy beaches of Martha’s Vineyard to rain soaked sand dunes in Italy.

I choose to believe my brother was trying to send me a message. He knew me so well.

Perhaps it’s a reminder that every storm cloud in life carries the promise of even greater joy thereafter.

I’m going to hold on to that thought.

After looking at the beach photos, I switched my focus the rest of the day to decluttering my mind instead of the house

And I decided to book a flight to the ocean for November.

I’m hoping to find more storm clouds and high tides.

As it’s time for me to dance in the rain once again.

Memories at hand

Standing in the aisle of a dark and chilly bus, I hung on tight to the grab bar with both gloved hands this morning.

I was glad to find a pair of tired wool gloves still resting in my pockets from last fall.

I’m sure I’ve owned them for over 25 years.

They were bought for me from Galeries Lafayette, a department store in Paris by my husband Richard.

He was always a bit too generous with gift giving, particularly whenever a work trip to France was involved.

Working for a non-profit his salary wasn’t large, but nothing made him feel any richer than walking in sunshine down the Champs-Élysées.

Except for my daughter and I.

I still remember how excited Richard was when he surprised me with the gloves.

“Look J, these fancy french gloves are actually a Clan Campbell tartan plaid!” he announced. “How cool is that?”

‘J’ was the nickname he’d given me.

With Richard being half Scottish and with the last name of Campbell, he found the gift of those gloves to be almost as sacred as my wedding ring.

Especially since he said I was an ‘auxiliary’ member of the Campbell Clan due to marriage.

The memories of those years and even my husband are beginning to fade some.

And so is the luster in the gloves.

I’ve been starting to pare down possessions since my husband’s passing in December in preparation for a move.

I noticed this morning the thumb on the left glove has worn through, so I was thinking I should just toss them.

But tonight I took another look.

I bet I could mend that left glove if I tried.

I also noticed in the light of day, the colors actually look brighter on the pair.

So I may just keep those gloves after all.

To go with that new Campbell plaid scarf I just bought.

Signs on the path


I encountered conflicting messages on several signs near a stoplight this afternoon.

On my right, the one at the Lutheran church proclaimed: “Be happy, be heathy”.

But on my left sat others, as part of a Halloween display.

The setting was a small grave yard, with tombstone signs advising, “Rest in peace”.

The irony was jarring.

Yet later on a relaxing walk below falling gold leaves, I found a message in the earlier sign paradox.

I know for sure my husband and parents who’ve passed from Alzheimer’s and dementias are now at peace.

And they’d all want me to be happy and healthy, which I am.

But I did keep my walk brief to go home and fill out more paperwork.

As I’m well aware I will be calmer once their three small estates are finally completed.