Three plus years ago my husband died. When he was diagnosed with blood cancer, we were both shocked as he felt and looked healthy. That’s how deceiving blood cancers are. After a successful bone marrow transplant, he succumbed to a complication known as Graft VS Host Disease.
I thought I knew grief after losing my parents, siblings, and a few good friends. I did not. Losing my spouse was a deeper and more intense grief. Four months after my husband’s death, I joined an excellent grief support group. On the first night I attended, I remember thinking “these are my people.” With the camaraderie of my group members, the wisdom of the speakers’ messages, the guidance of the facilitators, and the support and love of family and good friends, I slowly began to heal.
Am I “over it” now? No, and never will be. When you spend fifty plus years with your spouse, you will never get “over it.” You adjust. You learn to live without your person, your constant companion, who one had your back as you had theirs. One of my friends who also lost her husband said, “I’m no longer number one in anyone’s life,” which hit me. It’s a truth no one wants to realize. But I’m in a good place now, good enough to make a major move. And major it was.
This summer I sold my house which had become too much for me to manage and moved from the frigid winters of Minnesota to the heat and humidity of Florida in August. After three winters of cabin fever, not even able walk my dog in my neighborhood on the icy streets, and the stress of driving on iffy snowy roads I was ready to move south.
Moving sucks. Period. The worst part was getting rid of things from a four-bedroom house that I didn’t want to take with me or be able to fit into a two-bedroom apartment. It was so much work, but I did it in less than two months only with the help of my daughter, her brother and sister-in-law and a very good friend. Through the process I donated six carloads to a charity, sold a few things, gave away furniture, filled a dumpster, a Vietnam Vets’ truckload, and also filled a College Hunks truck. I hired a moving company to transport my things, and after the van left, I drove to a dear friend’s house to spend the night, then headed to my daughter’s in Illinois for a much needed week of rest and unwinding.
Because my grandson was also moving to Fort Myers to attend FGCU as a freshman; my son-in-law, two grandsons and I made the trek from Chicago to Florida together. On a warm Saturday morning, I put the dog in the car and with one grandson riding shotgun, I followed my son-in-law’s truck out of the driveway and for the first time ever drove on Chicago freeways, through Indiana to our first stop in Nashville. (Indiana’s a long state BTW.)
Taking turns driving with my grandson made the eight-hour driving days tolerable. The trip from Nashville through Kentucky was a particularly scenic drive with the verdant rolling hills, mountains, and lakes. We spent the second night in Lake City, Florida, then made our way south on Highway 75 to Fort Myers where we were introduced to Florida’s heavy rains which made for a stressful drive.
Since my grandson couldn’t check into his dorm until later afternoon, my family helped me move my carload into my new apartment. They stayed with my dog when I went to the grocery store, and when I returned they had my internet up and inflatable bed inflated which I needed because I didn’t know exactly when the shipment of furniture would arrive. The next day I bought a couple of cheap camp chairs, so I had something to sit on and a few essential kitchen items, plus a small toaster and coffee maker. It was like camping in an excellent shelter, and I got along quite well on very little. However, I did miss my bed. Immensely.
My furniture arrived one week later, and as box after box was brought in, I thought why, why, why did I move all this stuff?! Although I had a new appreciation for my belongings, trying to find a spot for everything was a challenge. I have since donated two full boxes of things I shouldn’t have moved…and I could donate more.
After nearly a month, I feel settled and somewhat acclimated and am beginning to explore the area and activities to participate in. I’m excited to get involved in my new community and meet people. It feels good.
This is a post I wrote pre-pandemic. I am looking forward to the day I can return to the gym and these very minor gripes.
Observing human behavior is not only essential for a writer, it’s also absolutely fascinating. Humans are many things including territorial. The first thing I noticed about my aerobics class for seniors was that people have their “spots.” If you, as a newbie try to stand in their spot you have committed an egregious act, and you will be notified in one way or another. For example, the offended person may come and stand right next to you. There’s no way you can exercise that closely, or you’d be smacking each other, so you’d best move. I go into the gym early to get a “spot” in the third row where I have a clear view of the instructor because I like to move in the right direction and use the correct arms and legs. Not all folks can copy the instructor’s movements, or care if they are moving opposite the rest of the folks in the room, and if they are standing up front, it can be sorta distracting when they block my view of the instructor. One day, quite at the last minute, two women I didn’t recognize tried to fit into one space to my left. One turned to me and demanded I move over. No please. No smile. Now I understand their desire to stand next to each other, but seriously?
Humans are diverse in their views of appropriateness. The locker room is a place where some women meet and chat before or after classes. Friendly women, pleasant women. There is one old plump woman who has a different view of modesty than I do (being raised in a Catholic family where modesty was a virtue). This old gal bends and stretches in the nude. I can’t watch a millisecond of it. One day she was standing completely nude chatting with two or three others who were either dressed or in the processing of getting dressed. I couldn’t help but wonder what they thought. Maybe the nude old lady will have to end up in one of my novels.
I’ve been asked a number of times why I chose to write in the voice of Cal Sheehan, a male deputy sheriff, and not a woman. My first (unpublished) manuscript was about woman who suspected her deceased husband had killed someone when he was a child and her quest to find the truth. In that first work, Cal was a secondary character, and I liked him so much he became my protagonist in the next novel I wrote. But while revising The Equalizer seven times, I did try one version in the voice of a female investigator. Although I liked her character, I found she was too serious, and I didn’t want to mess with her private life like I do Cal’s. Perhaps I will try a female protagonist again someday.
When I chose to use Cal, I wanted to avoid the stereotypical detective (a rogue, smart-aleck, violence-prone alcoholic who skirts the law in his job.) I wanted my character to represent what most cops are: honest, hard-working, dedicated, and honorable individuals.
When writing Cal’s stories he is in my head nearly 24/7, so I chose to make him someone enjoyable to have around and look at. He’s handsome, but not conceited; a big guy, 6”3″, 220 pounds; a family man, although he’s struggled with finding the right woman; and intelligent and witty with outstanding detective instincts, of course. (Although, it may be interesting and challenging to write about a detective with poor instincts.) Cal’s a good guy who steps up to help people in his community.
But! He has flaws. He’s been known to hold a grudge especially against three men: his absent father, a jerk of a co-worker who went after his women, and one of his wife’s former lovers. He’s a rule follower and rigid in some ways. His need for order and tidiness wreaks havoc when he has children. Unfortunately for Cal, he is stupid concerning his love interests and makes poor choices in women he dates or ends up in a love relationship. I give the poor guy lots of trouble with his relationships, but I have plans for allowing him to be happy in upcoming novels. Happy endings and all that.
2021 just has to be better than 2020. Right?
What are some phrases and words that make you shake your head? I dislike misleading phrases and some of these are used frequently. “Half a million” is one. Folks, it’s half way to million. Five hundred thousand is not close enough to warrant the million label as it’s just as close to 100,000. It’s used to make you think 500,00 is more than it is. Another phrase used in sports is “the first time.” Mostly when it’s used, it is not really the first time, it’s just that the team hadn’t won in a number of years and sometimes it’s not that many. The first time in five or ten years? Not that big of a deal. They could say the team hadn’t won since 2015. I prefer accuracy.
Overused words bug me and are often part of a trend that may or may not disappear over time. Often the younger generation start using a word or phrase and other generations pick it up to sound cool. Some had been considered offensive or “bad words” at some point and are so frequently used in conversation, that they have lost their original meaning. One that bothers me is “perfect.” When I give my order to waitstaff at restaurants or answer questions of clerks in stores or businesses and they say “perfect.” Seriously? (I just used one of those overused words, didn’t I?) What’s so perfect about my choice for salmon salad or no starch on a shirt? “Like,” was a teenager’s word thrown in conversations mindlessly. Then the adults picked it up. Why? It dumbs down the discourse.
“Bathroom words” were no-nos in my younger days. Poop, fart, pee, piss. Not anymore, which in my opinion is not necessarily a bad thing. Pissed off and pisser have become so frequently used one doesn’t connect the slang word with urine anymore. “Piss” was considered vulgar for centuries, now it is used everywhere by many people to express anger. The f-bomb is another. You would get in BIG trouble if you used that word in many situations. Now, conversations, movies, cable television shows are loaded with it. There have been some movies where every other word is fuck. That’s annoying to me. Too frequently used and it looses its punch, and then what word can replace it to show anger, shock, and frustration quite as well?
Word choices can make us sound dumb, vulgar, and uninspired, or intelligent, classy, and thoughtful. Shouldn’t we be more mindful and choose our words wisely? Fuck yes.
Since September of 2018, I hadn’t been motivated to write novels. That’ll happen when your spouse is diagnosed with a terminal disease. In June of 2019, we lost him from complications after a bone-marrow transplant, the supposed “cure.”
In September of this year, fifteen months after his death, a couple of things happened which sparked me to want to write again. I had people ask more frequently when the next book would be out, people shared with me how much they enjoyed my books, and I was invited to a book club in Woodbury. The day after the book club I began to revise number five in the Cal Sheehan novel. It feels really good to be writing again.
I would never have predicted wearing a mask during a pandemic would become a controversy. But what was I thinking? This is the age of controversy and divisiveness.
Although we are all tired of the Covid-19 virus, it is not done with us, folks. The CDC recommends we all wear masks when out in public, and I find it disconcerting there are several individuals who chose not to do so. This indicates to me they are not buying the seriousness of the matter. Some of the reasons I have heard are: They believe the pandemic isn’t real, “a farce” as a shopper said in a local jewelry store where I was getting a watch battery replaced. (Note: he was the only individual not wearing a mask in the store.) I’ve heard people say it’s just the flu, only old people in nursings home die from it. Some don’t think the masks help, or they don’t like wearing one. Breathing through them does take a little getting used to and having to wear one for hours can cause chafing. Asthma sufferers may have difficulty breathing through a mask, but if they get the virus they can get a severe case. What a Catch-22.
Then there are these explanations for not wearing a mask. A young person told her aunt she believes you can get sick from wearing one because you breathe in germs and carbon dioxide. I believe there’s a “coolness” factor wherein some don’t like “the look” or think it will make them look weak. I’ve also heard people say being required to wear a mask violates their rights. Never mind you can make other people sick if you are asymptomatic or symptom free in the early stages of infection. Do you feel your rights are being violated when you have to buckle your seatbelt or not use a hand-held phone while driving?
Whatever their reasons, they evidently haven’t seen the videos showing the particle spray from talking, shouting, coughing, and singing and how it is greatly reduced with masks. The reality is, unless you are wearing an N-95 mask which is made to protect the wearer, you wear a mask to PROTECT OTHERS, and it works only if EVERYONE DOES IT, coupled with social distancing. The reality is it’s not just old people who are at risk, several young people are also if they’ve had cancer, have asthma, or compromised immune systems. Young people have died with no underlying health issues which is scary. And with the surges in many states, the average age of infection is dropping. Why it’s deadly for some and asymptomatic for others is a puzzle for the epidemiologists at this point.
This Covid-19 pandemic has become politicized, and it’s disheartening to know that we as a society have become so polarized that even a public health crisis prompts people to take sides and advance conspiracy theories, so much so, that many don’t trust the advice of our health care professionals and public health officials.
That being said, I want to thank the businesses who have their employees wear masks and wipe down carts and counters. I feel safer and it makes me believe they care about their customers. If a business makes it optional for employees and shoppers, what does that tell you about the executives/owners/managers of that company? It tells me not to shop there unless I have no other choice. So, I’m doubly grateful for those employees and citizens who care enough about others to wear a mask.
My wish for you is to stay safe and, please, help protect others and wear a mask in public. What have you got to lose? You could unknowingly save someone’s life. But then you’ll believe what you want to believe, and do what you want to do.