Wednesday, April 24, 2019

55 years of marriage today.....

Today is April 24,2019.

My parents 55th wedding anniversary. 

Mom was lamenting that they didn't make 55 years by 43 days. I told her, "You get credit for time served. You made it. "

I was very worried about Mom today, but she stayed busy sewing, and I came home and cooked her a favorite meal- Coconut Shrimp. About 3/4 through the dinner, I said to Mom- "So, tell me about your wedding day..."

And she did. My parents eloped. Mom was in college at West Virginia University. Dad was still in the Navy, and a recruiter working out of Philadelphia.  They met in the Summer of 1962,or 1963- while Mom was working as a hostess in Atlantic City, NJ. 

Dad told me , once he saw her, he just knew.  He said she would change her hairstyle everyday.  He was transfixed on her.  The courted for a year, by telephone, having a conversation on Sundays.

Then they decided to elope. April 24, 1964 was the day, that they met at a cafe in Morgantown, West Virginia.  Mom was all decked out in a pale green suit, and wore her hair with bangs- for the first time ever. Mom had some wedding flowers. Dad ordered the Largest breakfast ever, and proceeded to take a full 30 minutes to eat it. Mom says she was soooo nervous.  Mom was 21 years old, and Dad was 33. Finally breakfast is over, and they get in the car, and drive to Maryland. 

They stopped in a little town,  and went to see the Clerk. This was the days when you could get a license and be married the same day. So, they did. Mom said the courthouse was a lovely brick building, and they had lots of weddings there. She also said the ceremony was really nice. Not the normal, but an actual little ceremony. 

After they were married, they drove to Cincinnati, Ohio to  supper club, where Leslie Uggams was performing. They had a great meal, and Dad had prearranged a wedding cake to come to the table, and all the servers sang. After, they went to the showroom, and watched Leslie sing.

Mom went back to WVU, and Dad went back to work in Philly, and living in Atlantic City. A month later , when school was over for the year, Dad came and picked up Mom, and moved her to NJ. 

I asked how Mom told her father she had married, and she said she wrote him a note. ( Can you believe it? ) and she moved to Atlantic City, NJ in with Dad and my Grandfather- Dad's father.
All was well. Everyone criticized their age difference- 12 years, my Mother's age- 21, and they all said it would never last. 

What they didn't know is... my Father was a romantic. and he always introduced Mom as his Bride, or My Patsy. Dad put Mom first ,always, and even though they had little in common, they had each other.

I once asked Dad- What's the secret to a long marriage? He said a few things:

1. You are either a team. or you are not- there is no in between.
2. Always say " I Love You" every day
3. " I give your Mother 30 minutes of my attention every day - whether she wants it or not."
4. My personal favorite- " Don't sweat the small stuff".
5. Being right is not as important as making your partner happy.

I told Mom- you outlasted all of them. 

Happy 55th Anniversary  Mom and Dad!   I love you to the moon and back.

Friday, April 12, 2019

It's been a month....

Today marks 30 days since Dad and Bob left us. 
How are we doing? 
Tough to say. Sometimes I am ok. I think I really laughed out loud at Keith last night for the first time and I didn't even feel guilty about it. Until today when I remembered that today marks a month without Dad and Bob, and I proceeded to ball my eyes out.

I asked Mom today if she felt we took good care of Dad?, and she replied, "yes, I have no regrets". She also said " I just wish we could have done more for Bob."Me too. Silly, hard headed fool.  If only, then I start up the "if only's" and drive myself crazy.

I guess, I am still heart broken.  I guess I always will be. I really hate the "new normal" that my life has become without them. Then I stop myself, and say to myself, Dad wouldn't approve of all this sadness, and crying. I'm sorry Pop, I just can't help it. I'm trying, please know that I'm trying, but I miss you.

You know that scene in Forrest Gump- the one where he is by the tree and gulps out - "I miss you Jenny"? well exchange Jenny for Dad, and sometimes Bob, and you get a sense of my condition.

 Mom and I had to go to her bank in Vineland, and we went to see Dad at the cemetery. It was the first time for Mom, and my 4th since the dreadful day.  I have to tell you, Mom is made of steel. I was so very proud of her, as I am everyday. To see her trudge through this rough time, it sounds strange but, she is inspiring. She does show her emotions, but it's the way she shows them, she is not the sloppy mess that I am, that's for sure. Just amazingly classy, and I see the love she has for Dad, pouring out of her. 

Mom just had her birthday, her 77th on April 9. She had a really good day, she said. I was of course worried to bits about her. Its hard to believe that Mom is now 77. The difference in my parents ages never showed until recently. Mom is amazing, and doing well. Far better than I am. 

Keith finally got the sit down MRI, and we are awaiting results. One step closer to a diagnosis, I pray non surgical solution. I think it's a load off his mind, to at least have been able to complete the test.  

I'm trying to catch up at work, that seems to be a never ending more and more piled upon to be accomplished. I'm distracted, and short tempered, and I have no good excuse. I'm being irritated by everything that is no one's fault. Nothing holds my attention for very long.  Today I was able to get through to the Navy, and get Mom's benefits on their way. I feel like I only get one victory per day, as I attempted to call Social Security too for her, and the wait time was 45 minutes. I had to bail. 

Once we returned home, I shuffled through dinner, made good on my promise to post pictures of the Car- Bob's Car for sale, and to go through my $5 jewelry and post 10 items.  Now I'm out of crap to do for the day, and that's when the sadness sets in. Especially today. 

So, I turn to this blog, to let it all out. 

I really can't believe it's been a month. I miss them so much. 

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

What about Bob?

I cannot believe it's almost been a month since Bob and Dad left us, and I have not had the strength to write anymore about either of them. I guess I am trying to work through my grief, in a hundred different ways. I truly have tried many things, but I am learning that the only true healer is time.

Just to give you a quick update, the outpouring of condolences from my friends, co workers and our new neighborhood, even down to the quickest text I have received, are all helping.  I started going to church, I am seeing a grief counselor, and I went back to work. I still have little patience, especially for bs, that I have deemed most things, unfortunately.  I am trying to pace myself, and allow for some time, and peace and patience to find me.  I am going to attempt to set some goals, as I seem to feel better when I am busy. First one is to start formally exercising, so a zumba class has my name on it this Monday night. Next goal, is to go and take a trail ride on horseback for my birthday next month. I am thinking about a lot of things, like going back to school, or getting back into my art, and trying to write on this blog more.  I think if I could get through one day without crying, it would be a start. All things in due time.

So, what about Bob? I thought I should tell you about him, since I was privileged to be a friend of his for about 25 plus years. I also have some things to work out, about his passing, and how I am dealing with it.
Robert H. Jones, Jr was a friend to Keith since they were about 13 years old. Ironically, Keith's Father actually dated Bob's Mother at one stage. It was the Seventies. The guys met during a snowball fight at Bob's Aunt's home , on Maple Ave in Linwood, NJ. Keith says he clobbered Bob with a snowball right in the chest, and from then on, they were peas and carrots.  The relationship between their parents never worked out, but a lifelong friendship blossomed.

The guys had a lot of similar interests, music, chess, books, video games, billiards, booze- on more than one occasion, and a language all their own, peppered with a scaling sense of humor that was shared, and a lot of laughter. I don't remember many disagreements, although I am certain there were some. Each took the typical "male" way of dealing with things, and never really talked about it with the other. I think in some ways that may have been a detriment to the other, but it's how they handled things.
I was fortunate that they accepted me as their third wheel and never made me feel like it. We all three are only children. We always said we were the siblings we never had. In Keith I got a husband, and in Bob I got a brother. As a matter of fact, Bob always called me "Sis". If I'm being honest, I used to think he said that when he was trying to butter me up. Now I think of it as a fond memory, and I am glad he thought of me that way.

Keith and I lived in Linwood, NJ for about 11 years together. Keith had lived there all his life, and Bob lived a short few blocks away. We had many happy days and evenings shooting pool, listening to music, talking until all hours, and most likely drinking too much.  Bob sure could wear out a subject of the latest love interest after he had a few drinks. We were happy, and we got to spend a lot of time together. Schedules were decent- all of us worked day shift for the most part , and I got to play hostess a lot, even if it was just a basic dinner. I really liked cooking for the guys, and if they liked it, it was even better. They were always gracious about my kitchen conquests, and I failed more than once. It was a happy time. We made our own little family, that we got to choose. 

Personally, I always worried about Bob's health, even back then. Bob had A-fib, a bad back due to 30 years of valet parking, and I would guess a lot of other  un-diagnosed issues.  After Hurricane Sandy, in 2012, I recall Bob's Mother Kathy, became ill. She had a hernia repair operation that never really healed. It turned into several infections, and mental issues. Bob became her caregiver, and he really tried to take care of her, and maintain a job, with very little financial support. In Bob's life, it had always been the two of them against the world. Bob's parents had divorced when he was young, and Bob had no relationship with his Father, that I ever heard him speak of.  Kathy and Bob also had their own language. one that sometimes, Bob did not understand.  Unfortunately, even through Bob's best efforts, Kathy died on March 11, 2015.  Bob never recovered from the loss of his Mother. He did have happy moments, and holidays, but truly, the Bob of old was gone. He was lost in grief that at times was all consuming. Shortly after Kathy passed away, the Sheriff came for her home, and Bob lost his job. It was a terrible year for him. I was dealing with Dad's diagnosis of Congestive Heart Failure, and feverishly looking for a home for all of us. Bob came to live with Keith and I in mid summer 2015.  I found the house on Hartford Drive in October of that year, and we all moved in together.  

I recall that Christmas, we all took a breath. It had been arduous work combining three households for a month or more, and we all were looking forward to a nice holiday.  A nice holiday was enjoyed, and we all settled into life in the house. Dad's health improved, Bob started working at my hotel in Valet, Keith began working at Harbor Freight, and Mom was sewing away.  Things were looking up. Bob's schedule was overnights 12a-8a, so he slept during the day. 

There were a set of setbacks that occurred for Bob, but I do think the underlying cause for all of it was Bob's grief over his Mom's death.  Adding to the grief was , an opposite schedule, not a lot of sleep, and Bob found comfort in escaping from all of us, by retreating to his room, and most likely drinking more than he should have.  Bob used to drive his Mother's truck, and he never turned it over into his name. One day he was pulled over, something to do with the registration expired, and the truck was impounded. Bob did not have the funds to go get the truck out of impound, so he never dealt with it, and he began sharing Keith's car. We believed it would be short term, and it never really was.  We moved along, and as the holidays and anniversaries rolled by, Bob seemed to become more somber. I used to think he was working through the loss of his Mom, but now in hindsight, I don't ever think he accepted it. 

There were happy times, mostly when I demanded it. I am a big holiday person, and I wanted Bob to join in with the family on Thanksgiving and Christmas and birthdays, including his own. He sheepishly did so, but mostly because he did not want to disappoint me. Throughout this time, Bob had a few bouts of Afib, where I pleaded with him to go to a doctor, and I was always rebuffed. He also incurred horrible swelling in his leg, terrible back and hip pain, and the normal winter colds. Bob also fell due to disorientation a few times.   He wasn't healthy. He had lost weight, and was not eating well, even though it was offered. It was during this time that I now believe he amped up the drinking, all of which he did behind my back. 

In 2017, the owner of the Hartford house, approached me to purchase it. I tried , and tried but I could never get the numbers to work. It was a beautiful home, but much too expensive for me to carry long term. Once I realized it was not going to work out, I searched and found the home we now live in, much more affordable, and in a better, more welcoming neighborhood. I made settlement in October 2018, and we began moving once again. Bob, got a huge upgrade of accommodations with the move. He had a private stairwell to his large, apartment style room, with a private bath, and a great closet.  At this stage, he is still working at the Hotel,  Mom and Dad are doing well, Keith is working, and we all just wanted to relax and have a nice Thanksgiving. 

We did. There were boxes everywhere , but we did not care. We had a place that we owned. Everyone was doing ok.  Then Dad got sick with a UTI on 12/1/18, and landed in the hospital for a week. Bob seemed to have caught a cold, that brought a hacking cough with it. He coughed all day and all night. I felt terrible for him. I begged him to go to a doctor, and once again he declined. He never wanted to impose on anyone, and compromised his health because of his hard head.  I suppose, he thought it would pass. Dad was in the hospital until 12/7/18. We managed to get Dad home, and started up the home care. Because Bob worked overnights, he was available to help keep an eye on Dad for me while Keith and I worked.  I was so grateful for it. In hindsight, I wonder if I told him that enough. 

Christmas comes, Dad is doing better, Bob is a little better, still coughing, but he was really happy. He was so happy, he made a big point of telling me that it was the best Christmas he had enjoyed in years. 

Also in December, the engine in the car they were sharing, died. We made the decision to repair it with a new engine, and we also bought a jeep for Keith. Now we were a 3 car family. 

January came, and the Valet company at the hotel changed vendors. Bob unfortunately was not rolled into the new company. So, he became unemployed.  I needed more help with support as Keith began his back issue with excruciating pain down his leg, and shortly thereafter had a collapsed lung. Keith wound up having surgery in February, and is still dealing with the leg pain to this very day. Bob was a key person, in giving me the ability to go to the hospital, or rehab hospital with Keith , as he was watching Mom and Dad for me. By the way, he is still coughing, and he does not look good. I am pleading daily for him to see a doctor. Bob is giving me every excuse in the book, and I am becoming frustrated, and so is Keith. It is now February, and Keith has made it out of the hospital following his lung surgery, and completed Rehab and is doing very well considering the leg pain has not let up. I recall the first thing Keith said to Bob once he was home, was " When are we going to get you well?" Bob just gave another excuse, and basically heard the concern, but did not act on it.

While Keith was in the hospital, I would have a nightly chat with Bob to bring him up to date on Keith's progress or find out about Mom and Dad's status. We had the aides and nurses coming for Dad at this point, and Dad was doing ok.  Even as bad as Bob must have been feeling, he always showed great concern for Keith, and me and my parents. He reminded Mom daily about Dad's afternoon pills, and looked in on everyone. He even reminded me to be sure to take care of my health, which prompted me to make a doctor appointment for a physical. We had several talks throughout this time about Dementia, and the effect it was taking on Dad. Bob shared a lot of details about his care giving to his Mother, and was very encouraging to me. I valued these talks a lot, as Bob was not much of a talker usually, and he was fiercely private. He even spoke at length to my Mother, about his experiences, when she was struggling to understand all that was happening to Dad. I know that must have been hard for him, as our Mothers shared the same hobby of quilting. Bob gave Mom a few of his Mother's possessions for Christmas- a set of stacked Shaker style wooden boxes- that my Mother cherishes. I often thought it must have been hard for Bob, in his grief, to be around my Mom, as there were a lot of similarities between Kathy and her. He never showed it to me, if he felt it. 

I wish I could say, the story of my dear brother Bob Jones, has a great ending, but in the end, his stubbornness to take care of himself, or take anyone's advice to do so, got the best of him. Bob continued to cough until March 12, 2019 when he had a heart attack, and died in our home.  He was 55 years old. I feel the worst for Keith. You can say Bob made his choices, but to watch your friend of 40 years perish in front of you, has got to be traumatic.  Keith seems to be coping well, and so does Mom.  I have found solace in playing some of Bob's favorite music, and thinking about the happy times back in Linwood, when Bob was healthy, and happy. I remember if he turned up in his cowboy boots, with his pool cue in his hand, it was certain to be a good night. I prefer to remember his kind blue eyes, and quick wit, that made me laugh until I cried. 

I have been concerned, that in my overwhelming grief for my Dad, that somehow Bob would be lost in the sea of tears. After his service this past Wednesday evening, we had his repast back at our house, with his cousins and Aunt. It helped to hear the funny stories, and share the smiles of recalling happy times. Bobby, you will always be the brother I never had and always wanted. I miss you, and our chats. I miss reminding you to eat something, and I will always be grateful to you for the time you shared with me and my family, and your loyal friendship to Keith.

I hope you are at peace. I hope you are reunited with your Mom, and that you both are laughing at an inside joke. I miss you, and all your quirks that drove me nuts before. I am so glad that you were in my life, and you always will be.