|BetMar Retirement Community grounds on a foggy morning|
I didn't intend to go to Florida, but a few days after he passed, my niece Allison (who was there with her mom when he died) called to tell me that Norma Jean's little long-haired chihuahua Moose had been run over and killed right in front of her house, and she was simply devastated by the double whammy. That happened on the 15th and I arrived on the 17th. I slept on the couch on her back porch, while Allison with her infant daughter Lexie slept in Norma Jean's bedroom together, and Peter (her son) slept in Pete's office. One by one they would leave; first Peter, then Allison and Lexie, and finally I was alone with Norma Jean. But before they went back to their lives, we had a celebration of Pete's life. Pete did not want a funeral or any fuss made over him, but we pondered the whole idea of holding something for those of us left behind. A celebration of his life seemed appropriate. On the 20th, we carried some of his art (he was a gifted photographer) to one of the clubhouses located on the BetMar Retirement Community grounds. His motorcycle friends and many people from around the community showed up.
Many of the family members felt it was important to get Norma Jean another dog, and she and I went to websites to figure out how to get a rescue dog. Before long we ended up with two of them, and I hoped that when I left it would give her something to fill her days. She eventually decided to go to Michigan and spend three months in the town where her son Peter lived. She turned the dogs back to the rescue organization (you are required to do that) traveled first to visit her daughter Allison and then soon after for those three months in Michigan. It was too soon to bring those dogs into her life, I know that now, and I suspected it while I was there. She needed more time.
Now she has a wonderful little dog, a Papillon puppy she named Icarus (because of the ears, you see) but it has been shortened to Icky. A bit unfortunate, maybe, but the dog is perfect for her now. And her son Peter was laid off from his job in Michigan and is living with her temporarily. He brought HIS dog with him, a little Jack Russell terrier named Zen, and so two dogs run and play again in the house. I am familiar with them because of the changes that happened in my own life because of my three weeks in Florida.
First, Norma Jean swims every day for exercise, so I began to join her. She had not been swimming since Pete died, and as normality began to return in her life, she decided to start swimming again. I myself had not swum laps for exercise in decades, so I was at a disadvantage, but I remembered how to breathe and just... started. It was incredibly hard to find a pace I could maintain, and at first I couldn't go more than a few lengths before I had to catch my breath. Before I left Florida, however, I could swim ten laps without stopping. When I returned home, I decided to use the pool at the YMCA (where I work out) and see how it progressed. Now swimming laps once or twice a week is part of my repertoire.
The other major change is that I talk with Norma Jean two or three times a week on iChat. Now that I've been there with her, it's easy to fall into the same routine we had then: somehow we never seem to run out of things to say, to share, to talk about. And recently I discovered how to send her pictures while we're chatting, and now I save them up so she can see the birds or other scenery I want to share with her. Of course she reads my blogs, but it's so much nicer when I'm looking at her and we are doing things together. The added bonus of seeing her makes it seem very much more immediate and intimate. I miss being with her, but nowhere near as much as I would have without iChat or Skype.
Looking back at the past year, I realize how incredibly full it was. The new year, 2012, is likely (God willing) to be much less so. I traveled twice in a year's time because of major loss, and I'm hoping that nothing like that will happen this year. It's a Leap Year, too. Smart Guy and I will both turn 70 this year, and of course it's also supposed to be the end of the world in December. I'm hoping I'll get to have a satisfying retrospective in January 2013. Most likely I will.
In March 2011 I got to visit my family in Texas and had another reunion. I'll revisit that trip next week. Until then, I hope that you have a wonderful week, filled with sunshine and even snow, if that's what you want. It's almost 7:00am and I'm getting hungry and ready to start the rest of my Sunday.