My Novels

Friday, February 27, 2009

Doomsday or humor?

I don't know how much more bad, bleak news we can take -- but hey, that slippery slope we are now on, no telling how long it'll last.

I have a glimmer of hope about keeping my Cobra coverage. Have a senator, a local representative and county commissioner working on behalf, as well as my weekly calls to Blue Cross. Today the customer representative told me that they had not received the "paperwork" yet that concerns 55+ people keeping Cobra until eligible for medicare. But they ARE aware of it, and IF mine is discontinued on April 1st, once the "paperwork" comes through, I'll be reinstated and claims retroactive. I asked if I needed to hire a lawyer, and she said, "Oh no ma'am, not at all, we'll make sure you are notified as soon as this "paperwork" comes through."

I'm thinking, you know, this might have been the most "polite" response I've ever had from a customer representative at Blue Cross. Can't decide if it's due to Obama's wielding of long-overdue power to reform medical care, or if it was my threat of a lawyer. Sigh.

At any rate, still on the fence but time will tell. Out of my hands, so to speak.

Today I posted on our local freecycle to barter space in my backyard for large raised-bed veggie gardens in exchange for lawn care. IF there's folks who are able-bodied and need food, can work the garden and lawn, then this is a fair barter. They will get ALL the food they grow too, and I'll provide mower/weed-eater. Will screen any responses, see what I learn.

Still pouring rain here, and stormed today. I made a large batch of lentil bean/brown rice soup, had about a dozen individual servings for the freezer. I figured the cost, and discovered I spent about a dime for each portion. Can't beat that for frugal, nutritious eats.

I have an appointment to get my income tax prepared next Wednesday, and will be glad to get that behind me. Hoping for a small return this year, due to deductions on the rental for lots of repairs/updates.

Oscar loves his expensive dog bed! Created this from a cardboard box, old pillow and worn throw...but oddly enough, he doesn't seem to know he's not sleeping in high style! LOL

Outta here for tonight.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Ending

Some people think they are immortal until they have a life-threatening experience. Such was the case with DH; though he always knew he was in danger as an officer, his bravery had prevented him from fully dealing with mortality.

I had that experience at the age of 23 when I almost died of a metabolism issue, resulting in two serious life-threatening surgeries. As a result, I have never taken life for granted, and though I planned for the future, I never had the optimistic viewpoint many people, including DH, have.

His optimism was a great motivating factor in our lives; I was (and am) the eternal pessimist: "Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst."

And soon after DH's heart attack, I could see the telltale signs of him coming to terms with the fact he could have another heart attack, be gone in an instant. Though we talked of it sometimes, he (as we all must) had to fight his own inner battles with that particular demon.

One night he said he wanted to talk to me about his pension, and launched into a worst case scenario: What if he died, how would I manage financially? We had savings and whole life insurance, had the policy paid for years ago (what law enforcement officer would NOT have such a policy?), but now he was thinking we needed to address his pension plan.

At the time, he was working an extended period at the department in a state retirement program for experienced officers that accumulated money for staying beyond the time they could have already retired. It was a great program, essentially paying the experienced officers double what they were making, with compounded interest. If he made it the next three years, the lump sum we'd get was amazing.

As part of this program, he could opt to take less monthly pension and stipulate I get a reduced monthly pension income for life. The catch, of course, was the reduction we'd both have to live on after he retired. But after thoroughly discussing it, thinking it over, we decided it was best to take that option.

Thank the fates and my responsible husband (as well as my own sense of self-preservation) we did that -- or I'd have only gotten a lump sum, and as anyone knows, living off a lump sum is NOT going to last one into old age (providing lucky enough to actually live that long).

Once this issue was settled, DH began work on his dream: the large barn. When spring came that year, all his buddies (officers and horse-back riding friends) got together and had a "barn-raising." DH had taken some of the earnings from the trailer sales, and bought used tin, second-cut lumber and other cost savings materials. A dear friend had a big truck with the apparatus to lift the steel beams, so they were set to do the hard labor.

I remember the beautiful late spring day they all gathered for the barn-raising. I prepared big coolers of sandwiches, drinks/water, snacks for all the men; we set up a big picnic table, and everyone had access to refreshments.

I stayed at the house, though I could clearly watch from there as they worked. It was fascinating to see the men literally create the basic structure of the barn in one day! DH was again in great health, and had always been physically fit; he was a man that could not sit in the house, was always doing something physical.

I recall seeing him start laying tin, balancing on the wide steel beams, worried about his safety. But he was always a master of co-ordination and balance, looked as if he'd been born to walk steel beams. My nephews were there, and later marveled at his agility; considering they were in their 20s, they thought DH was a superman for his age.

Summertime was especially sweet that year; we had finally finished the house renovations, and could enjoy the farm. DH went on horse-back rides with his buddies in a nearby national forest. Friends gathered at our farm, and we'd sit on the back porch and talk about the future: the tack shop was taking form, the barn was almost done, there was so much to look forward to.

Yet, there was this undercurrent of strange phenomena. Odd orbs started showing up in my photographs, which I tried to dismiss. In one photo (taken before we moved in) there had been a reddish image in the pasture; when I zoomed in on it, I could make out a devil-shaped face. And in my cemetery photos, orbs would appear over some stones. At a neglected cemetery in a wooded area, I saw a strange face between the cracked stone slabs of an above-ground grave. On and on it went, and all that is documented in this blog -- even the photos and my uneasiness.

Late in the fall, DH went on his last horse ride. Unfortunately, he had the first accident he'd ever had: his horse stepped on his foot. When he came home that Saturday and told me about it, he downplayed it (as usual) and didn't even go to urgent care to get it checked out.

But by Sunday, it was obvious he was in great pain. Monday he went to the doctor, and x-rays showed his toes were broken. He was to wear a foot brace, and not stay on his feet a lot.

The year before he had been promoted at the Sheriff's Department again. The county built a new jail, and the building also housed the departmental offices. DH was to be the first work release director of inmates. As usual, he took his position seriously, and was soon on the way to making the program one of the best in the state.

However, it wasn't long until I realized he was beginning to understand inmates as I did long ago. Many times they had been abused as children, mistreated, neglected; some were from families of dire poverty; and they were all fellow human beings for whom he had compassion. He began to truly take an interest in them, and inspire them to better themselves, change. In this way, he had come full circle: at last having experienced the entire spectrum of the law enforcement from capturing criminals to corrections.

After the accident, he seemed to recover from the foot injury...but I noticed he wasn't his usual healthy self. He tired easily, wanted to sleep a lot, and was lethargic. I kept insisting he go in for a physical, or get an appointment with his cardiologist. He resisted and as I learned later, was probably hiding how badly he really felt.

The holidays came and went, and January was nearly over before he began to seriously fail in health. Still, he insisted he was just feeling tired, nothing wrong. And he kept saying he'd been under the care of the orthopedic doctor, and that all was well.

In late February, he suddenly wasn't able to go to work, just too tired to get out of bed. I made an appointment for him with his cardiologist; we both feared he was having heart problems. He went in, the cardiologist told him to come back the next day for a stress test.

He never made it, because that night he woke me up and said his chest was hurting so bad he almost couldn't breath. A rerun of that first ER trip ensued, but within 30 minutes of arrival, the ER doctor called me into the room and said, "Your husband has acute leukemia and a med-flight helicopter will be here soon to take him to another hospital."

Shock is a mild word for what we both felt; I was paralysed, DH was speechless as they wheeled him away. My sister was there with me, we went back to my house, got some things and headed for the large city.

That was Wednesday night. At first, the oncologist told us they had to conduct extensive tests -- to make certain he indeed had acute leukemia. Like fools, we both thought maybe a mistake had been made; and when he had a blood transfusion, he was suddenly alert, felt so much better.

But within 24 hours, the oncologist called me into the intensive care unit and told us the dreaded news: it was acute leukemia (a genetic form which I later learned some distant relatives had had also). I felt my legs go weak, was afraid I'd faint; but I managed to stand there, take DH's hand, hug him...and we both cried.

As long as I live I'll never forget his first words to me: "I'm so, so sorry."

I wonder, could I be so thoughtful in a moment such as he was experiencing? To think of him instead of myself? If there is a way to judge a man, that was his defining moment of true love and compassion.

Chemo was to begin the next Monday, and soon the word spread back home about his condition. That weekend, while I understood his friends, fellow officers, family wanted to see him, I only wish we could have had more private time together. His hospital room was constantly full of people, and though an ice storm occurred, making driving hazardous, it didn't prevent people making the 75-mile round trip.

DH seemed almost back to his usual self; the blood transfusions were working miracles. Since we knew the chemo would begin Monday, I went home Sunday night to pack some things for an extended stay. Monday morning DH called and said to wait till Tuesday, he was feeling fine after the chemo and they were moving him to a larger room - with rules about protecting his immune system. There was a TV with DVD player there, so I packed up his favorite western movies.

Monday night I went to bed expecting to drive to see DH the next day...but awakened to the sound of the phone ringing and someone beating on my back door. It was 2:00 AM and my sister and brother-in-law, both in tears, managing to finally say that DH had died.

The first shock of his illness hadn't worn off, and now I seemed to go into a kind of zombie-like state. Somehow they got me in the car, all the while me protesting, saying it was a mistake, I'd just talked to him at ten o'clock and he was fine!

There's no need to detail the nightmare that followed, except to say that his funeral was a community event, and the crowd staggering. So, so many people told me how much DH had meant to them personally and to the community.

The most touching of all though was that the work release inmates wanted to pay their respects by visitation. Our Sheriff arranged for them to be transported there, and once the funeral parlor was closed to the public, with only family remaining, the inmates filed in. Grown men crying, stopping by my side to tell me how much DH had meant to them, how he'd inspired them to change their lives. To my dying day, that is something I'll never forget -- the purest form of DH's compassion and effort to reach those who are often unreachable.

And what of the strange occurrences in and around the farm? After all this time, I have come to think it wasn't the place itself -- perhaps from the first time I saw the house back in the 80s, I had a psychic premonition that something awful would happen to us there. I never learned of any event that could have seemingly made the place "haunted." Nothing. And I did research the place, including talking to neighbors.

Nevertheless, the day before DH died, he told me to move back to town if he didn't survive, that I couldn't take care of that large place, I'd get hurt there. So that is what I did within six months.

When I made it back to the hospital that fatal night, the staff had kept DH's body there so I could see him. I leaned down and whispered my last words to him, "You'll always be with me."

And he always has been -- in beautiful memories.

DH, age 56, on horseback the summer before he died, 2005

Friday, February 20, 2009

Part V

The Farm

In the early 80s, about two years after we moved back into town, we were riding through the countryside one day and came upon an old farmhouse with 10 acres for sale. Situated about 7 miles from town, it was an ideal location, so we stopped just out of curiosity.

Built on the old style southern farmhouse, the house had a wide front porch, two doors for entry, and was truly in need of updating. I remember getting out of our car, and walking up onto the front porch, then looking inside and seeing how rundown the interior was -- five big empty rooms, wallpapered, with plank floors covered in faded linoleum.

As I stood there peering into the dusty, vacant rooms a cold chill ran down my spine; there was something...eerie about the house. (Don't tell me you've never had an uncanny feeling about a place!) I backed away, and we walked around the house, looking over the ten acres. There was an old crumbling barn out back, a creek running the property line, a large pasture.

My husband loved the place instantly, but of course, we were in no financial position to even make an offer at that time. Later, we learned a young single guy had bought the place, and we'd occasionally drive by and see what improvements he'd made. He built a smaller barn near the house, demolished the rickety big barn, did some updating in the house -- but then sold the place within a few years.

Fast forward to our current search in 2003 when one day we saw an ad in a local free shopping paper. Five acres, a small barn, an older farmhouse, very affordable and only 7 miles from town. DH called about it, and guess what? It was the very same place we'd looked at in the 80s.

At first opportunity, we set up a meeting with the owner to see the property, who was selling it himself (no realtor). I remember the early Fall day when we drove up to the house, and got out to look around. We walked around the house, and then I headed for the front porch. I was fine until I looked in the windows, and then that same eerie feeling came over me; I could see there had been a good deal of updating, but the house was once again in desperate need of work to make it livable.

When DH joined me, he was enthusiastic about the property and soon the owner arrived to show us inside the house. While I felt that same prickly unease, the interior charmed me; it had odd quirks like a small galley-style kitchen, a skylight in the big bathroom, a fireplace in the master bedroom. Yet it was terribly rundown, and the owner said it had been a rental for several years and needed work to make it livable.

I had reservations, but DH loved it all, saw much potential and the price was so low we could pay cash and still have money for renovation if we did it ourselves.

However, when we expressed our interest, the owner said another person had already paid a small deposit on it. DH told him if the guy couldn't get a loan, we'd pay cash for it. No surprise, the owner called us within a week and said it was ours if we still wanted it.

I'd like to say I listened to the small, still voice inside that told me...there was something odd about the house. The day we took possession of the house, we went there after the closing and as we were walking through the empty rooms, I became violently nauseated, had to go out on the porch for fresh air before I fainted. DH was worried, but I didn't tell him I felt it was the house...rather, I just went back home and lay on my bed, trying to overcome the feeling.

As time went on, I convinced myself that hadn't happened, that I was being superstitious, acting crazy. And threw myself into the project, got carried away with the "find" we'd searched for so many years, not to mention DH had once wanted this place years and years ago.

For six months we worked ourselves like slaves; every day off, every holiday, we were there in the midst of renovation. I remember clearly the Christmas afternoon we left the family gathering to work there; I was on my belly, lying on the floor, sanding wide plank trim and wondering what the heck I was doing!

DH was a handyman, a good carpenter, and did all the updates himself. We only hired the more complex work out: central heat/air conditioning, natural gas lines run to the house, a new roof. But DH replaced all the old, rotten windows, did sheetrock work, took out old carpet, put down wood flooring, on and on.

By the next spring we moved in, and found a renter for our house in town. Life was good again, and it seemed all would be well. I began to explore the nearby areas on bike, riding along the country roads, discovering old cemeteries (even learning where the first owners of the house were buried), meeting neighbors, taking pictures, writing in my blog (2003-2006).

We were now planning for DH's retirement, doing the preliminary financial steps in him leaving the department. We had savings, his pension, and he would work a part-time security job. Best of all, he now had the ideal place for his horse-trailer business; we had a sign made, and were already getting regular customers.

DH moved his horses to the small barn, but had plans for a big barn on the drawing table. He thought stabling a few horses for folks would be another income, as well as enjoying the several he had.

The first quarter-horse colt born there, DH named him "Harley." He said the name was because "Harley" would be his motorcycle! All his buddies liked that story, and the colt (a gorgeous Palomino) became every one's pet project.

The place was never without a visitor, buddies or friends stopping by to talk with DH -- or get advice on horse care, help finding a horse trailer. At this point, DH started buying saddles and tack, and planned to build a small tack shop.

I had a big vegetable garden that first summer, and enjoyed it. Of course, several stray cats wandered in (or were dropped) and my cat population multiplied. The nearby creek was prolific with raccoons, and they wandered up to the house, where I created a special feeder with scrap food. DH began calling me "Ellie Mae Clampett."

Yes, that golden retirement was on the close horizon; only three more years, and DH would devote his time exclusively to the farm.

The first six months there, I experienced some odd phenomena. Once lying in bed, after DH was asleep, I felt the house shaking, and heard the glass kerosene lamps rattling on the fireplace mantle, no explanation for that. The TV once came back on after I'd shut it off and left the room. I tried my best to ignore these events, but I couldn't quite pretend nothing was wrong.

The first January we were there, disaster struck. DH had been changing a tire on a horse trailer, started having chest pains. He came in for our evening meal, wasn't eating and finally confessed he thought he was having a heart attack. I wanted to call 911, but he insisted I drive him to the ER, that it would be faster.

I did, and got there in record time. He had a heart attack on the ER table, and fortunately, a cardiologist administered a clot buster shot -- which greatly reduced the damage. However, the next day he was sent to a large city hospital, and had to have five stents.

Needless to say, we were scared, but his prognosis was good -- medication, diet, etc. We were optimistic he'd be fine, if he took good care of himself.

One night not too long after he returned, the former house owner's son and girlfriend stopped by to see us. As we were detailing DH's heart attack, I noticed a strange look pass between the guy and his girlfriend.

I asked, "What is that look?"

The guy said, "This house is hard on men, heart attacks."

The girl gave him a warning look, but I urged, "What do you mean?"

Turns out every man who'd lived in the house after the first owner had had a heart attack, including his father. None had died, but still... The first young guy who bought the house? He didn't have a heart attack, but turned the tractor over on himself in the creek, and very nearly drowned.

I think DH and myself were just...struck by the strange coincidence of it all. And though we tried to laugh it off, not think about it...truthfully, it was hard to completely ignore. Especially considering the peculiar events I'd already experienced.

And there was more to the final year of DH's life.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

DH Tribute, Part IV

Bad Patch

Life was unfolding as we planned, but in our mid-40s, disaster struck. Not for us, exactly, but for everyone in our county.

Sheriff's elections in the South can be a mixed bag, drawing a variety of unsuitable candidates -- some with no law enforcement background at all. Every yahoo thinks they can be Sheriff, without the slightest idea of what it takes to carry out the duties entrusted to them by the community.

Shortly after my husband became a full-time officer, our county elected an educated man, an experienced officer/investigator to the position of sheriff. During his 16 years as sheriff, he brought the entire department up to standards more national than regional; pensions were now available for officers; any overtime was compensated for patrol officers (it never had been before); job security was assured, even if a new sheriff wanted to fire officers; there was ongoing education for promoted officers; and too much to list here. Suffice to say, we were lucky to have this sheriff, and not just the department personnel, but also the entire community.

However, this sheriff was getting older and decided to retire. My husband was in a quandary, because so many prominent people wanted him to run for office. But as I've already stated, he was a law enforcement officer and his heart just wasn't in politics.

Additionally, some qualified and good men were running for the office. Yes, there was the usual cast of hayseeds but most candidates were acceptable and would be an asset. Unfortunately, there as one candidate that I was worried about, though DH didn't think the fellow had a chance.

I'll call him L. and he was a Bible-toting hypocrite, had only worked one year as a dispatcher for the Sheriff's Department, but from the minute he announced, I sensed trouble. He was a master manipulator, and based his campaign on religion; his ads, his speeches, his entire campaign was like a big tent revival. We both loathed this approach, as well as understood the danger of an unqualified, untested very young man becoming sheriff.

I'll never forget the night he was elected, and the utter disbelief, dismay and dread in my husband's eyes. He told me he felt badly for not running himself, and that he knew disaster lay ahead for the department.

He was right, and truly, the next four years were a nightmare. The first thing this new "sheriff" did was try to get rid of all the experienced officers -- especially any he thought had opposed him. By law, he couldn't do that; but he began a new campaign to humiliate officers by demoting, reassigning and countless dirty tricks to force them to quit.

Several good men were lost, just up and quit, unable to bear the stress and humiliation heaped upon them. DH was miserable, but his pride would not allow him to give this guy the satisfaction of quitting. No matter what the sheriff dished out, he took it; and eventually, the guy gave up and began to grudgingly accept DH as one who would not leave - and there would never be grounds to fire him.

Now, not only was the job itself stressful, DH had a load of stress and unresolved resentment over the sheriff's constant reassigning him. Though unable to demote DH, L. switched him around from position to position: investigation, patrol (again), dive team, shift to shift, etc.

DH said he had too much time and dedication in his career to let this card-carrying idiot run him off. When I realized that just "talking" wasn't enough, I bought a journal for him, and insisted he write out all the rage and fury every night. At first, he was reluctant, but soon it became a habit and he filled five journals during the four years. I still have all of those, have read them, and often wonder how he survived that ordeal.

Before too long, the community realized their mistake and as the sheriff's disasters mounted, people began to complain and express their concerns.

The final nail in his coffin came when there was a kidnapping in a neighboring county; the FBI enlisted the sheriff's help, and without going into a lot of detail, when the exchange of money for victim was arranged to take place in our county, the sheriff just had to "get into the act." He showed up at the meeting place, and ended up causing the FBI and our officers to lose the kidnapper. The victim was never seen again, and though the kidnappers were found, none would tell where the victim's body was located. To this day the young woman's parents have an investigator working on the case, and the story occasionally appears on a reality TV show.

That fiasco ended L's "political career" and since then he has never held office or worked in law enforcement. He is a preacher though, and that's what he should have been all along.

Fortunately, this hard lesson for our county produced a qualified, educated, experienced sheriff at the next election. The collective sigh of relief was heard in all corners, and especially in our home.

Those years though were the beginning of stress that took its toll on DH -- only known years later when he had a heart attack.

Once the new sheriff took office, DH was reinstated as the Lt. of the patrol division. For years, he was satisfied in that position; but eventually he was promoted and moved more into the administration end of law enforcement. I was glad, because his life was not in danger like when he was out patrolling.

Yet, as time passed, I could see he just wasn't as enthusiastic as he had been in his younger years. Burn out is common among officers, and I am sure that is what he was going through.

At that time, though, he got very involved with horses. Instead of having just one horse, he and his buddy bought several and began raising pure-bred Quarter-horses. Also, DH began buying used horse trailers, and upgrading them, then reselling for a profit. This gave him a new interest, and more money to save for our dream farm.

We began looking at small acreage farms, and it became the new focus of our long drives through the countryside. We looked at foreclosures, auction properties and those for sale by Realtors and owners.

We were quite specific in what we wanted: not too far from town, a livable house, at least five acres and, hopefully, a barn. And it had to be priced so we could pay cash for it, allowing us to keep our home in town for a rental.

We were obsessed with this search for a long time; indeed, it became almost an impossible dream, because we couldn't find just the right place.

During these years, DH often had to be out-of-town for ongoing educational seminars, and I continued with my creative writing. His father died, and that was difficult for him. One of his sisters died as well -- both deaths due to cancer.

My husband was a brave man, but there was one thing he feared: cancer. There was a genetic history of cancer on both sides of his family, but we hoped he'd escaped that trait.

Eventually we found a house and land. But that is another story for tomorrow night.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

DH Tribute, Part III

When I think of the happiest years of our lives, I remember the period of time when we were in our 30s. Life truly was good, and we seemed to sail in a ship with safe winds at our backs, no insurmountable troubles, our sight set on a golden future.

We were both healthy (me, at last!); I spent most of my 30s engaged in creative writing, and completed over 15 novels (later published). My husband was moving up the law enforcement career ladder, and as a Lieutenant often gave advice to officers in our formal living room, where he had privacy with them.

We sold our house in the rural countryside, moved into the small town where I grew up. We lived only 12 blocks from the Sheriff's Department, which meant DH could be there almost instantly when there were emergencies. And there often were, because as Lt. he was always on-call (just like a doctor, but without the exorbitant money doctors earn).

In our mid-30s, we paid off the house and our vehicles; to his dying day, we never had any debt. Though we lived below our means, and never had the McMansions or expensive lifestyles seen the past decade, we were very proud of paying cash for whatever we wanted. We saved first, then did renovations to our house; we saved, then bought our vehicles for whatever we wanted/needed.

Near the end of my 30s, I went to work at the local newspaper as a reporter. I tried that for some time, but decided at heart I was not a danger junkie, and truly didn't have a passion for front page reporting. So I became the copy editor, and while DH was often at work, I was too. We still managed to spend at least two days a week together and our favorite pastime was long drives through the countryside and talking about anything and everything on our minds. It was our "private time together," and became a habit that continued right up till the last weekend of his life.

During that time, DH also began to explore his love for horses. He bought one, stabled at a fellow officer's farm, and would occasionally go on horseback rides with his buddies. I can't say I was much of a rider, but I did love the horses. And how could I criticize him when I began rescuing cats (I'd always had one or two) and he understood.

We soon realized that we loved animals, and his dream was to one day have a small horse farm where he could have several horses. It was a distant, almost unattainable dream at the time, but we started saving for that day...a retirement we could love and enjoy sharing together, with critters aplenty.

In the meantime, we spent most of our vacation time working on the older home we owned then. We liked doing that, and he'd often kid when he went back to work in buff condition, "I've been to the spa of my wife," when asked how he lost weight and got in such good shape.

Our county became our back doorstep; there were few people anywhere that DH didn't know, or visit on his patrols. He never forgot a name, nor where the folks lived. When we'd ride through the countryside, he'd tell me stories about the people who lived in houses we passed; I learned, and began to incorporate those tales in my own creative writing.

One night he came in and said he wanted to show me something. He pulled out a long box, opened it to a red velvet lining in which lay an antique pistol. He said, "There's this elderly man and woman I've been checking in on for years, just talk and make sure they were doing okay. Her husband died last week, and she called the sheriff's department, wanted me to stop by. I was surprised when she said she and her husband wanted me to have this old pistol."

He went on to tell me all about their lives, what kind of antique pistol it was, how they came by it, and how honored he was the lady insisted he have it.

And now for a confession, something I have mixed feelings about. I began to develop a fascination for the dark side of law enforcement, a curiosity about the criminal element. I started to write inmates, although always faraway, not locally. I wondered what made these individuals how they were, why they were so different to my husband.

While often upset with this fascination, my husband allowed it; and that was not easy. However, I often discussed what I learned via correspondence from these inmates/criminals, and we compared notes on those he'd met. Soon this became fodder for my fiction, which I delved into again when I left the newspaper. While he was somewhat concerned about the correspondence, nevertheless, he never truly forced me to stop. Today, this is one of my most precious memories -- but it all came full circle in the last year of his life, which will be detailed in my last entry.

As we entered our 40s, we were still saving and I began investing in the stock market -- which was going gangbusters then, and eventually allowed us to buy a farm in the future.

The bad times: fairly predictable.

Countless meals left cold on the table when it was impossible for him to get home, or rush off mid-meal to an emergency.

Fear as a constant companion when major problems arose, such as him being in the midst of tornadoes, severe storms, helping people. Or him being at the scene when a fellow officer was shot, and a relative called me to ask if it was him who got injured. Nights sleeping alone when he'd be called out to a horrible car wreck, an officer injured, families in distress.

Through it all, we realized we could always count on each other, no matter what. Isn't that what a good marriage is about? Sharing the good and bad, arguing, shouting, then making up in bed? Compromise.

It's taken a long time, but I realize now that he was my ONLY soul mate on this earth.

Our life together was full of drama (his job mostly), passion and anything but boring. He gave his all to the community and myself, and in return the community loved him. Just how much, I didn't know until he died.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

DH Tribute, Part II

The Decision

I wish I could say that I accepted DH's decision to enter law enforcement without reservation, but that was not the case. In fact, I was downright scared and unable to hide it.

In our late 20s, I began to recover from my medical problems, and started doing what I'd always wanted to do: write. I enrolled in journalism courses, completed those, then went through a creative writing course. I became obsessed with my writing, as writers often do.

My husband had grown tired of his electrician job, not to mention the long commute each day. When he was called to jury duty, the local sheriff approached him and asked if he'd be interested in becoming a reserve deputy. That was a volunteer position, which demanded only one evening a week as a ride-along with a sheriff's deputy, so I was agreeable. However, within a short time, it was evident my husband was becoming as obsessed with law enforcement as I was with writing.

He talked to me constantly about going to our local community college (again) and majoring in criminal justice; I wasn't so sure, but worse, I was scared to death. Remember, these were the days of "Starsky & Hutch" on TV, and regular shoot 'em up cop chases, frequent death and dismemberment of officers by vicious criminals. I began to get very worried, and discouraged this new "hobby."

Nothing could stop my husband's newfound passion for this field, and after many disagreements that sometimes led to shouting matches, he said he would give it up if it meant that much to me. I, on the other hand, realized that to ask he give this up would be tantamount to my giving up writing. And worse, he would always resent me for it.

We had discussed not having children before we married, and neither had changed our minds over the years. Additionally, my medical condition (though under control) would have made that very risky. In other words, we needed meaning and purpose other than having a family; mine was writing, his became law enforcement.

I learned to become supportive, but I won't deny I was always worried. When he had neared the completion of the two-year course, and was hired as a full time deputy, I was a wreck. I couldn't sleep when he was on the evening shift, the absolute worst time for domestic violence -- and every kind of violence. Sometimes he didn't get home till 3 AM, and to be honest, I came very near a nervous breakdown due to the stress and anxiety.

Shortly after being hired, he had to go through the Law Enforcement Academy and be away for six weeks; that was the first time we'd ever been apart for any length of time (other than my hospitalization) and when he returned, I believe we both realized that even though it would be a rough road ahead of us, we loved each other so much we would be supportive and endure in our marriage.

As for a specific memory of this time, he always told me about his work, from the first. I demanded that, because I never wanted him to have the added stress of keeping it inside, no one to share the bad times, as well as the good times. However, I didn't realize how he downplayed the danger until one day I saw our local newspaper (which I would later work for as a reporter/copy editor) and the picture on the front page of my husband rescuing a man who'd overturned on his tractor. My husband was teetering on the sharp edge of a cliff, one foot off the ledge, the other supported by a large flat rock. Yet he managed to save the man who was pinned beneath the rock. (Only later did I realize the lengths the newspaper photographer went to in order to capture this shot!)

Within a few years after his full-time employment, he became known for his willingness to do whatever it took to save lives, capture those who were breaking it, and enforce the law. But he also became a true friend to other officers, a motivating factor in their work, understanding their problems, and soon was promoted to Sergeant, then some time later, Lieutenant of the Patrol Division. There were more promotions through the years, and though he sometimes said that people approached him about running for Sheriff, it was never really a consideration.

He was a law enforcement officer, not a politician.

Monday, February 16, 2009

DH Tribute, Part I

How We Met

In our small southern town, the only meeting places for teenagers in the early 70s was either church or cruising the fast food joints. That is where I met my future husband, riding around in town with girlfriends and checking out the guys.

The first time he and I saw each other, (corny as it sounds) we felt an instant attraction. In fact, his first words to me were: "Will you marry me?"

I was taken aback, but looking him over, seeing how handsome he was (and he truly was a hunk), I kidded and said, "Maybe."

We flirted and flirted, even rode around with other friends together. Later, every time we saw each other, we'd say, "Hey, there goes my husband/wife!" Friends would laugh, thinking it was a big joke.

Finally I gave him my phone number, but he didn't call.

The next weekend we met again, and I asked, "Hey, why didn't you call?"

He said, with a wink, "I didn't want to rob the cradle. You look too young to date."

I laughed, and said, "I'm 19, in case you're asking."

He was genuinely surprised, and though he was only 23, apparently he didn't want to date jail bait...for which I had to respect him.

Three months later, we married.

He was an electrician, worked in a large city 50 miles to the south, but we chose to live in our small town, near family and friends. I worked in an office, as a secretary.

Two years later, we bought our first home, and my father died. No man could have been better to me, and stood by me more steadfastly than him during that time of grief. He also assumed responsibility (along with myself) for helping my widowed mother and three younger sisters. That continued the rest of his life, and to this day my sisters think of him as a father-figure.

I was seriously ill in my mid-20s, and to this day, I'll never forget the sound of his footsteps echoing down the long hospital corridor when he came to see me EVERY night. Despite spending all day long at an exhausting job 50 miles to the south, he drove another 50 miles to the north to be with me for a few hours. If I was in pain, he'd hassle the nurses or doctors until I got relief. To say I wouldn't have made it through that time without him (because I did have a life-threatening illness) is an understatement; he was WHY I survived.

And he was still a very young man, but a solid-rock of dependability, someone whose shoulder you could always lean on. A few years later, when he became a law enforcement officer, the community learned what I and my family had always known: Here was a man who would lay down his life to help his fellow human beings.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lost, now found, serene

Ladies & Gents,
Next Saturday will mark the 3rd anniversary of my DH's death. This coming week will be a time of remembrance, and each day I plan to update this blog with special memories. For those who are new to my blog, or those returning time and time again (please KNOW I appreciate regular readers, thank you!) you'll learn some of the things that made my husband special, endearing, well-loved in the community, and an all-around good, decent man.

Please return tomorrow for the first of this series.

For now, let me post a poem that has special meaning for this time in my life. As readers know, I've been fretting and worrying over my medical insurance (Cobra) and what will happen when/if I lose it. I do have one possibility, a good one, for our state health insurance (available for those in a high risk pool) and without pre-existing clauses. It is not as expensive as Cobra, but has higher deductibles. However, I have come to the conclusion that WHATEVER happens is meant to be.

How much of our lives is spent in useless worrying about events we have no control over? Yes, I'm a sensible, reasonable realist in real life, a chronic worrier, but with the death of my husband, I've finally realized that though we should do what we can to plan for the future, there are some things that cannot be planned for, insured against, or fought.

Acceptance -- a word we should all practice in many facets of our lives in order to live TODAY fully.

Here's the poem:


Serene, I fold my hands and wait,
Nor care for wind nor tide nor sea;
I rave no more 'gainst time or fate
For lo! my own shall come to me.

I stay my haste, I make delays--
For what avails this eager pace?
I stand amid the eternal ways
And what is mine shall know my face.

Asleep, awake, by night or day,
The friends I seek are seeking me,
Nor wind can drive my bark astray
Nor change the tide of destiny.

What matter if I stand alone?
I wait with joy the coming years,
My heart shall reap where it has sown,
And garner up its fruit of tears.

The waters know their own, and draw
The brook that springs in yonder height,
Unto the soul of pure delight.

The stars come nightly to the sky;
The tidal wave unto the sea;
Nor time, nor space, nor deep, nor high,
Can keep my own from me.

--John Burroughs

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

For a little humor (and I'm sure everyone could use it these days), I present to you one of my all-time favorite cartoons. Before you watch it though, I must confide that it reminds me of my situation lately. East, West, North South...whatever path I take from my house to walk the dogs, I keep running into elderly widowers. I'm polite, so I stop and talk to them; perhaps they take this as a sign of flirting, because before you know it, they are asking me out, in hot pursuit.

I'm not joking either: One is an elderly gentleman, age 90. He doesn't look or act 90, seems in remarkable health, and sharp in conversation. Over the past couple months, I've spoken to him when I happen along that way, but one day he got in his car and followed me home. Now that I've changed my walking path, he drives slowly by my house every afternoon!

Another elderly widower suddenly appears outside when I approach his house, and has some reason to waylay me as I pass.

I could go on, but you get the picture. If not, just know I feel like the cat in this cartoon:

Don't know how many more times I can change my walking route in my neighborhood until I end up like the cat! LOL

Thursday, February 05, 2009

TRUTH about USA medical care

IF you want to know the truth about the voracious, rapacious, greedy health care industry, please partake of this informative website:

Physicians for National Health Program

Especially read the articles of interest page

Cognitive Dissonance: The Healthcare Reform Battle's State of Mind
This one is worth gold in brutal honesty and exposing the financial greed of the medical insurance industry over the lives of Americans.

If you have no conscience, none of this will bother you -- as it apparently doesn't the mega-money insurance companies.

And last but not least, get involved at this website:


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Cutest EVER dog/cat video!

Just couldn't resist posting this cute video from YouTube:

Sunday, February 01, 2009

New Car & City Trip

Photo entry today:

My 2008 Honda Fit Sport, and I LOVE it! Bought yesterday, drove a lot today, and hopefully will last a LONG time.

Downtown Birmingham, Alabama. Sister and I went to visit nephew, had scrumptious veggie sandwich of grilled portobello mushrooms and goat cheese, side salad.

More big city buildings, midtown.

Rambo missing Oscar the week he was at sister's house.

Oscar at home on a cold day. He LOVES to wrap up in a comfy throw!

Tomorrow renters will drive my Escort to Jasper, me following; need to take it back to the Honda dealer, since it was part of the trade-in deal.

My back is improving slowly, but I'll know more when I see the orthopedic doctor on Wednesday for results of the MRI.

That's all for today folks.