Tag Archives: Kathy Anne

The mustache stays … period!

This post is for those I haven’t known since The Flood. It is for relatively recent acquaintances and friends, some of whom ask me this question at this time of year:

Is the mustache coming off, too, along with the rest of your facial hair? Answer: nope; not even.

The mustache has been part of my face since 1970. Except for a brief period in 1980 when I decided to shave it off. Big mistake.

I started growing it as I was preparing to exit the Army. I had returned from Vietnam and was stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash., just up the highway from my Portland, Ore., hometown.

It was July 1970. I was a month from shucking the uniform forever and returning to civilian life. I grew the mustache. I liked it. It quickly became part of me.

Then a decade later, I decided to shave it off. I had two small boys at home with me. I came out of the bathroom and presented my clean-shaven face to my family. My bride, Kathy Anne, approved. The boys? They couldn’t stop laughing.

They were six and five. They had never seen Dad without facial hair. For that matter, neither had Kathy Anne … but she was cool with the “new” me.

My sons’ laughter never let up. After less than a week of it, I surrendered. The stubble returned. Soon it blossomed into a full-grown mustache. It has stayed.

The beard comes and goes. I usually shave it off every spring. This year it came off about a month early. Which is OK. Kathy Anne preferred I keep it year-round. We would “fight” good naturedly when the time came to shave it off. I no longer have to wage that fake fight. So, it came off.

But come this autumn, the beard will return as it does every year.

I just wanted to share this bit of useless info. You are now free to pursue more important matters.

Stay busy: essence of life

My many friends — those I have had for decades and those I have just met — all say the same thing as I trudge on through the rest of my life’s journey.

Stay busy. Get busy. If you have nothing to do, find something to do. Build structure in your life. Fill the dates on your calendar.

My journey is commencing its second year without the love of my life at my side. We commemorated the first year of Kathy Anne’s passing quietly. My sons were with me for a while that day. Then we went about our daily routines.

But my life is taking some form these days. I am restructuring my daily routine to accommodate tasks that need doing and duties I need to perform.

For instance, today I took on a task that will enable me to serve a community I have grown to love. I have been a member of the Farmersville Rotary Club for a couple of years and its president-elect asked me to serve on the board, heading up the membership element of the service organization. She wants me to be in charge of recruiting new members.

“Yes!” I said with no small measure of enthusiasm. I am happy to do it. Not just for the club, but also for myself. I am getting a chance to fill in one more spot on my calendar.

One of my sons told me today that after Kathy Anne passed away, he was able to continue his work for his employer as a way to keep his mind occupied and to “relieve myself of the grief I was suffering.”

My journey has brightened significantly over the past year. I have made new friends who know the story of the loss we suffered. They have delivered the same message … beyond offering their love and support.

It is to stay busy. Find structure in your life. Build on it. Relish the responsibility you will take on.

Message heard.

Jumping out of my skin …

I am giving serious thought to jumping far out of my own skin as I take some time away from the daily grind … and, yes, even old guys like me have “daily grinds” from which they need relief.

A plane ride to Germany awaits. I am accepting an invitation from a good friend who offered me a place to stay “for as long as you want.” He heard the news about my beloved bride’s passing and offered me a place to stay “across the Atlantic.” I accepted his offer, but I will be there for a finite period of time.

But … while I am visiting him in Bavaria, I am going to — gulp! — rent a car to drive while he and his wife are working. This is a big deal for yours truly.

I have traveled a bit overseas. I have been to several countries in Europe and in Asia; I went to Mexico City once to attend an editorial writers conference. At no time have I rented a motor vehicle. I dared not try negotiating the streets of Athens, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Taipei or Delhi … you name it.

This time it’s different. My friends are young enough to continue working full time.

What gives me the nervous jerks, though, is driving in a nation with no known limits on speed. Yep, you can drive as fast as you want on the autobahn. Those who know me best know that I don’t handle speed all that well. They know that I inherited my dear ol’ Dad’s driving habit of poking along. I don’t obstruct traffic, but if the speed limit is posted for 75 mph, I am likely to drive 60 or 65 mph. Why? Well, I just don’t like having my hair flying back while driving a motor vehicle.

I’ll be in Germany for just short of two weeks. I’ll be able to drive locally, take in the sights and visit some of the picturesque communities near where my friends live.

I think I’ll seek the back roads, however. I don’t need to bring gratuitous horror to my overseas driving experience by venturing onto the autobahn where I have heard it’s every man for himself.

A year later, pain is manageable

I grappled with my heart over whether I wanted to post anything about a sad date that is about to visit my family and me.

I have decided to go ahead with an acknowledgment of the date and a declaration that I am looking toward a bright, adventurous future.

It was a year ago, Feb. 3, 2023, when my phone rang and the nurse at the other end of the call informed me that my beloved bride had just passed away. Cancer took Kathy Anne from my family and me. It was a savage, but brief, bout with glioblastoma.

You know about that. I won’t dwell on it here.

It’s been a remarkable year to say the very least. I have embarked on what I have described as a journey through darkness. I am quite happy to proclaim, though, that the light is shining much brighter today than it dared shine on the worst day of our lives.

I have made the trek, recovering from the intense pain one always feels when you suffer such a loss. I have sought to chronicle my journey on this blog. I have shared the highs and lows of the past year. It has been cathartic and therapeutic. It has given me emotional relief to share these experiences on this blog platform.

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Thus, I am glad to have done so, although to be sure, I would wish only that I never had to embark on that journey. But … I did. So did my family and we are counting the blessings of having each other to recall the joy we shared with my bride.

The future now awaits. I am embracing it fully and I have committed to living every single day going forward as if it is my final day on this good Earth.

My friends have told me the “pain will never disappear, but it will become manageable.” It has … and it won’t stop me from living the fullest life possible.

Journey gets brighter

Many of you — those who follow this blog — know about the journey I have taken for the past year.

It started out painfully. It got better over time as I jumped into my pickup and — with Toby the Puppy riding shotgun — traveled to both coasts of this great nation.

We bid a good fu**ing riddance to 2023. My sons and I burned calendars in my back yard the evening of Dec. 31. I had just said so long to my puppy on Dec. 1, ending the year with nearly the pain I felt when I lost my bride, Kathy Anne, to cancer near the beginning of the year.

But now a new year has arrived. We’re three weeks into 2024 and I am happy — no, thrilled and delighted — to report that the pain has all but subsided. I have laid the foundation for a new life in North Texas.

I am committing to some worthwhile projects. I am socializing more. I vowed to find the light at the end of that dark journey and I am going to declare that the light is shining brightly on me. I hope it shines on my sons, my daughter-in-law and my granddaughter.

We have all been through a lot together. I hope they all know how indebted I am for the strength they have shown and demonstrated and I am hoping they have received some strength and encouragement from their old man. They know I love them with every beat of my heart.

My friends all have said that I always will have those moments when emotion takes control of my senses. I get it. Honestly, I truly do.

But I will be damned forever if I let it control me as I soldier on with the rest of my life.

I am looking forward to a year of adventure, I hope a surprise or three, and one that produces plenty of additional cherished memories.

Good riddance, 2023!

We did what we wanted to do: we torched 2023 calendars, let ’em burn to ashes.

You know that 2023 was the worst year in our family’s life. You know, too, the reason why the now-former year is loathed by my family and me. What you see in the picture attached to this post is a calendar turned to February, the month our family agony began in earnest.

What I haven’t discussed on this blog is the reason for the calendar-burning.

The idea came from a long-time friend and former colleague. He made the suggestion believing it would cleanse my emotional reservoir. Hell, even the prospect of burning the calendars has given me relief from the anguish that lingered for almost the entirety of 2023.

I know it’s only a symbolic act. No symbolism will cure us of the pain we endured with the passing of my dear bride, Kathy Anne, the mother of my sons. The cure — and I use the term with an abundance of caution — will come chiefly from time.

But lighting the calendars is a start of a new year that I plan to insist is far better than the year we just ushered onto the trash heap.

Happy new year everyone. May it bring you all great joy. I intend to reap all the joy possible that 2024 brings to my family and me.

Sending year out with a blaze

My sons and I are planning a laugh-out-loud party in about 24 hours when we bid good riddance to 2023.

Yes, it was the worst year of our lives. It got off to a tragic start in early February with the passing of Kathy Anne, my wife of 51 years and the mother of these two fine men.

But you know what? I do not intend to cry once we commence our brief commemoration. I intend fully to laugh and smile between the guffaws as we light a fire to signal the end of the year that is about to pass into the crapper.

Kathy Anne and I built a wonderful life together. It began when we both were in college. We were so very young, full of energy, passion (for each other) and a spirit of adventure. Our life took us from Oregon to Texas and then we traveled to 48 of our states and about 16 countries.

Then came the second tragic event to befall us. On Dec. 1 we bid farewell to Toby the Puppy, my best friend, companion and the sweetest pooch God ever created. His loss added a tragic symmetry to the year.

But … as the late George Harrison once sang: All things must pass. 

So, my sons and I are going to bid good riddance to 2023 by burning calendars chronicling the horrible year we all endured. We’ll stoke the flames in a fire pit in my backyard.

Then we’ll welcome the new year filled with hope for a better and brighter future.

Happy new year! May your 2024 be full of fun and joy, too.

A different new year awaits

Normally, I am inclined to approach the end of a year with a shrug and an “I’ll take whatever comes next” attitude.

2023 has been, and please excuse the understatement, a radically different span of time for my family and me. We lost the rock of our family at the first of the year when cancer struck my dear bride, Kathy Anne. She passed away Feb. 3 and for the time in my entire life I was left to fend for myself. Yes, I have my sons, my daughter-in-law and my granddaughter nearby. I cherish them beyond all measure. However, I am on my own in many ways large and small.

I told someone close to me recently that I lived with my parents until my late teens; then I was inducted into the Army; I served two years under Uncle Sam’s watchful eye; I returned to Mom and Dad’s home; then I met a gorgeous girl in college; we got married shortly thereafter; we were husband and wife for 51 blissful years.

Then she was gone. Just like that. Do you get what I mean by “alone”?

I don’t usually make new year’s resolutions. This year is different. My new year’s resolution — and I am going to declare it here — will be to continue my search for happiness. I will make another declaration. It is that my path is considerably brighter today than it was for most of 2023. I don’t yet know where it will end for me.

I have been able during the months since I lost Kathy Anne to travel through much of the country. I embarked on trips to, as I noted, to “clear my head and mend my heart.” I am happy to report that my noggin is pretty clear as I write these words and my heart is enduring far fewer spasms of grief. I need to state, though, that Kathy Anne’s illness and passing wasn’t the end of my sorrow. On Dec. 1 I lost Toby the Puppy, my companion and best buddy, as he no longer could battle the cancer that ravaged his body.

I am gathering up all the paper calendars I have collected in my house in Princeton and on Dec. 31 I intend — per a suggestion from a friend — to conduct a 2023 calendar-burning event in my back yard. I might even yelp for joy as I watch the flames engulf the numbers “2023.”

When the flames subside and the embers cool in the fire pit, I will commence my journey forward. Kathy Anne insisted many years ago that I seek happiness were she to leave this Earth first. Therefore, I am following her directive.

Forward is the only path for me.

Here is to a much happier year ahead.

Kitty steps up? You bet!

Most of us know that cats are a bit harder to read than dogs. Their personalities are more, um, hidden from human eyes.

However, I am going to presume something about one of my grandkitties that you might find implausible. Or … you might get it!

We lost Toby the Puppy on Dec. 1. Cancer had become too much for him, so we had to let him go.

For several months, my Princeton house has been occupied by two kitties, Marlowe and Macy, who moved in with my son when he relocated here from Amarillo shortly after my dear bride, Kathy Anne, passed away.

Marlowe and Macy made themselves at home quickly. They and Toby reached an understanding almost immediately … which was that this is Toby’s house and he was the boss.

Well, since I lost Toby, Marlowe has become my latest bunk mate. He sleeps with me almost every night. He often will snuggle with me, pressing his brutish body against mine as he gets comfortable.

I have difficulty reading Marlowe’s mind the way I could read Toby the Puppy’s mind. But I am going to conclude that he is feeling Toby’s loss as much as I am. He is reaching out to his “grandpa,” telling me it’s OK, that I have Marlowe and his sister, Macy, to give me comfort.

Is this possible? Well, since I cannot prove that it isn’t, I am going to presume the best about my grandkitty.

No stress Christmas

Every year I make same pledge, which is that I refuse to get caught in the swirl of pressure associated with “getting ready” for Christmas.

I cannot remember when I first made the pledge. It doesn’t matter when. Just know that I did and every year since then I have been nominally successful.

This Christmas presents some unique challenges for me. It will be the first holiday in 52 years without Kathy Anne. We lost her on Feb. 3. We struggled through the year in various stages of grief. Then on Dec. 1 we got another punch in the gut when we lost Toby the Puppy. My puppy was far more than a pet; he was my traveling companion, my bunk mate, my best pal.

So … we’re dealing with that loss, too.

However, I want to stipulate that Christmas has arrived and I am proceeding as pledged. I won’t let the stress associated with the holiday overtake me. Indeed, I am actually enjoying the act of shopping for the holiday. As I write this blog item, I am essentially done shopping.

Today is Dec. 10. I am effectively done with two whole weeks to go before Santa arrives. I am going to be like the proverbial cool breeze from this day forward.

I am going to hug my family and my friends. I am going to relish the joy they have in welcoming the season.

Oh, I am going to have a calendar-burning event in my back yard on New Year’s Eve. The fire pit awaits. I don’t have many 2023 calendars laying around the house, but those I have found are doomed to become nothing more than ash as I bid good fu**ing riddance to the worst year of my life.

What lies ahead for 2024? New adventures, surprises that present themselves. It’s a new year that will allow me to move forward with optimism and joy.