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Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Writing Pure Love - IWSG May 2020

It's IWSG Day. The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. IWSG is the brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader. To find links to other IWSG contributors, click here. Co-hosts for the May are Feather Stone, Beverly Stowe McClure, Mary Aalgaard, Kim Lajevardi, and Chemist Ken.

Oh, my dears…

I’ve never missed a monthly IWSG and posting is a comfort now because for the most part, I’ve lost my routine. No getting up at 5:30 to write before work. No morning time in the “zone.” A few days ago, I tried, sitting down to work on my current project, but I couldn’t remember what had been in my brain when I left off weeks ago, so gave it up. 

The truth is, I have actually written this month, the hardest, yet most treasured piece I’ve ever created—an obituary for my sweet husband who lost his battle with melanoma two weeks ago.

Organized soul that he was, he’d written a draft death notice that summed up dates and facts. I almost laughed when I read it, none of it touching on the nuance of him. How he broke every seriousness with humor. How you could count on him for absolutely anything. How he loved quoting Monty Python, and Saturday nights in the fall by the fire when in jest, he’d repeat a phrase his dad said so often our eyes rolled, “A fire really warms up the place.” There was nothing about our tradition of weekly date-nights, a habit formed early in our marriage when we couldn’t afford to go out that became so ingrained, thirty-five years later when we missed one, we’d sit down at our table the next weekend filled with relief. It failed to mention how our now-grown-up nieces and nephews used to call him Uncle Fun. Or how, when we stayed overnight with my sister and the kids demanded a bedtime story from him, an hour later I’d have to tug him away because he’d be having such a good time, he’d have kept them up forever. It didn’t mention how he was the best gift-giver because he listened and remembered. So many birthdays I’d open a present and say, “Oh my gosh, I wanted one of these,” and he’d say, “I know. You said so months ago,” and I’d be shocked. “I did??”

His version including nothing about how his eyes lit up whenever he saw our daughter, or how when she was small, he co-opted a story theme I’d started with her using Tweetie-Bird from the old Loony Tunes cartoon, making it his own and so very much more. Or how they’d giggle together on her bed and how once again I’d have to prod him out of her room so she could get enough sleep. And while his draft mentioned his love for sailing, it didn’t talk about how proud he was of his lovely and pristine boat, moored across from a public dock, visible to all who launched in the harbor.

His bare-bones notes didn’t include details about the little surprises he left me around the yard. A sculpted orchestra of instrument-bearing frogs tucked into a hollow behind the shed, two azalea bushes it took me weeks to notice, a plaque mounted onto an old tree stump, “Please don’t piss off the fairies.” It didn’t include how he loved cookies or how he’d arrive home from work and with coat still on, reach his hand into the jar. Or how when his genetic high cholesterol became a minor issue, he gave up those cookies cold-turkey and created a food regime he prepared for himself: plain oatmeal for breakfast, salad for lunch with vinegar—no oil, pretzels and carrot sticks and how after that meager fare, he’d come home uncomplaining to whatever low-fat dinner I’d concocted, no cookies allowed. Or how without an alarm, he got up at 3:45 am on week days to exercise.

It didn’t touch on his love for Christmas. How he so liked my gift of a nutcracker our first Christmas, it morphed into a yearly tradition. Even this past December when he was feeling poorly, he unwrapped a collection whose count easily exceeded our number of years together and displayed them in the family room, the dining room and on the living room mantle. Or how important it was to him that our tree had enough lights. Well, trees, I should say. Because we had three. A live tree in the family room, and once our cat passed away, an artificial tree in the living room on which we hung our delicate ornaments, and his tree downstairs in the “man cave,” where he hung snowman lights and all the macaroni holiday decorations our daughter ever made in school. Don’t even get me going on the Christmas fairyland that was our outside. 

Oh, I could tell stories about him forever.

But the thing about obituaries is they’re revenue for the publishers and here’s one more thing about Tim. He wouldn’t want me to waste the money. When I found his draft, I knew I had to find a way to make it reflect him without breaking the bank. So, with his permission before he left us, I re-wrote it, adding enough with the hope that not only would it read true for those who knew him, but also so those who hadn’t known him would feel what they had missed. And soon after he left us, it appeared in print and online. My love. Edited to 443 words—condensing an encyclopedia of joyous memories into two columns, when even a million words could never be enough.