The time of greatest danger may be past. Even so, I broke down twice this morning. Not long but solid, aching face and all. I’ve learned to let it hit me like a breaker at the beach. Sometimes I get murdered as I’m walking past her English “gram’s” cherry dresser, the one we carried back from Iowa to Maryland in my ‘65 VW bus along with all the fancy hats from never married great-aunt Emily. It’s chest-high with a Chimayó weaving, the perfect height for me to sob on by the Japanese jewelry chest and music box that holds her pearls and rhinestone concert necklace. She always knew to dress up right for her performances and I was so damn proud.
I haven’t been able to write for weeks. I felt like I had nothing left to live for, not depression so much as conviction. It was simply logical. There will never be another Katie Jane and I’m too old to find one. The loneliness is crushing. I wanted to grow old together, not be left here all alone. It hits me at the oddest moments. What the fuck, you know? What happened?!? Everything I had was Kathy. That was way more than enough and now it’s gone, like old cartoons with someone hanging in the air.
Five days before 9-11 (2001).Temporary housing in the guesthouse in Arroyo Seco after a promised rental fell through. Everyone we knew was still immortal.
“Death will fuck you up and set you up 💀💀💀❤️❤️☯︎☯︎☯︎,” I tweeted recently. It’s true. A couple people I respect went out of their way to tell me how amazed they were that I was dealing with all this and couldn’t imagine what they’d do themselves. Well yes, I guess I have been. Not my first time watching someone die, though this was utterly beyond the pale and changed me for all time. I did the things, they burned her up and put her ashes in a box. I sold her grand piano. Working entirely through texts and emails, I designed a grave marker, ordered the pink granite stone, and arranged the installation in the dark brown dirt of eastern Iowa where her parents and the lady with the cherry dresser rest. That hasn’t happened yet but soon. And in the interim, I found the perfect urn. I’m so relieved because I know she’d like it.
You’d never guess where I acquired this. Heavy cast brass (five pounds) from India, lacquered, with a screw-on top. I wanted that because of needing to add things as I thought of them. A note, perhaps, or jewelry, or magic charms, wildflowers I pick along the road to Iowa in the spring. Yes, spring. I was going to head up to Keota this month but everything’s delayed and the weather can turn brutal in November. The same for April, frankly.
The subject is already too macabre or insane. However, what I think I’ll do is transfer the ashes to the urn packaged in a sturdy plastic bag for neatness’ sake (minus some to scatter in a favorite spot), set it on the counter or a coffee table, and talk to her all winter. It’s been done, believe me. Whenever I do take off, the urn is riding safely strapped down in the passenger seat like old times. My sister-in-law suggested I buy one for myself while I was at it—brilliant, if you ask me—so a red one just like this is coming in on Wednesday. The plan, if you’re still with me here, is to have my urn sitting on my desk for however many years to kick me in the head so I make Kathy proud. I never needed thoughts like these before and wish I didn’t now, but people say I’m good at this. Perhaps I am.
Kathy from the Rift Valley Trail at Taos Valley Overlook in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. Live like this every day, we’re not here long.
It’s never over, is it. You see the OpenSea links (click on captioned photos). That’s my new game, with the photos and the writing. I know I’m skilled beyond the dead wife chores that give me strength to be her man the way I always was. I’m spending money on the things I want.
There’s a brand-new yellow M1 iMac on my desk to edit images, videos, audio, and lay out books. A gold iPhone 13 Pro Max is on the way. I put new tires on the car. I have a golden keyboard. If only that were all we needed. One can still screw up, of course.
It’s cold. Fear of the unknown, wreckage everywhere. The last six weeks have been the worst of all, so bad I’d go to bed afraid that I was dying of my broken heart. That’s why I couldn’t write and wouldn’t read a thing that wasn’t on a screen. Stayed up till 4:00 a.m. like a goddamn human moth stuck onto the Twitter feed. Four hours of sleep and stagger through the morning, though I did try taking care of business while the sun was up. Visited her studio, measured the other piano that I mean to keep, talked to movers, threw out old tax returns and such. I’ve made a start and also done some crazy shit. So scared of catching COVID on the Iowa trip I figured I’d be taking in October, I drove to Colorado and lied at Walmart to get my third Moderna shot. “Is this your first?” Why, yes. No one else was getting vaccinated, either! The pharmacy had Pfizer, Moderna, J&J, just walk right in, no waiting or appointments. (Here in the Land of Enchantment, you still can’t get Moderna boosters.) They gave me a flu shot, too.
My sister Mary from Tucson visited for a few days. She’s coming out of retirement to go back to her nursing job in Texas and we talked about real things. She was excited about taking control again a year and a half after her divorce. Dare to hope and feel, you know. It was rough for me the first day. The second day I loosened up a bit. By the time she left, I felt better than I had in weeks.
Kathy on the deck in Ranchos. The GODDAMN BUFFALO collection at OpenSea is dedicated to her love & courage. How I miss her. Oh my love.
Apparently I breathe. The blood still pumps, the gift of life remains.
It does? But why—oh, God! I don’t have to die because my Kathy did. If this doesn’t cross a barrier, she and I have both hiked right up to it. I couldn’t save her, but I didn’t kill her. For all the shame I’ve felt for being such a baggage-laden piece of work while she was still alive, she doesn’t blame me now and never did!
Not once. Not ever.
Fear of nothing!
Punishment is self-delivered.
We aren’t what we think we are.
Everything’s all right.
Relieved to see you posting again, John, as I have been thinking of you and this unprecedented time in your life, hoping for another post/update. Such beautiful ongoing tributes to your beloved Kathy in all you write.
Thank you, I appreciate that. I’m gratified the “beautiful ongoing tributes” come through. And thank you for pointing out the unprecedented aspect. That labeling hadn’t occurred to me, probably because my brain is broken from all the stress. It’s guiltless. I like that.
Please keep posting to us. We can remember Kathy only through you. You are able to articulate your pain better than anyone I’ve ever read.
I love the urn.
Have to say this kind of startles me. I mean, I’m glad I do, but I’ve never thought of it like that. Just write what comes into my head. Must be a lot that wants to come out (duh)! This is useful. Thank you.
As for Kathy, absolutely. Guaranteed.
I’m glad you sold the grand piano. I was worried about that. Getting the urn with plans to put other things inside is a beautiful plan. I salute you for that and hope it gives you a lot of comfort. 🙂
For my husband, I got a small vial that is seated in a little velvet heart and it is small enough to keep next to the bed.
Yes. It was like a miracle. After spending plenty on classified ads and special advertising, sending emails all around, etc. I finally opted for a Craigslist ad. The buyer, a retired professional musician from California who’s moved to Santa Fe, popped up in just three days. I even gave him a box of music. He’s ecstatic and plays it every day. His offer was just above my secret “reserve” amount so I didn’t even haggle. It’s absolutely perfect. Kathy must have set it up.
I like what you did with the keepsake vial. Before all this happened, I wouldn’t have understood, but now I do. Thank you.
I talk to PQ (Pba-Quen-nee) Blue Spruce Standing Deer in Tiwa, as I drive around town. Yesterday I told him how beautiful the golden leaves were, and that it had been a beautiful summer that he missed, but I was grateful he didn’t die in winter. Then I talked to him about the progress (snail’s pace) of the road work on Paseo and remembered that he would probably be cursing at the “stupid” way people were driving. I watch film clips of him on Vimeo and YouTube in anticipation of his life story, Man of Many Colors. But what I have to admit is that much of my grief is not for him only but for the part of me that died when he died. Everything changed. Who am I now? I’ve known him for 27 years and we went through many changes and stages, but were actually only married 10 years ago, the absolute culmination of life direction. Then we were together 24/7. I can’t imagine another marriage. I am free to finish the final paragraph of our story, and get cracken on my own story and how I’m going to end it. I cleaned up the garage, got rid of clothes I’ll never wear again, reorganized the pantry, and while it was still green outside weeded, pruned and cut up dead wood. He would have loved that. But now? There is no one to discuss the news with, our breakfast smoothy doesn’t taste good anymore, and the sound of the TV through the open door as I trimmed shrubs or watered is turned off and the silence hums with emptiness. What I realize now, is that he is just fine. He left before his illness became an overwhelming burden. Sometimes, I thank him for his timing but now I have to find a new identity and I can’t take photos out the car window while he is driving. Damm! I have to do the driving now, and I have to tell old friends from out of town that he’s no longer taking calls or doing his Medicine. I’m grieving the me that left with him. I’m groping for a new identity. Who will I become? And, I still feel guilty for trading both of our iPhones in for one new one. I still feel strange when I don’t see his pretty red phone laying on the coffee table while we watch the news. Yes, it’s the loss of my own married to him self that is giving me the most grief. He will be just fine.
I understand perfectly. All of it. “He left before his illness became an overwhelming burden” is true in my case, too. Kathy is just fine as well. Also can’t imagine another marriage.
I have NOT done the cleanups you describe. Still working on getting her studio emptied, Had to rent a second storage unit. Will spend the winter going through everything in this house, tackle both storage units on warmish winter days and in the spring. I’d like to not be here as well (this address, Taos, who knows). Trying to listen to my heart.
I have the exact same who the hell am I and what am I going to do thoughts as you. It’s as if I have no identity any more, since all I ever wanted to do was be with Kathy.
A good friend back in MD lost her husband some years back. This is what she wrote me recently: “Your latest writings remind me of the journal I kept during and after Kent died. Grief hits you in waves at the most unexpected moments. I couldn’t go to the grocery store without crying; I would see things I never ate, but things I used to buy because Kent liked them( like Jello!), and I would lose it. The entire first year was a surreal space of consciousness; I felt unconnected to anyone or anything, although I moved through each day. Taught school, everything. I wrote in that journal every day for 4 years, then I stopped. I no longer needed to…and I remember the first time I felt joy again…it was a little scary and weird, and I had to put aside feeling guilty…one foot in front of the other.”
The parts that stand out to me are this:
The entire first year was a surreal space of consciousness; I felt unconnected to anyone or anything, although I moved through each day.
…and the guilt. She continued:
The guilt for all of that, (especially the I could have, I should have, if only I’d… guilt) fades. Takes a good while.
Good luck to us all!
John – would you happen to be the John Farr who attended and graduated from Bowling Green High School?