Did I say that I wouldn't burden you with any more "sad songs"...any more public laments?
If I did...I lied. (Although, if we were to go back...surely I attached my "never say never" qualifier, adopted since I broke my vow of NEVER retiring!)
I have another "out"...nobody will MAKE you read what follows...that is YOUR CHOICE.
Forewarned is foretold...what follows is a pure wallow-in-the-gutter pity party with only oblique references to Julie. A "traditional" Julie posting will be forthcoming next week, so feel free to leave and come back then!
AUGUST, OUR MONTH...
Ronnie's birthday is the 12th; Julie's the 17th. (I've said it before, I'll say it again...Julie just LOVED the 12th of August! Yes, it was special to her because it was Ronnie's birthday...but the "icing on the cake" was that for five glorious days, Ronnie was 6 years older than Julie!)
"Daddy" Lewis' birthday was August 7th, so on Julie's (and my) behalf, I added a visit to the Mound City National Cemetery to my schedule yesterday (where both Lewis and Eloise are buried, along with my father.)
Brother John was born on August 30th (Brenda shares my birth date!) Niece Kelly checks in on August 13th. Hope I didn't leave anyone out!!!
When I take my morning walks, my mind tends to slip into some unpredictable gear...some "topic of the day"...often not pleasant.
I think this has been accentuated by my recent close encounters with "Eagles"...particularly the first lines of the "Do Something" song: "I've been walkin' through the fields and on the streets of town, trying to make sense of what you left me." (Since this IS a pity party, I'll share what I already shared with a friend...my interpretation of the "fields" and "streets of town"...Green Lawn Cemetery and Cairo.)
Well, the gear I engaged this morning was the approach of the first anniversary of the worst two months of my life...from Julie's diagnosis of a cancerous mass on August 24th to her burial on October 24th. Well, hell, THAT will put pep in your step!
The good thing about walking in the heat and humidity of Cairo during August is that tears simply appear to be a good, healthy flow of sweat. Also, at 6 a.m., you don't tend to "bump into somebody" with whom you might have to pull yourself together and converse.
So, when I went to make my turn and walk through the entry gate to the levee at 8th street, I figured I had it made. But...then that damned flock of "Eagles" descended upon me!
The presence of "Eagles" was not a surprise...had been listening to the "Long Road Out of Eden" album again, but the "specificity" of their message is what took me aback...and took me further down into the depths.
The name of the song is "Waiting in the Weeds".
Well, anyone who has been in Cairo this summer can immediately see the appropriateness of THAT title! (Friend De De is convinced that I'm trying to kill myself. Weapon of choice...lawnmower. Actually, De De's not so concerned with the lawnmower as she is with my choice of waiting to USE the lawnmower until mid-afternoon...with the sun blazing, the temperature in the 90s, augmented by 90 percent humidity. Hey, it's a man thing! And...it has NOTHING to do with depression! The proof of that is my earlier post...that I did the same thing when Julie was around to nag me!)
Now, the argument could be made that I AM pushing the envelope. Due to the aforementioned "weeds", I have "adopted" the corner of 29th and Elm to mow...since the city is content to let the weeds grow to the point of creating a traffic hazard. Since it's "my" corner, I'm afraid it will be somebody I know who will have the accident and possibly get seriously injured! (So, friend, De De, I'm NOT trying to kill myself...I'm trying to keep YOU from getting killed. So, there!)
Whew...just had to get that off my chest!
Back to "Waiting in the Weeds"...
After the Eagles delivered the sign from Julie in "You Are Not Alone" and after I "reached" for other signs in "It's Your World Now" and "Do Something", I indicated to you, Dear Reader, that I was done with "Eagles"! (Didn't I hear somebody just say something about "Never say never?) Well...this morning as I started "anticipating" the coming anniversary, the Eagles paid their visit and as another song goes they "had me from 'hello'". The opening stanza of "Waiting in the Weeds" goes like this:
Well, what can I say? The reference to "August" grabbed my attention and then the "dog days" captured my mood. THAT set me up for the next stanza:
In the context of the song, the stanza is about a love that has ended...the woman (wife or lover) leaving him for the "playboy of the week".
However, as I walked the streets this morning...looking back...it seemed to captured the end of my life with Julie.
Folks, there's still time to turn back! You don't have to go there...I did, you don't!
That final two months...
So many ups and downs. On August 24th...the ER doctor, after telling us he suspected an intestinal blockage, telling us the good news...that x-rays showed NO blockage. A few hours later, a surgeon telling me that the CT scan showed that Julie had an inoperable cancerous mass. A week or so later, a St. Louis surgeon telling us the good news...NO BLOCKAGE...colon perfectly clear. Sent home! September 13th...Julie's oncologist offers her "congratulations"...you are CANCER FREE! September 22nd...9 damn days later...surgery, cancerous mass confirmed...1 to 3 months to live. October 19th...it's over.
When I look back...or as I was this morning...looking "ahead"...the stanza took on a painful, oh-so-true meaning for me..."I don't know when I realized the dream was over...I just slowly watched it fade away."
I said this was a "pity party"...
And I ain't done yet!
They always advise people that go through a tragedy or a loss to "let it out"..."talk about it!" Okay, Dear Reader, thank you for being there for me...
I'm really conflicted over that final month. It's NOT my worst guilt trip, by far, but it weighs heavy on my mind at times. I knew Julie wanted to be home...it's where she was most comfortable (at least if she was not well enough to go on one of her adventures!)
I fought off repeated offers of hospice services. I KNEW that I would not allow her to be placed in a strange environment...THAT was not even a question. Hospice nurses? At this crucial moment, I didn't want Julie to be presented with a set of new faces...especially with the "stigma" that hospice (fairly or unfairly) represents...the giving up of hope...making the final days "comfortable". Julie was NOT a quitter...how could I do anything that might send a message that I was giving up on her?
So, with the help of the local TIP-VNA HomeCare personnel (who had been of invaluable service to Julie over the years and who had become our friends), Rachel and I did our best...
Was it for the best...I honestly think so.
However, I have second thoughts at times...
I look back to "my last days with Julie" and all I see are suction tubes and feeding tubes...blood sugar tests and insulin shots..."taking breaks" instead of "sharing special moments".
I don't even remember "the last moment"...when we shared our last lucid exchange. My last memory of "recognition" by Julie was when her eyes lit up when she saw her old buddy (TIP-VNA Nurse) Pat Dicus enter her bedroom (to help insert a catheter tube). Julie just beamed and made a keening sound!
And...a couple of days later...I wasn't even at Julie's side when she drew her last breath, instead, taking a break, waiting for a return call from her doctor, sitting at the computer, typing the "announcement of her passing"...
IF, always IF...
Had I accepted the offer of hospice nurses at our house...would my memories be different? Would I have had time to share some final, personal moments with Julie if I had allowed others to deal with the life-sustaining efforts while I focused on her? Of course, I'll never know...
BUT...on the other hand, I console myself in knowing that I would have been a total basket case if I had not kept busy...had NOT done all the things listed above.
Damned if you do...damned if you don't.
A final stanza from the Eagles...
When I'm in my morbid mood... STRIKE THAT! A friend sent me an e-mail concerning my mood...describing it as "morose". That sounds so much more positive than "morbid".
When I'm in my morose mood, I tend to look to the future, sometimes downright Biblically, as in "To every thing there is a season..." This morning was definitely one of those times.
When I heard the line..."And though you're with somebody else"...yes, my thoughts turned to Julie and my belief that Julie IS now with God...and that God has embraced Julie in his love, granting her eternal peace and salvation.
However, I am reminded that there are all kinds of love...husband and wife, parent and child, sibling and sibling, our fellow man...God for his creation.
So, when I heard the next line...the final line...I felt consolation. While waiting in the weeds (patiently, trusting in God's timing) for the seasons to change, I know, indeed..."He'll never love you like I do."
Speaking of parties...
With friends like these...I am truly blessed.
Last week, I got invited to a surprise party...for me. What kind of "surprise" party is that, you may ask? Why, it's the kind of surprise party that you throw for someone who already ducked out of an earlier party. I mean, you don't want to throw a surprise party for someone and the "surprise" is that the honored guest was a "no show"!
Think I mentioned all of this earlier (but I'm too morose right now to go back and check)...I avoided the school district "end-of-the-year" retirement luncheon by not turning in my retirement letter until a couple of hours after the luncheon ended. Was totally aware that I could NOT acknowledge the well-wishes of my colleagues without becoming emotional...as in a total blubbering idiot.
True to my morose nature, a couple of hours after accepting the invitation to the surprise party, I changed my mind...just could not deal with it. I mean nothing has changed since June 2nd (the District retirement luncheon) and now...if anything, I'm more emotional now than ever. (Hell, I'm afraid to watch Bugs Bunny cartoons, because I'm afraid that I'll accidentally see the rerun of the opera episode. You remember...where Elmer Fudd shoots Bugs and then wails how he "shot the wabbit...poor little bunny." I would totally lose it! Sniffle, sniffle...)
You think I'm exaggerating? Don't make me cry, now!
After e-mailing my notice that I had gotten "cold feet", I "cried in my beer" (well maybe two beers), sucked it up, and e-mailed again...IGNORE FIRST E-MAIL...I'M IN!
May I digress?
Hey, remember, I told you that you didn't even have to go here...that this was "my pity party"...you were for warned! And, since it's MY party, if I wish to digress...
Actually, I'm "pacing" myself...allowing my emotions to take a rest while I talk about something that makes my blood simmer...
Topic: Cairo School District Retirement Award
When a person retires from CSD #1, they are awarded a token of recognition for services rendered. Short-timers receive a plaque to hang on the wall, but those serving 20 years or more get a "bell". You know...the old "school bell" that the principal or teacher would ring "back in the day" when it was time for school to begin or recess to be over or whatever. There is a "base plaque" with the person's name and the number of years of service. The bell sits atop the plaque.
Well, dammit, we even had to fight over that when Julie retired...the final insult. It wasn't enough that the District fired her (before hiring her back). It wasn't enough that she allowed herself to be bought out with early retirement because of the cancer crisis. NO...the superintendent at that time decided that Educational Support Professionals (secretaries, aides, custodians) were second-class employees...deserving only of a plaque...NOT a bell. Bells (and whistles?) were only for the upper-class...teachers and administrators. Talk about "spoiling the party".
Julie accepted her plaque (while I waged yet another battle for truth, justice, and the American way!) Somewhat later, a former superintendent vouched for "my version" of the facts and informed the current superintendent that there was NO distinction among the employee categories...the only distinction was "less than 20 years" or "20 years or more". So...Julie made out like a bandit! Surprisingly, they didn't ask for the plaque back (guess her name on it kinda hurt the "resale" value) AND she got the bell! (Incidentally...talk about "irony". The superintendent who vouched for the eligibility of secretaries to receive a "bell"!!! He was the same superintendent that was instrumental in firing Julie back in 2002!)
I received a telephone call from the District Central Office this week. My retirement "bell" has arrived and I can pick it up at my pleasure. Now, don't think ill of the District administration...the new superintendent had already sent me an e-mail indicating that the District would find an appropriate opportunity to "present the bell" to me. (They had done this last year for a person who had retired during the summer.) I kindly responded that THAT would be unnecessary...reminding him that the reason I did not get my retirement bell when the others did was because I chose not to...not wanting to put myself through what I knew would be an emotional experience. I told the superintendent to just let me know when it arrived and that I would pick it up. So, that's exactly what he did.
Actually, I don't want the damned thing!
Let me preface my next remark with a "disclaimer": The current superintendent had nothing to do with what I am about to say...his term just began on July 1, 2008. Two of the current school board members had nothing to do with what I am about to say...having been elected to the Board after Julie retired.
Over the past 25 years, various administrators and school board members did everything in their power to make life difficult for Ron and Julie Newell. As we took up the fight for employees wronged by the school district, the administration embarked on a "kill the messenger" agenda. In my heart, I believe for a fact that many individuals were actually trying to cause Julie physical harm, knowing that her health conditions were exacerbated by stress. I even wrote the "vouching" superintendent a letter informing him that if I thought that I had any chance at all of success, I would go down to the State's Attorney's office and file "attempted murder" charges.
Better stop...this was advertised as a "pity party"...not a "Ron's Rant" edition.
So, in conclusion...
A damned school district "bell"...to "honor" my service to Cairo School District Number One? Are you familiar with the saying that ends with "where the sun don't shine"?
But...I will politely pick up my "bell"...probably put it in a filing cabinet drawer. Julie didn't "toss" hers, so I guess I won't either. In fact, Julie's bell is "displayed" on her desk in the computer room. When Julie received it (don't remember if she picked it up herself or I did), she rang the bell one time (doesn't everyone) and then sat it down on the table. That's the last time she touched it.
Guess some would say we were ungrateful. All I can say...could I interest you in a bell?
Back to the party...
My friends are a determined bunch...they want to show their appreciation...they want to share in my "accomplishment"...in my "happiness". And, the clencher...Julie would want me to go...would demand it. Julie was proud of "her Ronnie"...didn't feel that he got enough recognition.
In making my final decision to attend, I fell back on a line from one of my earlier "reached for signs"...a line from the Eagles "Do Something"...the line that went "You can't run away." I've been running from my friends since October 19, 2007. For that, I am truly sorry. I know they understand, but it doesn't make it right. I am sorry...
So...I will put aside my selfishness...will try to contain my "moroseness". I've already warned the "inviter" NOT to expect any speeches from the "honored invitee".
If you notice me get quiet...if you notice my eyes fill with tears...if I excuse myself unexpectedly...I promise, I'll come back.
Since I'm so much into songs lately and by way of explanation, just remember this moldie oldie...
It's my party and I'll cry if I want to, cry if I want to, cry if I want to...