This Yearbook for Alice

This Yearbook for Alice
Mom at the Cabin

In Memoriam — Alice Pfeiffer Deethardt

(August 15, 1922 – April 12, 2012)

Written by John F. Deethardt II

NOTICE:THIS BLOG WILL BE TAKEN DOWN IN FOUR WEEKS. (jfd-from today: 3-6-14)

I live now the “someday” that everyone else will have. I cannot stop the tears. We were married for two-months shy of fifty-four years. It was my privilege and huge good fortune for me to have a lifetime of dedicated care for her with everyday happiness. Mountains of love, and we reached the top where the view was magnificent. What a grand way to live life. How did I get so lucky? I have no answer.

I have to distinguish between “good luck” and “good fortune”. The former is happenstance, random and unforeseen. Good fortune has the hand of intent and drive and coming together to form something. Our marriage began with a plan in the minds of Alice’s friends in Valparaiso, IN, Fred and Edith Wood, to bring us together. That is not “good luck”, but “good fortune” that I can feel so tremendously strongly, vividly, overcome now as I write this. I am now immobilized at the strength of the thought of that love. In the backgound plays the music on the xm-radio the melodies in Elgar’s Enigma Variations. The music with her will never stop. Ever. Everlasting. I am trying here to make you feel it, too, in your emotional tie, for your emotional investment in your significant relationship because everyone should achieve this level of good fortune. Yes, I held that kind of emotion while she lived, even to that highest level, and I did not get this as a result of her death.

Since she was an academic herself, I felt that giving her a life in academia made her feel right at home. What a way to live, a life of thought, surrounded by thinkers, some of the smartest people, artists, scientists, builders of people for the world of endeavor, and those guys and girls were great fun-lovers, too. Then there were the rah-rah weekends, of the cheerful tailgating and battles on fields and courts of fun and games.

The academic life of higher education was a place where Alice thrived. It was really a very good life for us together, a rattling good partnership. You had to see her in that context. She was royal. She and the university president’s wife were great friends, together with many others in administration, departmental chairs, and professors in many different disciplines. She was well liked wherever she went. It was a wonderful life, starting at USC, and continuing at TTU. I will reflect on that, often.

At this point, I am fortunate to have work, a book to write. It will be dedicated to her. “For Alice: It is said, it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. I dedicate this work to my candle-maker, Alice Pfeiffer Deethardt.” I believe it will be one that has the potential to affect every citizen of the United States, concerning something I spent my career teaching. Sound grandiose? Well, I think I can deliver.

I always joked that Alice had the same birthday as Napoleon. One Halloween, Alice and I went to a departmental party being held at someone’s house. Alice wore a Napoleon costume with mask, and sword at the side. I dressed up as Josephine, chartreus tu-tu, mask with long hair, bare legs and jogging shoes. We knocked on the door, they answered. Nobody among all our colleagues knew us until we declared ourselves. Alice had the perfect stature for the part. (Napoleon WAS short. Wasn’t he?)

6-7-8
June Seventh 1958. June Seventh 2008. All this all in one day: a Golden wedding anniversary, a marriage with son number two (Ray), to Rossana, and a proposal of marriage by son number one (John III), to the Colorado nurse of the year, Debbie, the down-on-one-knee bit. This family loves its milestones loaded with events! This family!

I want to add here this bit I had written as it was happening.

[An Interpolation (4-23-12)]

It is now midnight of the 3rd of April as I write to inform you as her friend. I have been cut in half by this experience. We do not know what will happen from here on. The tears will not stop. Jnie and his Debbie and Bubba and his Rossana came to the hospital where we were with her all day. This house is quiet. And empty. She was looking forward to seeing the championship basketball game tonight.
I do not have to tell you anything about her. You know her very well. I knew I married a gem of a person in 1958. The year before, I remember going to her house in Woodstock on December 23, coming late from my teaching job in Valparaiso, Indiana, driving through the darkness and then the Christmas-festive Chicago and rough traffic heading to a wonderland still 60 miles away. I had proposed to her on our first date several months before. (I cannot remember if I dropped to one knee to do the deed. We were sitting on a couch, in the home of friends.) And now I was to give her the ring.

She showed up at the door of that great Victorian home, sparkling in the eyes all the glamour anyone could ever imagine in a beauty queen and a big smile. Lovely. Warm. Open. Energised. Inside myself I was jumping and squeaking — THIS, for me! Check out those nails, perfectly sized and shaped to a rounded point and painted red at the end of hands smooth and creamy and soft to hold. The lashes, ah! The gem-stones here and there flash from any ambient light. The eyes have brief glints. I have told her many times, in a great variety of ways, what a great friendly character she had, and she always pooh-poohed the idea in a pleased way.

She took the ring. I breathed freely. (Was there any doubt?) Thus began our history together.

[End Interpolation.]

Alice is survived by two sons, John F. Deethardt III and Raymond Peter Deethardt, named after Alice’s father who owned and operated the drug store on the Woodstock town square. I am her husband, John F. Deethardt II, Emeritus Professor, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas. We married in 1958.

This memorial is called a “Year-Book” because Alice knows -er- knew yearbooks well. She was for many years a high school year book advisor, at Woodstock, Illinois, Community High School. I also taught there for six years before earning my doctorate and going into university teaching.

It is now the hope of her family, that all those who have known her will do what the high school kids did at the end of the year, when the yearbooks were distributed: sign the books of others and get yours signed by all your friends and acquaintances, and teachers, too. The little comments that were collected scribbled in the yearbook remind one later of all the good times and characters who populated their school life WAY BACK THEN.

Since we know that she has many friends, coast to coast, border to border, this memorial blog requests everyone to write a comment about Alice as she is remembered by all who knew her, “yearbook style”.

Alice was affectionately known as “Pfeiff”.

She was born in Woodstock, Illinois, to Raymond Peter Pfeiffer and Jessie Jewett Pfeiffer.

After she graduated from Woodstock (Illinois) Community High School in 1940, she spent a year at Ferry Hall girls prep school in Lake Forest, IL. She attended Northwestern University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1944.

She became “Pfeiff”, a teacher of English at Woodstock Community High School, 1944-1956, and the year book adviser for many years.

Alice was socially active wherever she lived. In Woodstock, she was secretary of the Woodstock Players, a summer drama group composed of actors (Paul Newman, Shelly Berman, among others) from the Goodman School in Chicago. She also served as an officer of the Woodstock Hospital Auxiliary and edited its newsletter. In addition, she was an officer of the Woodstock Garden Club, and a Red Cross charity volunteer. As a sidelight, Orson Welles attended the Todd School in Woodstock. He would occasionally go downtown and sit at the Pfeiffer Pharmacy fountain. She told me that once her father had to ask him to move on, for some reason. Orson performed plays of Shakespeare at the old Opera House across the square. That square is also where some of the film, “Ground Hog Day” was filmed, and in and around town. That Opera House fell into disuse. When I was teaching in Woodstock, I heard about it. I took a bunch of high school students who were my Thespians down there, and we began the project of cleaning it up so we could mount a play there. Dead pigeons and all the dirt and dust. Later, I directed a Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera there, H.M.S. Pinafore, with townfolk taking part.

She and I moved to Evanston, IL, where I completed studies for the doctorate degree at Northwestern University. We moved to Pueblo, Colorado, for a professorship at Southern Colorado State College (now University of Southern Colorado). After two years, I was given a position as assistant professor at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX., where I finished my academic career.

Alice became chair of the annual fund raising auction of services for Achievement Rewards for College Scientist (ARCS). She was elected to be the University Women’s Club President. She was also a member of the Faculty Women’s Club. Her prominence in university activities probably got me appointed by the president to head the planning of festivities for the 1973-1975 Texas Tech University Semicentennial. It was formerly Texas Technological College, named to service the great hopes of that farming-centered region on the high plains of West Texas.

At my retirement after twenty-one years teaching, I got a dinner, to quote Red Button’s famous comedy act. Everybody in the department and a hundred or more students showed up to surprise me one noon hour downtown. Alice sat with me at the elevated head table. I was so proud of her that day. Soon after, the family moved to Highlands Ranch, Colorado. Our two sons live and work in the Denver Metro area.

She easily made friends, at every stop in several states, because she was inordinately friendly. She was great at socializing, bridge club, faculty bowling league, on and on. (I was a socializing project.) She was well known for her cooking and baking. Her recipe box has concoctions that she collected from all her relatives and friends, named on the cards, and smeared with hints of dough from her sticky-fingering those cards. The cards go back in her family a couple of generations. I will enjoy her raspberry jam and mixed berry jam while it lasts, just a few jars from now.

She loved her bird feeders and spent much time filling and tending them — “ahem”, guess who got that job — for the small birds and the Hummers. (I will keep up the chore as the Alice Memorial Bird Feeding Station. She was a taskmaster for the birds.) She loved her dogs. In childhood, her favorite was “Brittie”, a terrier. After marrying John, their first “child” was an Airdale terrier, “Ruffie”, who jumped on people in greeting them eye-to-eye. After Ruffie came a Miniature Schnauzer, “Muffie”, who had a pup, called “Whiskey”, for her voice. “Whiskey” was the runt of the “litter”, and she was a “litter” of one.

Alice was also a horsewoman with her mare. She was adept at jumping with “Kat”. Her horse was usually at the head of the Woodstock Memorial Day parade, which would pass down West Jackson Street, past the family home two blocks from the town square. Her grandfather built that home, a great Victorian. It is now on the county historical record, the “Emilus C. Jewett House, 1893”.
There was one problem when the parade passed the home. “Kat” would turn into the steps of the house and try to go up the steps. Alice said “Kat” always knew she was in a parade and would strut grandly.

Alice was stricken April 3, 2012, about 3 p.m. Shortly before, she brought me an egg salad sandwich where I was working at the computer. Then she went to her chair in the living room. A short while later, I wanted to ask her something. I walked into the living room 13 steps away. I found her with her head lowered to the left, barely breathing. I took hold of her shoulders to look hard and speak to her, but there was no response.

I went immediately to the phone and called 911, frantic. It seems that as soon as I finished the call, the responders were at the front door. Time at these moments was not functioning properly in my head. They moved some furniture, laid out their stretcher and put Alice on it, and carried her to the ambulance. A policeman took me to the Littleton Adventist hospital emergency room in his patrol car. Hemorrhagic stroke was the diagnosis. Blood vessels rupture, starving the brain cells; they die. Alice lingered for nine days. All of the questions you can imagine stood in front of us shouting, “what to do?” It was terribly difficult to see such a powerful personality undergo the process. You may fault me for giving such graphic details, but, well, that’s life.

Toward the end, I was rubbing her foot on the left side of the hospital bed. Her right side was paralyzed. I felt her left foot nudge me. She’s talking! That had to be volitional, I was sure. I put my hand in hers. I felt a light squeeze. That, too, had to be volitional. In her way, she responded to me, silently, nonverbally.

As she lay on that bed, mute, except for the heavy breathing, I had received two life-closing signs. She was affirming something, in both signs. Prizes. Keepers forever. In this very quiet catastrophe sneaking up on me, I had an overwhelming realization of the magnitude of magnificence of what I had had for years, but now it is going away, far and away from me. We never fought. We never argued. We were perfectly agreeable. We discussed. Something wonderful and immensely beautiful has passed my way and then, away.

Your Comments, Please!

One example of a comment we received from a good friend of Alice will be the first comment.

[BEGIN QUOTE]

Tribute to Alice Pfeiffer Deethardt

Alice was my oldest friend and dearest childhood friend. Our friendship began in the third grade and has never faltered. Somewhere along the way, we developed the mantra, IS MY MA THERE? It stemmed from the fact that our mothers played bridge together and we might be able to reach them via a telephone call made to Dean or Jackson Street. I can’t remember exactly when the nicknames of ALFIE BELLE and MAGGIE LU originated, but they remained permanent. Even though Alfie Belle went to Northwestern University and I to the University of Illinois, our friendship never faltered.

Alfie Belle was a dear and wonderful person and I shall miss her always.

With much love, Maggie Lu (Margaret Phillips Steinam)

[END QUOTE]

The staffs of the year book she advised (WOODCOHI) over many years wrote acknowledgements and dedications galore, typically, such as this: (Under the picture of Alice E. Pfeiffer)

[BEGIN QUOTE]

This is our expression of all the things we feel inside about a grand person, Alice E. Pfeiffer. It is only through her guidance and her efforts that we are able to assemble this year book.We deeply appreciate the tact and originality with which Miss Pfeiffer has coordinated our ideas. Working with “Pfeiff” has been a delightful experience; her generosity, her ingenuity, and her sparkling wit have made a lasting impression of a lovely association.

[END QUOTE]

And the picture? What a “babe”! Yes! Yes! I know! I was one of the luckiest lottery winners ever to take in a haul! You can have your mega-millions! I got mine in 1957 when I bought my ticket (proposal) and claimed the jackpot (the wedding) in 1958.

The purpose of this blog is to harvest as many comments as there are people who knew, respected, and cared for Alice, coast to coast, border to border, friends, former students and neighbors.

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To My Dearest Wife, Alice—


—On what would have been your ninetieth birthday, August 15, 2012, I remember a beautiful human being and a great and highly accomplished woman. But that’s not easily made special because I remember every day.

Mother Nature and Father Time have had their say about our remaining together forever in the live mode we experienced for many years. I cannot be realistic. Forever is my style of forever. I know there is no forever. But even after what many other people would consider a great many years and, as they may think, I should be satisfied with that. Not so! I am greedy for you; there was not enough time together in our nearly fifty-four years, over half a century, over five decades, 648 months, 19,710 days, 2,816 weeks, 473,040 hours.
Well, when it is put that way, it counts for a long time, doesn’t it. But looking forward, as we did in our beginning, it seemed impossibly long. Now, looking backward, it seems to have been a very short time, and not enough because my pleasure in being with you was so great I didn’t want it to end, ever.

I remember once saying something half silly-like, “Alice, when we grow old and my nose should drop off, would you still love me and stay with me?” I remember that you seemed to be eager to and said: “Of course!” ” Sure!” Or, “O, yes!” I was always looking for signs that you were with me and liking it. You were too stingy with those signs, I thought at times. I always wanted more. As I say, I was greedy for you.

Why was I an Alice -glutton? Your beauty. Your almost indescribable attractiveness, defying description. But I will try. You have qualities that gave me great pleasure in every sense. You have many physical features that I loved to look at, such as your nails, long, rounded toward, but not pointed and painted with a dazzling red, and on hands that were soft and creamy.

Your crowning glory was brunette-ish, then silver and shiny and perfectly controlled. Your dresses were always worn well and neatly and sparklingly adorned. I do not exaggerate with the “always” word.

You knew every social grace in whatever you did and wherever you were, even in our own home. Your memory was excellent for many a detail, whatever I questioned you about. You were beautifully social in conversation, and showed a fundamental eagerness with everyone you entertained at home or away. You knew the birthdays of all your, and our friends and seldom failed to take note of it to the person being celebrated. I found your birthday list with marks of check-off for the recent date. Christmas, too, got the same notations.

Beauty is a hard thing to pin down, being by its nature overwhelming and disarming, as your model of it has taught me.

I think it goes to things like cooking. If we were together for 19,710 days, then there was the possibility of cooking three meals for each of those days, outside possible number would have been three times that number of days, for 59,130 meals cooked. But I must discount that by, let’s say, arbitrarily, %20, for times away and eating out, days of illness, and as I started to cook my own breakfast (except on the pancake days). That would sum corrected to 47,304 meals over fifty-four years.

Many of those were the complete holiday dinners with many of your delicious trimmings made in an old-fashioned way, with specialties like your beautiful and famous dinner rolls.

Those were the days over all those years, filled with your incomparable kitchen beauty. And then, out of respect, I began doing the dishes. So we had the proverbial chief cook with her bottle washer.

For each occasion, you had your special dresses, and you could put on a holiday face that I did not see every day; your face glowed especially bright from the heat of the kitchen and the heat of excitement of putting on your holiday show with family and friends. It was made increasingly festive by you and with you. Beautiful!

Your voice was and still is pleasant to the ear.
(It still answers the phone when it has to.) You could play the piano but never did, and that is a fault. I would coax you to do it, and you wouldn’t. Same with the violin, you would not take my dad’s old (1902??) copy of a Stradivarias and play for me. We sang in the choir, and I enjoyed watching you and hearing you from the back row in the choir loft.)

We blazed trails of moving and living in large, beautiful homes in several cities. The old Victorian in Woodstock, IL, was my beginning with you. I, you, and the two boys were the first family ever to have moved out of that home since it was lived in by your family, and since it was built in 1893 by your grandfather.

We rented a town home in Evanston, IL. From then on we owned every house we lived in: Pueblo, CO; Lubbock, TX; and Highlands Ranch here in Colorado.

We built two lake-front homes in Colorado, one on Shadow Mountain Lake, and one on Grand Lake, which proved to be grand investments. We owned and lived in two big and beautiful homes, one on Janey Lane, overlooking Lake Granby and the mountain range to the east, with the profile of a sleeping Abe Lincoln, etched against the sky, by the ridgeline of the Rocky Mountains to the east, especially beautiful at sunrise. One home, the most recent we owned in the Grand Lake environs was on the Soda Springs Ranch. It was sold at the time of your passing. Two momentous events at the same time, strangely mixing family feelings. You were spared the very strenuous exertions of that just one more time having to move, a very large amount of furniture, appliances and decorations to be disposed of (rather, stuffing our garages).

We will never forget owning a lake-front home on Possum Kingdom Lake in Texas.

In Highlands Ranch we have owned four homes. In Grand Lake, four homes. Overall, owning eight homes, renting one, and building two from the ground up. The main point we must consider is that you, Alice, were the prime organizer and mover of all our goods in every sweaty move we made, and there were many; you have left written records in notebooks of every stick of furniture and piece of porcelain, china and dishware. That, I maintain, is an important facet of your beauty, in the notes you have kept, of every thing we owned, including the titles of all the books, and my graduate school records of expenses, and expenses of every trip we ever took together. All, I discovered in going through your papers.

There, in your “labor”, is another look at your beauty, in producing two children, who also have the beauties with which you endowed them. Me, too! But the main point is viewing you as a “Mom”. I do not have to tell the boys what that was. You, Alice, actually glowed in your mothering. You were first rate, in proving the principle that mother’s love is unconditional! (My love proved the alternative, as they expected of fathers.) Actually, you did all the getting up in the middle of the night, and the diaper-changing, and bathing, and feeding, and all else, not to forget the original pain of bearing.

As long as I am able, I will keep you bound up inside my memory of your spirit and in everything I do, and see, and say, I will take you with me. I will have all the help I want from all the beauty I see around me wherever I go because the beauty of your person comes to me with every note of the music I love. The music that overwhelms me with tears of the extreme beauty of certain melodies and themes I immediately relate to the beauties I see in you. Somehow I associate the two. The beautiful music is Alice.

Other forms catch me relating them to Alice’s beauty, the beauty of natural phenomena of the golden sunset and the morning freshness of the glistening dew on the grass at dawn. Your birds sing of your beauty as they peek around the feeder to find you and thank you.

You show up when I look at your boys favored with your handsome features. I listen to the world famous choir and you are there in the harmonies that thrill me with the blend of the voices of all the men and all the women, forceful and soft as you were.

For just one instance, the final part of the last act of “Der Rosenkavalier” is so especially beautiful that I can never get past it without seeing you in all that glorious blending of the voices of a multitude of women and men, singing together of you, my dearest. I do not know why beauty felt in many ways brings the tear drops I am embarrassed by, but then I no longer care because it is more important for me to feel the loss deeply than to stifle its result.

All the very religious people say to me, softly, I will see you again. That is their comfoting tone and thought. That is their habit. I want to tell them that my tears are not of that joyful prospect, but of the alternative, a great beauty in my life gone forever and never again to be seen except in the eyes of my mind for beauty.

She had the qualities that gave pleasure to my senses, and giving still in her absence. She was an outstanding example of beauty. Everyday life with such sensual pleasure in a person is different from living without that beauty. One result is regret. I have remorse that I did not do more to disclose to her my appreciative thoughts about her. Just like she did once for me, saying she liked my hair. I treasure that memory.

You are where you are, and we all will be there, someday. Some I know, even in this family, have a very certain view of that place. I have no such comfort, and you, Alice, knew that about me. I am not absolutely certain how you felt about that but I think you shared my view. That is why I feel the need to live my here and now so vibrantly with you within my vivid memory. Since you were such a beautiful person, I see you in every part of my living experience that brings me beautiful feelings. That is why I have surrounded myself with pictures of you, and you in them in some way hugging me.

I was always a glutton for any and all assurances that you cared for me as I cared for you. I could never take for granted that it was true, and I needed proof and verification. I could not just assume or presume that you were actually feeling for me what I felt for you. I had to pinch myself often to verify that you were with me. Even after so many years, I would look at you and wonder at my great good fortune that you chose me.
I told you that. Yet, I could not appear to be cloyingly possessive. I had to set some small distance to admire, but not from afar.
To me, you had special powers of attraction. Words fail me to precisely define what that was, but I gave it this try. I could re-write this, and make it better. That, I will continue to think about, the rest of my life. There are some new thoughts that will occur. I know.

Thank you, Alice, for making me the man in your life. I will live with your beauty in my memory for as long as I live. In everything beautiful, I will see you, and remember, to my dying moment.

John

(This was written 125 days, or four months, after Alice died. Alice would have been 90 years old, today, Wednesday, August 15, 2012. She died early in the morning of Thursday, April 12, 2012)

Thoughts on Finality

I have been cut in half. A widower. Alone for the first thirty-one years. Sharing our lives for nearly fifty-four years. Alone again to the end. Left with what has been called a heavy heart. She would have been ninety in several months. That sounds like a good life-span, doesn’t it. And a nicely lengthy marriage, right? What more could you ask for?

Well, I’d like to tell you. I am six weeks, or forty-two days (and counting) from the beginning of this greatest loss that anyone might experience, if you loved as much as I have. The weeping will not cease. How do I weep? Tears, and a face full of anguish, with some muffled sound. And words, “Why?” “I miss you so.” I cannot write that without welling up.

You will, too. Someday.

May I advise you? There are some aspects that may help you anticipate this event that must surely be realized beforehand. You should not care how long in the future your event may take place. Be ready for it!

For your basic information:

There is a book, entitled, The Checklist of Life.

There is a book, To Our Children’s Children.

There is another book of peripheral interest. The Homeowner’s Record Keeper.

Those are books of ideas. Some of my ideas follow, ideas I wish I had had before now, but did not. The lonliness could be assuaged to a great extent by these means.

My sons enjoy calling me because they can hear her voice on the answering machine. Doesn’t that suggest something to you? That is but a scrap of what could have been. Start now, when you are both young, systematically building a video or film library or scrapbook of active events, voices and images in typical behavior of each of you. I’d bet millions already have that substantially ongoing. You will treasure it when you are again alone.
The technology for that is now rather cheap and easy to handle.

  • Make voice recordings of serious interactions on the feelings and thoughts of each of you on serious topics of end-of-life issues;
  • what should be done with the remains, buried or cremated;
  • how you want your estate divided;
  • the enumeration of everything in the estate;
  • what pieces of furniture and clothing and other items in the “hardware” of your life should go to certain people, or otherwise disposed of.
  • Where are all the keys kept?
  • Where are all the important papers, tax forms, wills, deeds, bank statements, and so forth?
  • What bills are to be paid and how are they paid? It is important that both have full knowledge of home accounts. Some spouses have full control of those accounts and do not instruct the mate in those procedures. Accounts should be set up with the latest accounting procedures which can be understood by both partners.

One very important issue is this, making a living will concerning the extent of measures to be taken to save your life. There is the DNR, “Do Not Resuscitate”, order to doctors. There will be family discussion of issues surrounding the “Quality of Life” that the person will have after resuscitation. What “quality of life” is must be discussed well before the serious event occurs. Is he or she to be kept alive at all costs? How serious will the debilitation be? Such an issue must be discussed in every family, while they have health and full control of their thinking. What does each family member want?

Visit each photo-portrait of family forebears, ancestors, hanging framed on the home walls. Get all those who know the names and dates behind those pictures to tell you, as you write down, the names and dates of those folks who constitute your youngsters’ blood line.

It should be arranged so that the one who can cook and keep house the best should be the last to die.

I can see a couple, while both are very healthy, lying in bed, in the dark, before going to sleep, over a period of time, having important conversations about the many aspects of life about which each is curious how the mate sees it. The list of topics is bottomless.
“If I were suddenly taken away, what do you think you might do?”
“Would you stay in this house?”
“In this town?”
And so it would go, one question of “what if” leading to another.
I cannot say that I personally had that talk often. But I have imagined having it often. I think it would be interesting, and very important, anticipatory talk.

I believe that the perfection of a relationship can be raised by mutual curiosity, fidelity, loyalty, and openness. All topics are permissible, submissible, and tolerated. Ideally, in talk, all things are possible. Mutual trust, curiosity, loyalty, fidelity. No secrets. And most important: two-way traffic of love-talk. Each enumerating the qualities of the other. Spontaneously. Out of the blue. Because the one takes acute notice of the other, is an astute observer of the other. Thus constantly affirming the sterling, no, golden quality of the relationship, rejoicing in it. Celebrate it out loud, at times actually jumping and squeaking all for it! Make up and give a cheer, yea rah! for it. Catch him or her in his or her unawares.

In any final pronouncement, can you say, you never fought? never argued? worked out differences amicably? compromised at crucial times? traded favors equally? affirmed out loud that you have had a good partnership, and felt it strongly?

Death and the Thereafter, Without Salvation (Q.E.D.)

Fifteen days after my first meeting the fact of death, I am contemplative. Previously to that, I had a philosophical acquaintance with death and dying. I did not have the aloneness as I speculated and philosophized. There is no lively and immediate return of love, from a picture, a photo. And I have several photos at hand. I can imagine a return, but the spontaneity and any new nuance she could give to her return of affection is missing, for I believe such an emotion changes ever so gradually over time because it is dynamic.

Would you believe this? I will stare at her picture a long time and imagine the lips moving in speech and the eyes moving. In a sense, I am trying to hallucinate her, perceiving what is not there, have an illusion of her. I may succeed in reanimating her in a dream, but for that, all I get are dream-like symbolic manifestations of her. I dream of something having to do with the “abandonment” metaphors. Or the search for something I’ve lost. There are other themes, too.

Every couple should watch those expression of love for shades of change, for a certain dynamism, or lack or increase thereof, and “read” it. If it seems “static” to you, or canned, or rote by memorization, time may be ripe for new moves of some invention. Or perhaps it has moved backward, lessend. If it is more and more dynamic, intense, then, something has changed, a growing jealousy, perhaps, or some such. Falling out of love will certainly be readable.

We have the poet William Cullen Bryant’s view of death in his “Thanatopsis”, written with the bravura of a seventeen year old. Death for the young does not have the normal context of the aged and the ages, when and where the perfection of completeness arrives as the proper context, and where the weaknesses in normal functions arrive at a state of extreme, irremediable ruin and misfortune begins to appear, portents of the coming catastrophe.

I am old. I view the comforts and promises of religion with disdain. Do I wish I could see her again? Yes. Feverishly. Do I have hope I will see her again? I do not have that hope. I cannot and be truthful about death’s finality. But I can see birth and life going on.

To me, you had special powers of attraction. Words fail me to precisely define what that was, but I gave it this try. I could re-write this, and make it better. That, I will continue to think about, the rest of my life. There are some new thoughts that will occur, I know.

There are other egos to be born. The material that made her and that made me have not been destroyed. The simplest structural units of the great compound of her body, we are assured, can neither be created nor destroyed. But perhaps re-formed?

She was, as are we all, part of the energy that operates in the universe. The building blocks, the material of all matter, had a part in forming her originally and will always be around for further constructions of life. Her like will be recycled as another being and given an ego as a function of the environment the new ego is given.

Her molecules of energy have been returned to the system, except for a small bit of ash, our keepsake. If there is a higher power in the universe, that is its plan.

However, that is this universe. Now they have come to the notion that there are other universes. Ours is not alone. In the imensity of unimaginable universal space, I hold on lovingly to only one image of one being that gave herself to me for an infinitesimally minute bit of time, close to zero, that seemed to me like forever. And that imagining is my higher power, that I have a brain for it. I shall revivify her image as often and as much as I can, until I pass.

I am well aware that this goes beyond the beliefs of many who may read it. But you should not deny me my beliefs, which in no way interfere with yours. I have lost a beautiful human being who knew of my beliefs. She neither favored nor rejected my beliefs. We had each other, and I speak for her in this matter. She may have tolerated, perhaps even assented to my way of thinking. Is silence consent, as many will say? We never argued about my beliefs, and a I asserted them frequently, especially in a political context.

Q.E.D.

What Seems Right About Cremation?

I slept through the night at home okay. I will miss her more and more. I am talking to her but only the walls give back the sound of my own voice. Alice shouts out to me in every part as she was last to see it. There is no hope she will ever be here again, I am sick to say.

4-23-12

The call came this morning to come pick up Alice’s cremains. Bring the urn they gave you when you subscribed to the service of the Neptune Society. I began shaking, visibly. Never before have I done that, and it continues to this moment. It’s a strange feeling. I scrambled three eggs. And made tea. Toast with a tiny bit of her raspberry jam. Still shaking, not from hunger. I am not able to trust myself to drive across Denver.

This is the eleventh day of being alone. Thirty-one years alone, before fifty-four years with her. Now alone again, counting the days. I called a friend and asked, what did you do to cope with being alone after your husband died. She continued serving her patients. Worked. I also have my work. I am writing a book. Actually, I was always pretty much of a loner. So I will get used to it. Again.

I may not have religion, being a man without a prayer, but I have an attitude. I call it a philosophy, and define philosophy as a statement that attempts to account for all that is known by me as I have slurped up my account from all the sources of which I am the sum. I have always striven to broaden my view to an all-encompassing outlook on life on Earth. (I once was a member of the World Future Society.)

I think of religion as somebody else’ statement adopted by the individual without the grand search for one’s own authorship of a statement. The religious statement is inculcated in childhood, usually. It seems to me that burial six feet under will become the waiting station before the resurrection to come. The body must be there to arise.

Cremation is a release of all the energy that was bottled up in a human form, and the molecules are best released like air from a baloon to mingle with the future energy to be withdrawn, as from a bank, to make another investment in a living form. Cycles of recycling, We breathe the former lives of others, in two ways at least, actually, or their products in the words and notes they created and invented.

Am I borrowing too heavily from the Laws of Thermodynamics? I do not understand those laws the way true scientists know them, but I am doing the best I can with my outsider’s ability to comprehend. After all, I am, as are all people, a subject of those laws. I should consider how and why I am “obeying” them. Eh?

Writing this has alleviated my shaking somewhat. It’s bibliotherapy.

[By the way, cremation is the preferred way for the best environmental stewardship. A new ecological virtue. Foreseen is a great problem with space on Earth and a certain aspect of pollution from burial and casket material. The material chemicals that are injected in the body for preservation will eventually go somewhere, and you can imagine that. As the water table rises and engulfs the casket, well, you may imagine what will happen with that, too.]

Today, Tuesday, 4-24-12, I went to pick up Alice’s ashes. It was a long drive back from Northern Denver area. Of course I was weeping the minute I entered the man’s office to do that last bit of business, missing….. missing….. missing………desparately missing …..her. I put . . . “her” . . . in the seat where she usually rode. Joe said he has seen disinterments. Nobody would want that to see. I believe we did the right thing, after all. We have pictures of her. I wish I had some recordings of her voice. There is that telephone greeting message the sons want me to keep. I will. Any scrap I can get. I would advise making recordings and footage of film. We have put on DVD old films, which came too late for her to see herself as a very young child. At least we can enjoy seeing her again.