A collection of distilled sarcastic wisdom, numerous photographs, discussions of books and stuff to learn and more stuff to think about from a retired economics professor turned blogger and photographer.
You may get tired of photos of Lone Peak and Mt. Timpanogos before the winter is out but I don't have the flowers of St. George to photograph any longer. Anyway, the mountains assume a different pose every day throughout the day as the light changes, the snow level changes, and as the atmosphere changes. So get used to it.
The craggy outcroppings and snow fields at the top of Lone Peak
Carolyn Nielson wrote: (This post originally appeared on Facebook but is reproduced here for a more permanent record)
I've been thinking about all the things I'm thankful for and wanted to share the experience that our family had with Hearts for Hospice and Home Health. We were able to bring my Mom home for her last two days where she could be in familiar surroundings with family. We could not have done it without the care and compassion of these amazing professionals who care every day just like my Mom who are at the end of life. They showed us how to care for Mom when they weren't there and allowed us the privilege of attending to Mom in her last hours. Every one of these people deserve our sincere gratitude. . . from the driver who brought her from the hospital (who routinely works 12-14 hour days and says he does it as a way to serve and help others) to the amazing music therapist who came and played the guitar and sang to Mom for 45 minutes. She had the most sweet and calming voice that truly spoke peace to all who were there! When I expressed our appreciation to the hospice nurse and told her how grateful we are to people like her who do this difficult job, she replied that she feels blessed to get up every day and go to a job that she loves. Clearly, this is much more than a job to these people who care for those at the end of life (and their families) with such Christ-like love and compassion. So, thank you, you have blessed our lives.
As Velna's husband, I add my tearful appreciation of Carolyn's beautiful words. To you wonderful and saintly people at Hearts for Hospice, our family sends our love and our forever appreciation for giving us the peace and light we needed as Velna ended her time on earth.
I want to thank all of my loyal blog readers for following my posts and especially for sending reassuring and comforting comments. Your concern and affectionate support have been so appreciated as I begin my journey to a new and lonely life. I know that I am not alone when I can reach out and have others hold my hand and share my loss and share my tears. I also thank blog readers from all over the world who have read my posts. You are welcome to send comments and share in the universal heartache that accompanies loss and the difficult task of rebuilding one's life and finding new ways to discover hope and gain the strength to move ahead. The acts of kindness, love, and help that I have received in the past month will forever be a bright light in my path as I seek to find my way. Thank you all and bless you all. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
After a lapse of several days, I sat down at my computer and turned it on, not knowing whether I would try to write anything else or not. The main reason for the lapse is that my son Jim and daughter in law Sharman took me to St. George so that I could sort through a 20 year accumulation of household items and furniture so that we can sell our St. George condo. We signed with a realtor. I went through everything in the house and decided what to bring north and what to toss. We bought our St. George condo on a whim in 1995 on an August day when the temperature was about 115 degrees and it has been our safe haven ever since. For five years while I was still teaching, we went only on occasional weekends. Beginning in 2000, we spent five or six months out of every year in St. George. We loved our condo area, our neighbors, the red bluff scenery, and the peaceful and happy feelings that we enjoyed for 20 years. Once we signed with a realtor and began boxing up the belongings we wanted to save, I realized that St. George is no longer my home and I was anxious to leave before I felt any more pain and disappointment. I couldn't have been more blessed than to have Jim and Sharman work so hard to take care of Velna's things and to box up everything else we want to save. Jim will rent a truck a little later on and bring up whatever furniture anyone wants to have.
Yesterday was Saturday so I took a shower, put on my BYU tee shirt, popped some popcorn and got ready to watch the BYU game. At five o'clock, the only visitor for the day came when a lady knocked on the door canvassing to see who was coming to the neighborhood Christmas party. At least she noticed my BYU shirt so I guess that made it worthwhile that I had worn it all day. Today is Sunday. I can't quite get to where I want to watch the string of BBC programs saved on my TV set. I keep the TV on part of the time just so there is some motion on the screen but I can't focus on what is happening. I can't focus long enough to begin reading again.
I will miss the opportunity of taking pictures of flowers most of the winter in St. George since the only thing I have to take photos of in the south Salt Lake Valley is Lone Peak and Mt. Timpanogos and I already have a couple of thousand pictures of every crag and rock and valley on these mountains.
I know there are many people who live by themselves. But not too many people dated their spouse for three years and then were married nearly 63 additional years. Maybe some day I can tune out some of the most painful memories and start looking for new ways and new thoughts and be grateful for new days. Neighbors, family, and friends have been unbelievably compassionate and supportive. One of our St. George neighbors brought me a gift of an angelic figurine as a gift from the neighborhood. I still don't quite know why I am still here when I have had so many health issues over so many years. But here I am. I hope I can find my way and pick myself up to be of help to my family and as many other people as possible despite my mobility restrictions. Thank you all for your faithful support of my writings and my blog. I just wish I could hear from more of my family members so that I can feel more connected despite my lonely existence.
Velna as a teenager in the middle, sister Evetta on left, sister Joyce on the right
Velna's family was the most important, the most lasting, the clearest focus of her greatest concern, love, and attention. One of her last pleas to me was "Who will send out the cards?" For many years, Velna made sure that each member of our family received a birthday card in the mail with a hand written message. Grand children and great grandchildren received a dollar bill for each year of their age until they reached 10. She always thought the children would feel richer if they had a handful of dollar bills rather than a five or a ten. Some months were a struggle for her as she kept up her birthday vigil. Until lately, she would go in the store, no matter how painful or how sick she felt, and look for just the right cards for the children. And, of course, every one else got one of her photo cards with my pictures and our handwritten messages. She often felt sad that she never received a response from most of those for whom she labored so hard to make sure they got a birthday card. She looked forward to hearing from everyone and she some times lamented that she wasn't sure why she kept making such an effort to keep her birthday watch. I told her that maybe she was doing it for herself and that perhaps some time the reward would be forthcoming, however belatedly.
When our family was young and we had only a few small children, Velna inaugurated the first of many family reunions which were held in places like Afton, Wyoming; San Diego, Park City UT, Heber UT, up the Poudre River near Fort Collins CO; Sedona AZ, Marble Falls TX, and Lake Tahoe. Velna did all of the work and planning and food ordering for the early reunion and others took over and did the work for many of the other get togethers. These annual reunions were often the only opportunity that cousins had to get acquainted with each other as our family decided they needed to disperse from California to Texas to Utah. Velna treasured these biennial gatherings as among the most important events in her life.
Velna lined up nineteen individual photos of her grandchildren on one wall, and nineteen high school graduation pictures on the opposite wall. She made sure that she had large family group photos to post on the wall. She left about 30 or more photo albums she laboriously compiled, a legacy that we need to work on as a family project to make sure the family history and family photos in these photo books are preserved for all of our family.
I strongly feel that what Velna would want most as her family legacy is for each of us to do everything possible to strengthen our family, to support one another, to pay more attention to each other. Velna was always so grateful, so very thankful, for phone calls, for those who took time to come by and see her, to check on her and lift her spirits.
I was touched by various comments that were made during and after Velna's funeral. The Hospice coordinator told me that he sensed a feeling of great peace the moment he stepped inside our door, and he told me, surprisingly, that this feeling was rare in his work because of the turmoil so obvious in so many families. Our wonderful LDS bishop has told me many times how impressed he is with our family, with our strength and the obvious love and support we give one another. My sister Judy used my Curmudgeonly Professor blog and our family blogs during a lesson she gave on how to use blogs to strengthen the family.
I still don't know why my life was spared and why I am still here. As long as I am here, I want to honor Velna's family legacy and her unconditional love she had for every family member by doing all I can to continue to strengthen our family. We need to let the past slide into history and go forth from this day with a commitment and promise from each family member to live up to the example that Velna left as an eternal gift of love for each one of us. May I make a few humble and heartfelt suggestions?
First, several of you commented voluntarily to me that we need to pay more attention to each other. We let too many days, too many weeks, too many years go by, content with our own busy schedules, our own immediate households, without realizing the great good, comfort, and support that we need to extend to everyone in our family. One of Velna's last and most heart-tugging comments was, "Why is everyone paying so much attention to me?" We need to pay more attention to each other through good times, as a matter of continual concern, and not wait until a crisis emerges in someone's life before we realize that we need to pay attention to them. We may wait too long. We need to send more hand written notes and cards. I have been grateful in my loneliness and sadness for a two word text message. We need to share unconditional love as we work to strengthen our family.
I want to express my unconditional commitment and love for each member of our family, for the children, grand children, and great grandchildren. You are my greatest legacy, my unbounded treasures of life. I value each and every one of you, not only for the good lives you have already lived, for your substantial accomplishments, for the unselfish service so many of you have spent so much time giving to others, but for what each of you will still accomplish as you continue to channel your lives, energies, and thoughts away from your own special interests and toward lifting, helping, and inspiring others to achieve the highest goals they can reach. I know I am far from perfect, and that I have many things I need to work on as long as I am still here. But if I can ever offer a word of support, an expression of love, some harmless advice, you know where to find me.
Everyone I see asks me "How are you doing?" I'd like to say, "I'm doing better, thank you", and I try to say something even a little bit positive. Actually, I'm not doing as well as I hoped I would be doing by now. I still have a dark cloud of malaise hanging over my head. I feel like Joe Btfsplk from the comic strip Li'l Abner which anyone my age remembers reading for 40 years. Joe was the harbinger of gloom and doom, going around with a black hat and a dark cloud hovering over his head. The events of the past several weeks are still too new, too raw, too close to wellsprings of tears and painful heartache. I wake up from a nap in my chair and I still reflexively glance over at your chair and I am still stunned at times when I realize you are not there. I see even little things, your nail file, your nail clippers, the lap desk I bought you several years ago that you used daily for your crossword puzzles, and memories flash before my eyes. I probably am doing a bit better. I don't feel quite as rotten for quite as many hours each day.
The second question I get asked frequently is, "How do you spend your day?" I say in response "I try to keep busy", but actually I spend my days only remotely connected to reality. I try to watch television at night and watch the Utah Jazz and BYU and a few other teams, but I really don't concentrate on the games. The TV just gives some awareness of something else in the room. I even have to admit I watch some of the Hallmark soap operas. Of course, so many of them are about losing spouses and then getting life back together again. But at least these sagas are safe and clean. I have tried to read but I still can't focus long enough to get past two or three pages. I throw the garbage out of the morning papers and get them ready for you, but you are not there to do your morning crosswords. I try to read a few items in the papers, but I don't really care that much about what I read. Even the comics we loved like Pickles don't even seem funny any more because we can't share anything. I try to cook a few things but I just finished my fourth night of Sharman's quiche last night and now I have to find something else. I can see why single people dread cooking and improvise in any way possible to get something to eat. I am still not very hungry and I have to force myself to eat. But the good news is that my weight is down to 245 today. Imagine. I haven't weighed 245 since we left Fort Collins Colorado for Provo in 1980 or was it 1981? You're not here to correct my wrong dates any more. I wanted to be as healthy as possible so I could care for you as long as possible.
There are still so many complications from your leaving. Russell and I spent several hours yesterday at Zion's Bank and then at home getting your bank accounts and credit cards canceled and getting everything, including bill paying, transferred over to my name. Why didn't you take a few minutes and explain how you paid the bills before you left? You took over the bill paying decades ago and never gave me any money, maybe an occasional twenty dollar bill, and I had no idea how to do it. Now I am finding out. You never had an overdue bill in your life but I had to settle two of them this morning. Our bank accounts were temporarily frozen once the bank got wind of your passing. You can thank Russell when you next see him for saving me from so many problems with so much patience and consideration.
I wake up in the night and the memories start churning, churning. I never know what is going to come up. I stay awake for an hour or two, usually, before I can get back to sleep. I can't get used to the feeling of loneliness that comes from the sharp awareness that no one else is in the house. Even when you were napping, I was still comforted by your presence, by simply knowing you were there, that you would read my daily blog posts and tell me how well they were written but would I please use fewer words and make them shorter, that you would admire my flower photos and tell me how beautiful they were, that you would tell me that whatever I cooked for supper was delicious even though I knew I had partially scorched something or cooked something the wrong time, or left something out. Now I am reduced to memories of years and events both close and far away, and I marvel that you and I were able to accomplish so much together despite the many problems we had to conquer along the way.
Ironically, I derived so much strength from you despite your chronic pain. You never failed to encourage me. You objected when I asked you "Where are you going?" when you got up from your chair, but I thought I needed to know. You also didn't like my other hypochondriac question when I had a new symptom, "Do you think it's something serious?". I tried to pattern my life more after you and your example as the years went by. I tried to worry less, to be kinder, to feel that I had some purpose and that I should keep going. Now I have the echoes of your supporting words to guide me for the rest of my life.
Above all, I don't want to fail your expectations and the unconditional love that you shared with me for nearly 63 years.
I posted this yesterday, but Facebook didn't pick up the narrative. So I'm trying it again today to see if it will post to Facebook. You may have already seen it.
Three weeks ago from this evening you left us. During this time we have all had to learn so many things, to have our faith tested and challenged in infinite ways that are difficult and almost impossible to understand. Everyone keeps telling me and reassuring me that I will get better. I realize one of the reasons I crashed so hard was not only because of your leaving, but because the stress and strain the last several years have been as we have dealt with your chronic pain. Each day was a challenge for you. You rarely complained. But on those days when your shoulders hurt, your arms hurt, your back hurt, your hips hurt, and your legs hurt, you had a right to complain and let me know how you felt. Of course, you didn't need to tell me because I could read the pain lines in your face. And when you hurt, I hurt along with you. I often wept when I was out of your sight when I realized there was nothing we could do beyond what we had already done to alleviate your pain.
But still you welcomed each new day. Still you encouraged me and lifted me up and kept me from being discouraged. One time when we seemed to be in a completely hopeless impasse, you were the one who comforted me and dried my tears. Still you felt you had things to do. But the last six months I was almost in denial when I realized that each day you were doing less and less. You started the time we came back to Riverton by wanting to cook a meal a week. You struggled to cook one meal and never tried again. You wanted to do the laundry but you let me take over and you never tried doing it again. You had always put 1000 piece puzzles together, but you put only one together when we came back. I bought you two new ones, but you gave up ever trying to do one again. I bought you two coloring books with colored pencils and they stayed on the table for weeks and you never felt like touching them. You tried dusting the living room but you gave up in despair by saying "I just can't do anything." Even though your oncologist gave you a clear sailing report six weeks before you left, clearly you were leaving little by little, day by day. I tried the best I could. I brought you your pain pills, your ice water, cooked something nice for supper, bought the groceries, turned down the bed, asked you throughout the day what I could do for you, what I could bring. And each day the bonds of our love, of our eternal marriage, grew stronger and more sacred as we were blessed to have another day, another week together.
When we had our nightly prayer, I often tried to get you to take turns. Finally, you told me you wanted me to say the prayer every night because my words brought you some comfort. And so I never asked you to pray again. We never gave up praying for relief from your pain. We never gave up counting our blessings, being grateful for our family, for each day, for the beautiful flowers and mountains and clouds and sky, for the heritage we gained from the hard work and sacrifice of our parents, for the spiritual strength that grew infinitely as we faced our daily challenges. But finally, it was time. I never thought that moment would come. I always thought I would go first, leaving you with my books and files and general collection of useless papers and trivia. But there were other plans that we could not control. And so here we are. Where are you? And why am I still here? Maybe some time both of these questions will be answered. Meanwhile, I will do my best to get through each lonely moment of each lonely day.
I'm trying to think of something positive I can say about the snow. I suppose I could relent and say that it's beautiful, but I'm not ready to go that far when I hadn't planned to see any snow whatsoever this entire winter.
Our wonderful bishop of our congregation stopped by to see me again this afternoon. He told me that he would always remember Velna as a lily of the field because of the beautiful song sung by our granddaughter Michelle "Consider the Lilies of the Field" at her services and because of Velna's great love for flowers. I thought that description was an apt one, because it was for that reason that I chose this special song even though I knew I would weep all the way through it and every time I remembered it thereafter. Here, dear Velna, is a beautiful lily of the field. May you ever be graced and surrounded with beauty and with the lilies of the field.
Almost three weeks have gone by since you left me. It feels like 100 years. I am still living in a fog, I can't see the road ahead, I don't know where I am going or what I am supposed to do. Every one tells me that some day soon I might start feeling better, that this cloudy and heavy malaise will begin to diminish. But so far, I struggle through the days. I usually feel a little better by mid morning, but then I go through the same trial every morning.
Here is the day calendar that you liked to change each day to see what the next cheerful or inspirational message would be:
As you can see, the date is October 12, the day before we took you to the hospital get get the sore on your leg treated, not knowing that everything would fall apart in three days and you would soon be gone. I haven't changed this calendar yet. I haven't changed any other day calendar. They are all frozen on October 12 or October 13. The wall calendars are still on October. The clocks, except for one that Russell reset, are all an hour late, they have not yet fallen back as they are supposed to do. Time has stood still. I can't feel any momentum, any sense of reality, any real acceptance of the surreal life I have experienced during these past several weeks.
To top it all off, here is what I woke up to this morning:
This is not how things are supposed to be. We were supposed to be in St. George by today, taking photos of roses and winter flowers and red bluffs and basking in sunshine. For twenty years we have escaped the winters of Wyoming, Montana, Michigan, Colorado and northern Utah. Now I am dwelling in an igloo and my winter coats are all in St. George. I don't know why Brigham Young didn't push on to St. George in the first place instead of settling the Latter Day Saints in the Salt Lake Valley. Well, actually, Brigham Young didn't like the winter weather in Salt Lake either, so he left the Saints stranded there for the winter and spent at least seven days by buggy going to St. George to his winter home.
So while the Salt Lake Saints were shivering and freezing and burning fires and wondering how they ever got stuck in such a cold place, Brigham Young enjoyed the luxury, at least a few times, of his wonderful home in St. George.
On the more cheerful side, we had a wonderful visit with an impromptu Family Home Evening presentation from my granddaughter Michelle, her husband Josh, and their almost-one-year-old son, Andy:
This photo was originally on FaceBook. We had a song, a prayer, and a lesson on hope. And my day was brightened. One of these days perhaps I will feel more recovered and less demolished. Meanwhile, the love and support I get from my family and friends continue to sustain me each day.
My wife, Velna, was always a genius at making sure she saw the glass half full, and never complained or noticed that it might possibly be half empty. She always looked for the good in any situation or saw the positive characteristics of some person rather than dwell on the downside. Her only exception might have been if she was commenting on a sports team or a particular athlete she may have expressed a strong opinion about. Every thing and every one else was exempt from her critical perspective. Whenever I started to play the disaster game, she would typically say, "It's not as bad as you think. Look at it this way." And then she would proceed to enlighten me on the optimistic side of whatever I was concerned about. If I started to light into someone in a critical way, she would say, "Oh he or she isn't as bad as you think. Try to say something positive instead."
Here is a photo of Lone Peak in the South Salt Lake UT Valley, which is inspiring me to think loftier thoughts, become less critical, and to view the glass half full rather than half empty. Dear Velna, you will be teaching us about what to do forever.
Sunday morning, November 8, 2015. We always watched the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on Sunday mornings, inspired by a few hymns and wonderful photography. This morning, my thoughts turn to your last spoken words to me. We had brought you home from the hospital to be in the care of Home Hospice for your last two days. You opened your eyes when I walked into your bedroom and you asked me, "Where have you been?" Soon after, you asked, "Why is everyone paying so much attention to me?" And then, your final words, spoken with open and pleading eyes, searching helplessly for an answer, "Why am I so sick?" I know that you have found answers to these questions and that your troubled heart is now calm. I know what the answers to these questions should be, but I am still pleading with my Heavenly Father about why someone so gentle, so kind, so compassionate had to go through the trials that you were called to go through before you could reach your final destination. And at this moment, I realize you are not really gone. Your influence will live on forever through your words and example and the aura of your sweet presence. Hardly a day goes by that I don't remember my mother who died in 1981 and think of something she said or did or feel a debt of love and gratitude for her sacrifice in helping me accomplish what I was able to achieve in my life. I stopped writing in my journal on the day my Dad died in 1993. And yet, my siblings and I still share stories and memories of both of our parents. I not only encourage my children and grandchildren and great grandchildren to follow the example of your mother and grandmother and great grandmother, I expect you to emulate her sweetness and her virtues. Be kind to one another. Forgive. Pay attention to each other. Don't let days or weeks go by without staying in touch with each other. Help each other. And then we will all come together one day and be thankful for the gift of sharing a rare and beautiful life and for the legacy that was given to us through the days and years that Velna lived. I wish I knew why you were so sick, my beautiful wife. These three last questions you asked me before you slipped away are forever seared on my mind, sealed in tears and sadness, but lifted through the light of incomparable blessings and understanding. By the way, BYU won their game by one point. Barely. Oh my.
Some days, like today, I am becoming more reluctant to continue writing life memories and treasured thoughts about my wife, Velna, who left me two weeks ago. I have been unsure about whether I should share publicly many of the most sacred and private thoughts that are so close to the surface. I know that writing is supposed to be therapeutic, but if therapeutic means that you keep weeping every time you write about another memory, how therapeutic is that? I have been astonished at the number of visitors to my blog I have had from all over the world. Many of the comments have been so kind, encouraging, and inspired that I begin to think maybe what I have done is a good thing to do, however difficult it is for me each day.
Velna was concerned about her appearance every day of her life. Every day, no matter how sick, no matter how much her arms and legs and back hurt, she showered, fixed her hair, put on her makeup, and put on attractive clean clothes. Her reason? She always told me, "I feel better when I keep up my appearance." In her last months, it took her an hour and a half to get ready, the time lengthening as her days went on. She would then come out into the living room and say, " I am so exhausted. My arms hurt so bad when I had to raise them to comb my hair and put on my makeup." Then she would rest for an hour and take a nap. And when I told her she always looked beautiful, she refused to believe me. But she was wrong. Velna always did look beautiful. The light of kindness and courage and love always shone from her face and her eyes and then she always showed concern for how I was doing, no matter how much pain she was in. During her final days in the hospital, one of her last pleas to me was, "Will someone please wash my hair?" Her hair was so sticky and gummy from her days in the hospital and she wanted to look her best. Velna truly was a living testimony of the fact that "appearance affects how you feel." Now, why did I write this, since all it did was make me weep all over again?
Ever since we moved to the south Salt Lake Valley fifteen years ago, Velna and I loved to just sit and look out at the majestic mountains and clouds that dominated our eastern horizon. So here is Mt. Timpanogos yesterday in the clouds:
And here is last night's sunset:
The yellows on the brush by the Jordan River are getting brighter each day:
And the leaves have all fallen from the tree by our front door:
You left me so suddenly and unexpectedly two weeks ago so I thought it was time to bring you up to date. I still feel like I was run over by a ten ton dump truck. I keep telling myself I have to keep going and everyone else keeps telling me I have to keep going but I am still stuck in neutral. I don't really feel like doing anything and everything is still a struggle. The days are long and lonely and everything I see is a reminder of you and so the tears keep flowing. Everyone keeps telling me that time will heal and maybe it will. I'm not sure why I am still here and you are gone. I had so many health issues the past 40 years I never expected to outlast you, but here I am. Some times I just sit in my recliner and stare out the window, at the mountain, at the traffic on 123d, at the clouds, at the sky, and I wonder where you are. I am so relieved that you are free from the terrible pain that kept you so immobilized these past few years. I wish I could have done more for you.
As you know, we had a beautiful service for you. Our children and grandchildren and even two great grandchildren all sang like angels. Your children outdid themselves with their short talks and treasured memories. I even learned that you once told one of them when they had done something wrong, "Don't tell Dad!" Miraculously, I was able to stand and give your eulogy. I knew I had to do this as a tribute to you. I had a terrible stomach ache until an hour before the service. Then the stomach ache vanished. I hadn't spoken in church for 35 years and I was worried that the sound system would echo in my hearing aids. I stood up at the pulpit, handed the bishop my cane, and was able to talk clearly. I felt saturated with love and caring as I looked out at the wonderful people in the audience who had come to honor you and our family. As you know, I had excruciating leg pain all summer and I was worried about standing to deliver the eulogy. The leg pain vanished a week before you left us, and has not returned. Many people have told me that we had a wonderful service, that a feeling of peace and love permeated the chapel. I'm sure you were pleased. So many miracles, some large, some small, have blessed all of our lives in so many ways these past days.
So many neighbors, so many friends, so many people from the church have called and visited. I have a stack of sympathy cards from friends and family, far and near with loving messages. Your children and family have all extended themselves beyond any expectation to honor you and to give me the help and support I need from day to day.
Now I trudge along day by day. Day before yesterday I made a pot of chicken noodle soup to last for a week. Yesterday was a good day, as all five of our children called to check up in their dad. Russell came over and fought the cell phone battle. I forgot to tell you before, you always resisted getting a new cell phone because you thought your twelve year old flip-top was plenty good enough, but our children made a forceful case for me getting an up-to-date cell phone. We had an epic battle with the neanderthals at Verizon trying to change the account from your name to mine. We finally gave up, and Russell took the cell phone back to Costco and returned it. We will try again some other way. Both Russell and Ron have been busy preparing all the papers I have to sign. You certainly left a boatload of complications to be worked out when you went away. Ron came over last night bearing Panda Express and we watched your beloved Utah Jazz beat the Denver Nuggets. Last Sunday, my first day alone after Carolyn left for Texas on Saturday, I was desperate for someone to come by. I said aloud, "Will someone please come see me?" Just then, someone knocked on the door and Russell came in.
One of your last memorable pleas to me while you were still lucid was "Dwight, who will send out the birthday cards?" Yesterday was the birthday of your firstborn, Russell, as you know, and so I did manage to print a picture and make out a birthday card which I think you will like:
Today is another dreary, cloudy day, matching my mood. The leaves are almost gone from the tree outside your bedroom window:
Dear Velna, we had our challenges during our long years of marriage. Some times our love for each other was perhaps not as strong as it might have been as we went through years of hard work, budget stretching when grocery money ran out the middle of the month, raising five children, and moving all over the country. We were some times too busy, too challenged with life's daily battles, to focus more on what really mattered. During these last few years of your constant challenges of chronic pain, however, we learned the lessons of life. We learned so many things about each other, often unspoken. We drew closer day by day as we each tried to do everything we could for each other. We reviewed so many of the treasured memories of our life together, laughing at some, crying at others, but thankful always for what we had, what we experienced, what we were so lucky to count as the innumerable treasures of two lives together. As I looked at your face and worry lines each day, I could read the amount of your pain without you saying a word. And I would plead each day, "Dear Lord, relieve Velna of her pain. Soften her continual suffering." And so we learned. And we grew. And we softened. And we counted our wonderful blessings. And we we rejoiced as we learned more each day about the sacred bonds of marriage and the eternal gift we had received on that December day of 1952 in the Salt Lake Temple. And now you are waiting for me. I hope you are in a secret garden, surrounded by flowers, with a gate that is open for me to enter, that you are with your family. So dear Velna, I will do my best. Some day the tears will begin to dry and I will be able to stand on my feet and do the best I can to honor and serve you and our wonderful family.
Six weeks old, Bozeman Montana, born November 5, 1953
Russell with his grandfather Russell, Penrose Wyoming
On November 5 1953, our oldest son, Russell, was born in Bozeman MT where I had gone to spend a year getting a master's degree in agricultural economics. Russell has always been a source of joy, a bit of consternation here and there, but he could pack a car at age 5 better than anyone I ever knew and he can figure out things tenaciously even if it takes him days to do it. Russell has never given up, and has been a constant support and inspiration with the good life he has lived. Happy Birthday. I know your mother joins me in this wish on this memorable day for you. Love, Dad