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NOT TOO FRAYED TO FLY
Surviving the loss of your soul mate

by
Betts McCalla

Smashwords Edition

Published on Smashwords by:
Running Quail Press, Inc.
www.runningquailpress.com

Not Too Frayed to Fly
Copyright 2017 by Betts McCalla

ISBN: 978-0-9862708-9-5 (ebook)
ISBN: 978-0-9862708-8-8 (paperback)

Author photo: www.photosbyleanna.com

Excerpts reprinted by permission
© From Grief to Peace, LLC, 2016
www.FromGriefToPeace.org

All rights reserved. No part of this book shall be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, magnetic, photographic including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior written permission of the publisher or author. No patent liability is assumed with respect to the use of the information contained herein. Although every precaution has been taken in the preparation of this book, the publisher and author assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. Neither is any liability assumed for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein.

Reviewers may quote short passages for use in periodicals, newspapers, or broadcasts provided credit is given to Not Too Frayed to Fly by Betts McCalla and Running Quail Press, Inc.

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For Jerry, for all time

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Acknowledgments
Foreword by Bonnie Fatio
Introduction

Chapter One—Soul Mates Forever
Chapter Two—Our Stories
Chapter Three—First 30 Days Financial Work
Chapter Four—First Line of Defense
Chapter Five—Enjoy Your Stay in Jail
Chapter Six—Minor Changes for Major Impact
Chapter Seven—It Is What It Is
Chapter Eight—This is the Soundtrack of My Life
Chapter Nine—Call Me Anytime
Chapter Ten—Twelve Myths About Grief
Chapter Eleven—When You Don’t Know How to Say Goodbye
Chapter Twelve—No Regrets
Chapter Thirteen—Wishin’ and Hopin’
Chapter Fourteen—Set Peace of Mind as Your Highest Goal
Chapter Fifteen—Identity Fraud
Chapter Sixteen—It’s the Little Things
Chapter Seventeen—Six Stupid Things People Said to Me
Chapter Eighteen—Say my name, say my name
Chapter Nineteen—Friday Night At a Séance
Chapter Twenty—Tarred and Feathered
Chapter Twenty-One—Don’t Be Afraid to Make a Change
Chapter Twenty-Two—My “Third Act”
Chapter Twenty-Three—I’d Like to Know
Chapter Twenty-Four—We All Still Need Recess
Chapter Twenty-Five—We’re Just Having an Adventure …
Chapter Twenty-Six—Practice Saying Yes
Chapter Twenty-Seven—Who would you be if you weren’t who you are?
Chapter Twenty-Eight—Love Lives Forever
Chapter Twenty-Nine—If I Could Save Time …
Chapter Thirty—Which First Holiday Hurts the Most?
Chapter Thirty-One—From Grief to Peace

Principles of From Grief to Peace
Resources
Author’s Profile

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I’d like to thank Joy Collins and Cathy Marley for your invaluable insights and inspiration, warm hugs, and “shoulders” shared during our weekly writers’ meetings. Thank you, Desert Ridge Barnes & Noble Booksellers and Renee, for your kind hospitality and perfect setting for our creative minds.

To my tireless editor and best sister-friend, Clelia (Clo) Brickley, thanks for your help in polishing this manuscript and for always having my back. I want to thank Bonnie Fatio, founder of AgeEsteem®, for writing the best foreword I could have imagined and for sharing valuable contacts.

Long before I found my soul mate, Jerry, I had six people in my life that protected, encouraged, loved, and accepted me. My mother, Jean, worked two jobs but taught us right from wrong, never left home without kissing us goodbye, got us to church, and made sure we got good grades. Her love and devotion never wavers. My three sisters, Melody, Clelia, and Debbie, and two brothers, James and Chuck, cheered me on and cheered me up. You were my built-in best friends and playmates. I will always love you all.

FOREWORD BY
BONNIE FATIO

Not Too Frayed to Fly is a must read whether you have just lost a loved one and are seeking to understand what it means for the rest of your life, or whether you are still with a partner and wish to be prepared for the moment when one of you will remain alone.

Through my work with AgeEsteem®, I have interviewed people around the world about their views on age and aging. Their stories often express the emptiness and fear of being alone. Death takes an important toll on the living. When your loved one dies, something within you dies also. Your world crashes, your confidence shatters, your sense of self shrinks, and your identity disappears. Yet you continue to breathe.

On a recent flight home from speaking at a conference in Oslo, Norway, I chatted with the woman in the seat next to mine. She explained that most of her friends no longer dared travel alone at age seventy. She had been widowed eight years earlier and chose to travel abroad alone to visit friends. When I told her about Not Too Frayed to Fly, she immediately took out her iPhone to preorder it. Just as the book resonated with her, I think it will also speak to you.

Betts McCalla takes us on a rollercoaster ride with her as she bounces from grief—to overwhelmingly joyous memories—to what you need to know to survive. From the opening words that she kept repeating to herself, “You’re scared. You are going to be okay. He’s dead. You’re not dead,” I was caught up in the power of her naked soul as she shared all that matters.

Betts McCalla invites us into the intimacy of her heart and thoughts. We are introduced to Jerry, her soul mate and spouse, sharing their special story. Whatever the memory, it somehow connects you to Betts and Jerry, drawing you into their unique loving relationship. Little things become enormously important. She teases us to laugh and cry with her as she shares her journey from being a wet body of tears to seeking how to live without Jerry while still feeling his presence.

Hers is a story of bravery and humor as she takes control and drives through the United States to rediscover life. It is also a story of restoration, moving from total devastation to a new wholeness.

Amidst all this are savory tips for each of us. What to do and what not to do. She warns and informs us of scams that prey on those who are weak with grief. She advises us on how we can best help the friend who has lost a spouse. She guides us through steps to reclaim our “self.” She challenges us and inspires us, offering herself as a role model.

For my husband of fifty-two years and me, conversations to prepare for the future are common. Such discussions are essential as we grow older. When I reached Betts McCalla’s checklist in “Chapter 3, First 30 Days Financial Work,” I told my husband, “We need to read this together.” Betts has given us a treasure trove of information we don’t really want to deal with, yet we must. It is invaluable. This is the time to prepare, now when we are together and both healthy. The book has inspired many a conversation with family and friends, also. The death of a partner is a reality of the life cycle. We cannot ignore the certainty of death. Yet we are never quite prepared for the finality of it. Nor do we foresee the stress of finding our way around a mountain of paperwork when we are fraught with endless emotion.

Not Too Frayed to Fly is a gift to the world. Each of us will benefit from reading this book. It is the story of grief, memories of precious moments and joyous living, questioning what is next, and hope. It is for those who have lost a loved one and those who wish to be prepared.

Bonnie Fatio,
founder, AgeEsteem®

• • •

Bonnie Fatio is a master change catalyst and global speaker. She has held leadership roles in business, local government, civic groups and the international community.

Most recently she founded Inspired Women Lead, a global cross-border, cross-culture mentoring movement to help women step into their authentic feminine power as leaders. Each woman who is personally mentored, then mentors another woman.

Today inspired women in 35 countries are being mentored to lead globally, and over 1,000,000 lives are being impacted.

www.BonnieFatio.com

INTRODUCTION

You’re scared. You are going to be okay. He’s dead. You’re not dead. These four sentences kept repeating in my head the first few days after Jerry passed. Sometimes you feel that you have searched harder than imaginable and still cannot find what you’re looking for. I felt that way for a very long time after my husband transitioned. I needed answers to practical questions as well as finite ones.

All my life, I’ve been a student. Whenever I encounter a problem, I research it until I find a workable solution. When my soul mate passed, I expected to quickly find the answer to “What do I do next?” There were tons of online articles written by accounting and investment firms offering financial advice to those recently widowed. I also found many generic grief books that I couldn’t relate to. What I needed was advice from a grieving spouse whose heart had just been destroyed and whose mind was only able to grasp rational thoughts for minutes at a time. So many answers eluded me. I had gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, and brain-throbbing questions that I desperately needed answered. I had lost my best friend, my lover, my spouse, my soul mate, my cheerleader, and the only person who accepted me unconditionally, scars and all. What was I supposed to do? How was I supposed to act? I wanted to rip at my clothes and pull out my hair. I wanted to wail and shriek. Normally, I was the calm one who could always be counted on in a crisis. Now, I bounced from a state of manic activity to being totally withdrawn, often in the space of an hour.

I needed to sleep, but sleep was denied. I had slept upright in a recliner next to my husband’s hospital bed the last sixty days of his life, snatching naps that rarely lasted more than an hour at a time. I had forgotten how to sleep in a bed, and I sure as hell didn’t know how to sleep alone. And, damn it, I didn’t want to learn. I started listening to books on tape so I could fall asleep. To this day, I still cannot sleep without earbuds and a book on tape.

I spent the next several months after his death, tackling problems and navigating through fog. I needed a step-by-step, to do list upon the death of a soul mate. I felt like I had a fatal, rapidly advancing and physically overwhelming disease called grief, and I desperately needed to find the cure. Combing through bookstores, I bought anything that sounded promising. I could not find what I needed in one book or five books or even twenty to help me proceed through my grief in an orderly fashion. I was bereft, and part of my soul had been taken away—the best part. The Jerry part of JerryandBetts or BettsandJerry was missing—the part that held my sweetest essence. I feared my capacity to love had vanished. I needed someone to share the intimate details of widowhood with me—a how-to manual or survival kit written for someone like me—a person who had lost her soul mate, her lifeline.

This is the book I wish I had found. I’m writing it to help you. A book like this might have assuaged some of my irrational fears. It might have propped up my ego and made me aware that although I was no longer part of a unit of two equaling one, I was still a functioning unit. It could have allowed me to lie down knowing my love might come and comfort me in my dreams with a light touch. It certainly would have made me less afraid of the years to come. This book is a love story but not a fairy tale. It gives practical advice and suggestions while sharing the intimacy of mine and Jerry’s relationship. It will help get you through the early stages of loss and encourage you to move forward, seek out other people who have lost their soul mates, share lessons learned, and exchange heart hugs. This book may inspire you to watch for possible signs from your soul mate or loved one who has passed. And, above all, it may empower you to find yourself again and not be too frayed to fly. Your journey from grief to peace begins now.

Chapter One
Soul Mates Forever

This is the story of the love we shared that death cannot change.

That last night, my sister and I encircled Jerry in a tight embrace as he sat upright in his bed at the hospice facility and gazed directly past us at something we couldn’t see. We each held one of his hands, telling him we loved him and knew he was leaving. We lied and said we were going to be okay. His body was so hot—it felt like a rocket getting ready to launch—and then he squeezed our hands, and his spirit took off. Cause of death was metastatic lung cancer.

During the short months of his fatal illness, I asked him how he would contact me once he passed on. He replied that he wouldn’t know what was allowed until he got to where he was going. But Jerry promised that if he could contact me, I would know it was him. At the time of his passing, I was like most of you—totally unsure of whether or not something happens after death. Based on religious teachings of my Protestant background, I had a basic concept that heaven was somewhere up in the sky, and we would all meet again someday with our loved ones who had passed (except of course those who were going to hell in a handbasket). Although this concept was somewhat reassuring, I needed an insight into how to sustain contact. Jerry was my soul mate, and my belief is that the connection cannot be severed.

Early in our relationship, we expressed that we felt we had known each other forever. As time went on, Jerry and I grew to believe we were soul mates and that we had been together in other lifetimes. We were amazed with the similarities in our thoughts and viewpoints, considering that our upbringing and backgrounds (up until the point when we met) were light years apart. We could finish each other’s thoughts and sentences almost from day one. Nothing in Jerry’s or my past would have indicated we were destined to meet, but all it took was a brief encounter on the one day I visited the city where he lived, Minneapolis. I believe in kismet. I believe in miracles. And I know soul mates exist.

Immediately after Jerry’s passing, he began to make his continued presence known to me and to my sister, Clo. When we mentioned his name, we would often hear a noise in the kitchen; it was usually the sound of the plastic cover being knocked off the trash can. We would say, “Hi Jerry,” and a feeling of warmth and peace would come over us. When we least expected it, he tossed us bright shiny pennies that magically appeared throughout the house, outside on the sidewalk, or next to our car doors. It wasn’t until much later that I realized there were probably many signs from him that went unnoticed.

Chapter Two
Our Stories

Jerry was the youngest of three children and quite a surprise baby being twelve years younger than his next sibling. His middle-class parents were in their forties when he was conceived, and his mother suffered terribly from debilitating rheumatoid arthritis disease. Jerry grew up in Pennsylvania, helping and caring for his mother and baking bread at his father’s bakery. He sang with a band and was part of the wrestling team at school. After graduating from high school, he joined the United States Air Force. Not making spy school because he lacked the necessary MacGyver aptitude, Jerry was trained to be a medic. After a severe head injury and prolonged recovery, he was discharged. Returning home to Pennsylvania to attend college, he married his high school sweetheart and started a family. And they moved to Minnesota.

My parents were both nineteen the year I was born. Mom was a bookkeeper at a shoe factory in Little Rock, Arkansas. Her parents were local farmers. She had that beautiful Ingrid Bergman look. My dad was in the Army. He was a singer, one-quarter American Indian, and from the area in New York City known as Hell’s Kitchen. They met at a United Service Organizations (USO) dance, fell in love, and married. When dad was transferred, mom stayed in Arkansas.

When I was two and a half years old, I contracted polio, was paralyzed from the neck down, and spent months in an iron lung. My mother was young, and the doctors told her I should be placed in a long-term care facility because I would remain a “basket case” and would never be able to take care of myself, work, marry, or have a normal life. Mama took me home. There were two types of treatment used for polio patients. The first was the Sister Kenny method, which involved lots of hot compresses with wet woolen cloths cut from Army blankets along with stretching and massage. The other method involved braces. To this day, the scent of wet wool makes me nauseous. Arkansas was a brace state. Placing me in a full leg brace at the age of three gave necessary support to my partially paralyzed leg so I could walk again; however, it apparently stunted the growth of my leg, causing a measurable discrepancy in length. My mother massaged my limbs daily and took me for physical therapy three times a week. I remember having whirlpool treatments in a round metal vat up to my neck in hot swirling water.

My father came home from the service and got a job selling life insurance, but he knew in his heart he was a singer. To advance my father’s singing career, my parents moved to Chicago. Five more children were added to the family as my parents struggled with my father’s alcoholism and the ups and downs of a performer’s life.

At twelve years old when my parents divorced, I became the surrogate mother to my siblings and the main sounding board for my single-parent mother. Money was incredibly tight. Mom worked two jobs most of the time, and no help was ever received from my father. From the age of nine until I was sixteen, I had years of ongoing medical treatments for the residual damage from polio, including seven corrective surgeries involving muscle transplants, leg lengthening procedures, and two spinal fusions, which required spending a year in a full body cast. This is how I usually spent my summer vacations.

Following one of the surgeries, I was given either mismatched or tainted blood. My temperature rose to 105, and I was trembling all over when my mother arrived for her daily visit. She took one look at me and started screaming for help. The nurses packed me in ice to reduce my fever, and I had an out-of-body experience. My spirit remained in the hospital room hovering over my bed, watching my body being worked on and seeing my mother’s gray complexion. She saved my life by arriving when she did. The next day, she told my brothers and sisters how scary it had been and that they had almost lost me. This was my first brush with death. My surgeries were paid for mostly by the March of Dimes foundation along with whatever my mom could contribute. From an early age, I learned to navigate the medical field and to ask questions. I became very comfortable communicating with adults and dealing with medical personnel. And I developed a lifelong passion for reading and research.

Jerry and I met the spring after I turned twenty-three. I worked for a graphic design company and was awarded my first bona fide business trip, traveling from Chicago, where I lived, to visit my firm’s new branch office in Minneapolis. After spending the day with the branch manager, a friend of his named Jerry stopped into the office to say hello. I was staying overnight with some friends who had recently relocated from Chicago. Because my friends lived close to Jerry’s neighborhood, and the branch manager lived in the opposite direction, Jerry offered to drop me off. Jerry and I fell into intense like that first day we met. There was lots of bantering, flirting, and interesting conversation. I considered him good-looking, intelligent, sexy, and blessedly safe. He was married, thirty-two years old, and the father of four. I enjoyed my single life and had no plans for long-term relationships or a family until I was much older. I did not have any good role models for marriage. My grandparents were separated. My parents were divorced. My aunt and uncle were divorced. As the eldest of six children, I had spent most of my childhood being responsible for my siblings. I was finally living alone and loving it. I had a great job, a spacious four-room apartment with two closets, and a bathroom all to myself.

Over the next year, Jerry and his wife separated. He and I became best friends and then lovers. Eventually he moved to Chicago, and we started a business together.

Fast forward three and a half years: As married business partners, we lived in downtown Chicago in a high-rise building with a view of Lake Michigan. Every other weekend, we commuted to Minneapolis to share custody of Jerry’s four children with his ex-wife. We worked and lived together 24/7 and never ran out of things to talk about. It was like we needed to catch up on the years we had spent without each other.

In Chicago, we formed several companies and worked side by side doing television and film production. It was a challenging and exciting industry. We were given the opportunity to produce a five-night/week syndicated television talk show called Underground News. The show featured interviews with newsworthy personalities such as Jane Fonda, Woody Allen, Charles Percy, Abbie Hoffman, Joan Baez, and John Lennon as well as musical performances by Harry Chapin, Jim Croce, and others. We also produced a documentary series hosted by actor Peter Lawford and a music show called Dig It, Electric Sight and Sound that was the precursor for simulcast musical programming.

To become more involved in Jerry’s children’s lives, we relocated to Minneapolis. His two oldest sons came to live with us during their turbulent teenage years, and I got my first gray hairs. Later we were offered an opportunity to relocate to California to grow our businesses. We had visited California the previous winter, and there was no way I was passing on a chance to move away from snow and ice. Although the original opportunity was short-lived, we expanded our careers in other directions. Jerry became a therapist and eventually opened a clinic specializing in pain management. I went to work for and subsequently purchased (with three other employees) an aftermarket manufacturing company in the automotive industry.

When Jerry and I were together, we felt we were invincible and a family. We were each other’s best friend, lover, and confidante, and that made our world complete. I learned to love camping and fishing and the state of Hawaii. We indulged those interests while spending our vacations in beautiful locales like Big Sur, California; Sedona, Arizona; Whistler, BC in Canada; and the island of Kauai. We were often able to add play days onto the end of trade shows in fun locales. Clo, my sister, lived with us for several years and usually accompanied us on our camping vacations. She and I counted on Jerry to prepare a scrumptious dinner for us each evening over the Coleman stove and the campfire. One afternoon, Jerry decided to walk along the Big Sur river and “wet a line.” It was a kind of drizzly, cool day, which was common in northern California on the ocean, and Jerry was gone a long time.

It had just gotten dark when he showed up at the campsite, driven back by a new friend. He explained that he had ended up miles downriver because that was where the fish were biting. He said he had caught his dinner, and when we asked where his stringer was, he proceeded to flip several fish out of the pockets of his beautiful new Bemidji wool jacket.

We came up with the phrase “pocket trout” to indicate small fish. My sister was unhappy because she had been using his jacket as an extra layer of covers during the cold nights, and now it smelled too fishy to bring into the tent.

People often paint a glossy perfect picture of someone after they have passed. Jerry and I did share a magical life together. One of our friends likened our lifestyle to being on vacation every day. I think she was referring to our many mini-vacations, the apparent lack of stress in our lives, our constant bantering back and forth, and the friendship it was easy to see we enjoyed whenever and wherever we were together. It was a sweet life between us. In the entire scope of our thirty-five-year relationship, I only remember three major disagreements—not fights but disagreements. They all involved my wanting to bring home yet another warm, wiggly puppy or cuddly kitten to add to our menagerie. Jerry didn’t like small yappy dogs and would always come up with reasons we should avoid them, such as they pass gas, they tend to nip, or they are too fragile. As soon as I brought home my next “I can’t live without” critter, this newest addition would worm its way into his heart within hours. Truth be told, he was a complete mush when it came to domestic animals of all sizes, including horses.

Jerry was my best friend, my strongest supporter, the president of my fan club, and the true love of my life. And I know I was his. His face would light up whenever I came into a room, and he made me laugh every day. The two of us were a self-sustaining unit, and we were usually on a roll.

We took lots of classes together: Japanese language because we planned on visiting Kyoto (one of Jerry’s favorite cities), Thai cuisine, transactional analysis, and pot throwing. Once I signed us up for a juggling class because it sounded like fun. It was too much for my physical limitations, but Jerry loved it and would often juggle small items as he walked around his office—much to the amusement of his practitioners and the patients in the waiting room. We worked hard at our businesses, earning some success from our individual endeavors, and life was good. We joined a local Presbyterian church and did some volunteer work. We enjoyed spending time with and making memorable meals for our eclectic collection of friends and our extended family, but we loved it even more when it was just the two of us, eating grilled-cheese sandwiches and cream of tomato soup from trays in front of the fireplace.

There were physical bumps in the road like my sustaining a bad fall, which resulted in a shattered tibia, detached peroneal tendon, and fractured hip. Healing from the fractures took over a year. This was the precursor to the onset of post-polio syndrome for me. Post-polio syndrome is an illness of the nervous system usually triggered by a major trauma to the body and can appear fifteen to fifty years after you’ve had polio. It affects your muscles and nerves and causes you to have weakness, fatigue, and muscle and joint pain. Day-to-day activities become more difficult to perform. You are often so exhausted by the end of the day that it’s an effort not to fall asleep over your dinner plate. I had to learn to conserve my energy and to lean on Jerry more. We adapted our lifestyle to accommodate my needs. Jerry took over doing the laundry and our grocery shopping and did most of the cooking. Fortunately, he was an excellent cook and loved to experiment. He credited his culinary talent to his father who was a professional baker and chef, and to his Swedish mother.

The first Christmas Jerry and I were together, I got a taste of his Swedish heritage. He announced that we were going to make Christmas cookies and needed to go shopping for ingredients. I knew I was in over my head when he placed eight pounds of unsalted butter into the shopping cart. He had a special little hand-cranked cookie press he used to form the spritz cookies into shapes of Christmas trees, ornaments, and wreaths. He made dozens of butter-ladened spritz, sandbakkels, and fattigmann cookies while entertaining me with childhood stories like when his mama made cookies and let him use the cookie press to play street car conductor. Naturally, Jerry demonstrated to me all the physicality that role demanded along with sound effects. My contribution was baking many small loaves of banana-nut bread and cooking several batches of fudge. Every year we made up trays of homemade goodies for our family, friends, and close business associates. People professed to staying friends with us just for Jerry’s Christmas cookies.

We were together thirty-one years when Jerry called me at the office one afternoon to say he thought he was having a heart attack and was driving himself to the hospital. He made it to the ER before suffering a massive heart attack. After running a few tests, the attending cardiologist recommended immediate quadruple bypass surgery. Jerry had the surgery the following morning. While in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) right after the surgery, both his lungs collapsed. His physicians placed him in a medically induced coma, and he remained in ICU for three weeks. He contracted a severe bacterial infection called MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus), and we visitors had to put on yellow protective gowns and face masks before we could enter his hospital room. As his advocate, I stayed at the hospital 24/7. I was terrified that if I turned my back for a minute, Jerry would die. One night, I ran out of cash for the cafeteria, and the cashiers didn’t accept credit or debit cards. I stood in front of an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) and realized I didn’t even know our code or how to use the machine. I was so used to going to the bank for money, and Jerry was the one who would access an ATM if we needed it. I found the code in Jerry’s wallet—it was my birthdate—I should have known.

By the time Jerry was brought out of his coma and able to breathe again on his own, he had developed Sundowner’s Syndrome, which made him so paranoid he couldn’t be left alone. We discovered his trauma had caused him to forget how to even sign his name. In addition to heart disease, he was diagnosed with Chronic Lung Disease (COPD). He refused to go to a rehabilitation center and insisted he had to come home. Our wonderful friends, Marcia, a physical therapist, and her husband Al came from southern California to Arizona and stayed with us for a week. Then Jerry’s daughter Stephanie visited for a few weeks and worked hard helping him gain enough strength to walk outside first to the mailbox and then to the corner of our street and back.

We kept up a round-robin rotation of our guest room for months so that someone would be at home with Jerry. He spent hours every day learning to write again. Six weeks later, he started cardiac rehabilitation, and we began the “chicken” phase of our lives. Jerry loved beef but was on a mission to get healthy again, so steak became a thing of the past replaced by chicken or turkey for every lunch or dinner meal. These are two of my least favorite foods followed only by liver and fish. We resumed a normal though slightly restricted lifestyle. I dreamed of steak and loaded baked potatoes.

Jerry’s miraculous recovery and the ensuing three years felt like bonus time to us. We began taking a four-day mini-vacation every month to spend even more time together. We felt we had come through fire and survived. Jerry completed writing his first novel, and after it was published, he started working on a sequel. One of the highlights after completing his novel was attending his fiftieth high school reunion in Pennsylvania and presenting a copy of his book to his ninety-one-year-old English teacher. She kept saying, “I never thought Jerry would be the one to write a book.” He got such a kick out of retelling that story. On the plane ride home, Jerry developed a nagging cough and started feeling signs of the flu with severe aching muscles and joint pain. A few days after he got home, I went into the hospital for a scheduled laminectomy. He coughed and coughed each time he came to visit me. I developed complications and kept running a fever. He said he felt exhausted, and I encouraged him not to make the sixty-mile roundtrip visit every day.


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