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Memoir Continued - 2007

OH!” I thought. “How long have we known one another? Almost a year already? Share? Like share the expenses? Rent out my condo? I don’t really know this man that well, do I?” And yet I was extremely excited at the thought. But I had not lived with someone for thirty years. “Could I do that?


2008

****

When we first moved into our beautiful home in Golden, deer would often come into our yard to visit the birdfeeder. Squirrels and the bunnies that shared the prairie dog burrows across the street from us entertained us at breakfast in the courtyard. Spring and fall migrations brought colorful birds to the feeder outside our kitchen window and butterflies and hummingbirds visited the blooming shrubs.

On the other side of the house, three large windows in our bedroom looked out over a wide-open space where the prairie dogs lived. Those multiple acres sloped up to North Table Mountain, a 6,555-foot mesa where the deer lived. We often saw coyotes in that field as well as hawks and even an eagle or two searching for lunch.


Dick and I loved seeing the wildlife, and snuggled in bed at night we listened to the neighborhood great horned owl call, Who - Who Who each spring. He often sat on the roof right over our bedroom so that his call was loud and clear. An answering call would drift to us from another neighborhood.


We, at the base of our mesa, were ten minutes north of downtown Golden. Golden had developed and grown because of the large Coors Brewery, established 1873, that nestled between North and South Table Mountains. Clear Creek, originally the water source for the brewery, ran through downtown.

We loved the river walk. A beautiful rocky stream, dancing and swirling, became a raging river each spring as snow melt began. We walked in the shade of the tall trees often with a profusion of Sweet Peas curled and looped through the vegetation.


When we moved there, the School of Mines, established 1874, was growing exponentially on the north west corner of the town that was fast engulfing it. With the school and Coors, the shops, hotels, multiple craft breweries, Golden was the place to be when we moved there. Tourists from all over overwhelmed each summer.


One morning I wrote: An early, unexpected snow here in Colorado today.  Little puffs of white sit along each limb and twig. A Christmas card winter scene. The birds stormed the feeders outside our kitchen window as we ate breakfast. We are looking forward to driving into LoDo this afternoon to the Denver Performing Arts Center. Dick has season tickets for the Denver Symphony and we love those Sunday afternoon matinees.


                                                                                     ****

Dick and I had cohabitated about six months when he and his son Dave left for a fishing trip with friends. Dick emailed Mary, our creative writing group’s facilitator, to let her know we would not be attending that week’s writers gathering. As I waved the fishermen off and closed the garage door, I turned to go back down the hall. As I passed the office, I noticed Dick’s Mac was still open. He always closed it after using so I walked over to shut it down and saw that his email was up and a message from Mary had just come in. I wanted to see her reply and opened it. Wrong Mary. There were two messages from Mary. The one I opened was not from Mary facilitator, it was a love letter from Mary someone else. “What am I seeing here?”


I had no qualms about searching for and reading not only Mary someone’s past emails but Dick’s love letters to her. The last letter to her, longing for her, had been written the night before. They had evidently known one another for years, had always been attracted to one another but did not consider anything other than friendship until they both lost their spouses. They had comforted one another at those times and evidently began to express their love for one another. Living in separate states, they corresponded via email. The emails revealed a road trip together after the death of her husband shortly after Dick and I met.


Oh my god! What have I done?” I screamed in my head. “Why Oh why would he ask me to live with him if he was longing for this other woman?” 


Dick kept a daily diary every day of his life since college. I pulled those diaries from the shelf and began to scan read even more about the relationship. I needed to know more about this man. The diary revealed a physical encounter. I could not eat; I could not sleep. I spent the next three days and nights in a fetal position on the couch staring at the TV. 


On the fourth day, Dave, Dick’s son, dropped him off and left for home, Dick turned to me and asked, “How have you been?”


I replied, “Not well.” I described how I had accidentally opened the email from Mary someone and asked why on earth he had asked me to move in with him since he was pining away for this woman.


“Oh, that’s just a game she and I play. We are old friends. She was there for me when Charlene died and her husband died recently. We’re just friends.”


“What I read sounds like much more than friendship.”


“We met before I retired when she came to McDonnell Douglas as a consultant and we remained in touch through the years with Christmas cards. She flew down when Charlene died and we began to correspond. Just as I moved to Golden, she let me know that her husband, after a long illness, had died. Nothing more. We’re just friends. Totally platonic, nothing physical. I’ll tell her about you and let her know our silly game doesn’t seem appropriate to you and we should stop.”


“Hmmmmmmm.” I hesitated to reveal that I had read the diaries, the diary that hinted at a physical encounter. “Had he made the physical encounter up in his diary to bolster his ego or was he lying to me now?” I wondered.


Dick continued to email Mary. I would wake at 2:00 a.m. to see the glow of his computer, him typing away in the office. It was so easy to pull up his emails the next morning and see that he was still stating his love, “What kind of game is this?” I thought. His next line read, “I invited my hiking friend Barbara from OLLI to stay with me while her condo was being remodeled and now, I can’t get rid of her,” explaining why he couldn’t get up to see her.


I moved out. I moved to Randy’s basement. I had rented out my condo.


Phone call after phone call, Dick begging me to come back. “Mary is only my good friend. She is still mourning the death of her husband and has a handicapped daughter and I feel sorry for her. I just need time to break it off with her.”


I flew to Texas.


Dick met me at the airport when I returned to angrily assail me for not coming home. He drove me to the house so that we could talk. I found that he had invited Mary to stay with him while I was away. He had hidden my clothes and the pictures of my family and forgot to put some of them back out. “I really know how to pick ‘em,” I thought. I truly didn’t see this man as a womanizer but simply couldn’t grasp how he was justifying hanging onto both of us.”


“Leave me alone Dick. I am not interested in being in a less than monogamous relationship,” I responded to his texts once I was back at Randy’s. I no longer answered his phone calls.


Two days before Christmas, Dick messaged me that he was meeting Mary and her children in Taos where they were spending Christmas. “I will end our silly correspondence once and for all.”


Why did I return to live with Dick? After living alone for so many years my children had been shocked and surprised when I decided to move in with a man I had known less than a year. It would be embarrassing to admit that had been a mistake. My extended family would become aware of Gran’s soap opera. My condo was leased for a year. Did I want to incur the expense and frustrations of two moves in order to rent an apartment for the year until my condo became available? I did not want to live with one of my children. We were very good friends, living with one might change that. But most of all, I enjoyed mine and Dick’s Good Times together. “OK,” says I, “I’ll give it another try,” while floating in the recesses of my mind was my lifetime mantra, “If it doesn’t work out, I will just walk away.”


Have the years been all smooth sailing? No. Good? Yes. Many, many good times. Monogamous times.   


                                                                                          ****

Dick suggested a trip to one of his favorite places, Hana, Maui, Hawaii. Our, open to the tropical air, second story rooms overlooked the ocean. The tops of palm trees lined each side of our balcony that stretched out over the black lava beach. We had a tiny kitchen where we made coffee each morning to drink on that little balcony as we watched sea gulls dive for fish. There was no wall between our bed and our balcony. The soft waves moved in and tumbled and rolled the tiny black pebbles as they swept back out to sea lulling us to sleep each night. Dick was an amazing lover. We fell in love there listening to the surf, watching the stars glide slowly across the arch of the sky. We had a honeymoon week on that Hawaiian island.


Being a landlubber, Dick introduced me to the beaches and the ocean. He loved the ocean and was an excellent swimmer. When preparing for our trip, Dick and I tried to improve my scissor kick swimming skills to proper form in the speed lanes in the pool at our rec center, but to no avail. He was raised on the East Coast and preferred the cold waters there, but has no trouble enjoying the lovely tropical Hawaiian Islands. Having been to several of the islands many times through the years, Dick knew where to find the out-of-the-way beaches with no crowds. Our first morning, the beach he chose was a deep wide swath of cream-colored sand under the branches of large, tall trees reaching for the ocean. A tall rocky cliff rose at both ends forming a small sheltered cove. I waded out a little as Dick swam out through the swells. I screwed up my courage and moved out a little further and boom, the next wave hit me. Down I went. As the wave rushed back out it left me on the beach on my back with my feet and legs sticking straight up. I scrambled up to see if the one other couple on our beach was looking while trying to pull my bathing suit back on when the next wave hit me in the back and down I went again. I was done with the ocean.


Dick found a shallow cove right down the beach from our hotel where I could paddle around or stand and bend over to look through my snorkel mask to see the beautiful fish of all sizes and colors. I felt secure there and was captivated by our little private aquarium.


We walked along the coal black, thirty-foot cliffs that plunged down to the roaring surf on the outskirts of the island. That “King’s Trail” of tortured black lava ran for miles along the coastline. The swirling, lashing surf had carved gaps and tunnels through the cliffs over the passage of time. An explosive boom accompanied the giant waves crashing ashore, throwing spray up the cliff. The power, as I peered down into that roiling, thundering blue and green, surged through my body.  


Another beach Dick wanted me to see could only be accessed by swimming there and since I did not swim, we went to the only store in Hana, the “Hasegawa General Store” to buy a little raft or float for me. That store took one back to the thirties. It had floor to ceiling rack after rack of stuff, strange stuff, food stuff, swimming stuff, toy stuff all stuffed into a tiny one room. It was mesmerizing. The only float thing they had was a child’s blow-up Tweety Bird. It was a bright yellow ring with Tweety Bird’s head sticking up on one side. Off we went to the public beach with our snorkel masks and Tweety Bird. As we swam out, the bottom moved waaaaay down. It was suddenly very deep. “Don’t panic Barb,” I thought. “Stay calm.” Dick was on one side of Tweety Bird with me on the other with my right arm draped through the hole. When I looked down, my mask began to fill with water, but when I reached up with my left arm to empty it and adjust it, I immediately swung up under Tweety Bird.


With my thrashing back and forth, my obvious discomfort, well, let’s just say it how it was, my panic, Dick sensibly turned us and headed back to our starting point. As we passed the tall wooden dock just before we reached land, three little boys peering down at us said, “Mr., you need some help?”


We drove the famous twisting road back to Lahaina for one last night before catching our plane to fly home and cruised all evening on a sixty-foot sailing catamaran with a few other couples. The captain and his curvaceous crew member were not only muscled and tan in their tiny swim suits, they were charming. We had hors d’oeuvres and wine and sailed in the wind as the setting sun set the clouds on fire.


                                                                                                ****

In sharp contrast to our good times together while traveling, at home I struggled with Dick’s jealousy. Dick was a sensitive, generous, caring man, devoted to his family and they to him, but having been second in command of a Fortune 500 company, successfully managing thousands of employees seemed to have left Dick accustomed to having his ideas put into place with little discussion. For me to express an opinion different from his shocked and angered him. To have my attention diverted to anything other than him shocked and angered him. He became angry when I spoke to my family on the phone. He was not interested in having dinner with my family members or getting to know them in any way. If I spent time on social media or planned to have lunch with a friend, he was more than upset. As I left for work three days a week, where I still worked for Vern and his wife Lee, he demanded I not go. He eventually began to drive me to work and pick me up at noon on my three days there. He would not go in and meet them, get to know them. Having lived an independent life style for many years, having had a long relationship with a man who was complete within himself, no jealousies, I struggled. 


Arguments were not pretty, in fact, they became quite ugly at times. He became so angry one night, demanding I quit the part time job, that he drove his fist into the sheetrock and shoved me down onto the sofa. I was packed and in my car within fifteen minutes. I spent the night in a lovely hotel and ordered in dinner while planning my future without Richard Randall. I ignored his calls all evening and when I answered the following morning, he was full of apologies. He did seem to finally comprehend that he might need to consider my needs and desires and make some compromises.


Everything at home must have revolved around Dick while raising a family. He worked fifty and sixty hour weeks and brought work home for after dinner. He traveled the world, forty eight companies in twenty years, but when he did come home for family time he came home to have fun. “Let’s go to the beach, let’s drive up the coast. Nothing distracted from Dad, he was the center of everyone’s attention.


I began to understand his confusion when I had interests other than him. While he worked long hours and traveled his wife painted, she was a talented artist, and visited with her friends, but when Dick came home she focused only on him.


He loved his job and retired early only because he wanted to spend as much time as possible with his beloved wife after she was diagnosed with cancer. He and his family had experienced fantastic vacations, many in the wilderness of Canada. The family had taken advantage of the beaches and forests of the entire west coast while living in California. He worked very long hours but knew how to play and have fun, not only with family, but he took a two-week fishing/hiking trip into the wilderness with his fishing buddies each year. The family watched little TV and spent their time exploring and traveling and taking part in sports. He and I simply continued his high energy enthusiasm and interest in seeing and experiencing.


Dick was an outstanding athlete. Being very competitive, he had to be the best, he had to win. He played hard core squash games over the lunch hour with colleagues at work. He played to win at tennis. He and his wife won many couple’s matches at their country club. He played football during college until someone knocked his front teeth out and destroyed one knee. He attended college on a full baseball scholarship and continued baseball all through his adult life. He was playing softball on a seventy and older team when we met. Those old guys were a hoot to watch. I never missed a game and those guys and their wives became our good friends. He could beat anyone at ping pong. His strong, quick grandsons would try, but he was still beating them badly into his eighties.


We loved to ski. Both had not learned to ski until our forties. On one of Dick’s business trips in the early seventies to the Alps, he arranged a ski day for his clients and they insisted he join in, non-skier that he was. When back home in the states, he began to learn in earnest so that he could ski with his family members, all avid and excellent skiers.


****                                                                After I moved to Denver and as Robert Lee’s health continued to decline, he would call me when low and depressed. “I miss you. I’ll pay you to come work for me.”


Knowing he was just making flattering conversation I would ask, “What kind of job? What would I do?”


“Anything you want,” he would reply.


He continued to call after I met Dick. He knew I had met someone and was happy for me. “Most of all I want to know if you are happy? Is he good to you?” He would ask. I would assure him that I had met a good person. Robert and I would always care about one another even though our love affair had ended. Dick was more than upset when Robert called.


“Dick, Robert and I spent over twenty years together. We are good friends. I will always care about him. He is very ill and struggling after a very active life. If Ann called you, you would want to talk to her to be assured she is continuing to regain her health.” He did visit her when he had an appointment or ran an errand to LoDo. He assumed I was not aware of those visits.


“That’s totally different. Ann and I had a legitimate relationship.”  ????? I don’t know what that meant. They had kept their separate apartments, but spent time together and traveled together, just like Robert and I had.    

   

When Robert’s best friend called me one morning, my heart fell into my stomach. “What is it James?”


“Robert has been diagnosed with advanced cancer. They have given him a few months.”


I could not speak. I finally thanked James for calling and made reservations to fly to Texas. Anna would pick me up at DFW.


Robert’s daughter had moved in with him and had him polished and shined, looking his very best, standing there clutching his walker when Anna and I arrived at his house. He was smiling and upbeat. Robert’s daughter was not a friendly person but Robert had instructed her to make dinner reservations at a favorite restaurant. She and a friend drove us to the restaurant where the five of us had an excellent dinner with the best wine. 


We did not speak of Parkinson’s or Cancer. We did not speak of being apart. We talked and talked and spent the night holding one another, and when we parted, we both knew it was the last time we would ever see one another. 


                                                                                                ****

Dick had gotten to know some of my family members. They did not understand his resentment of them but all said, “Hey, he makes Mom happy,” and had been respectful. When with him, they had shown they were interested in his career and his skiing and softball abilities trying to let him know they were not his enemy.


As a staunch conservative Yankee Republican, Dick confused and irritated my liberal southern being. He was not one to tease about our differences or tease about anything for that matter. His bright mind came up with hilarious one liners often, but with his very literal and linier thinking, he often heard a tease as criticism. He became defensive immediately. “Am I that critical?” I would ask myself. I wondered why we could not discuss our differences without anger. In order not to have anger I continued to see less and less of my women friends. Dick would be upset, ranting and raving or falling into sadness and dejection if I chose to have lunch with friend or family. My children began to complain, “Where are you Mom?” His behavior modification continued to work beautifully. I hated confrontation and did whatever necessary to keep him happy. The time flew by as we played at full tilt. Travel, baseball, softball, symphony, skiing, his family, hiking and picnics. Our hikes were five miles up and down the foot hills, two even three days a week. We would have an evening downtown with dinner and overnight at a fancy hotel. We entertained the softball team at our house as well as his old friends from LoDo. He was president of the HOA and we held cocktail hour for our neighbors.


People asked, “Why don’t you marry?” We were in our seventies when we met!!!


“Let’s see,” we would muse, “will we be having children?  Oh, I guess not and pre-nups are so messy.”


His children would probably have fainted had we mentioned marriage. Inheritance you know?


2009

****

Dick planned a trip to Sitka. I questioned, "Sitka, Alaska? What on earth is there of interest in Sitka, Alaska?


That bustling, attractive city, when we visited in 2009, had multiple landscaped streets of new, modern buildings and jewelry and souvenir shops for the tourists interspersed with the many lovely old churches and government buildings from its storied past. It is a popular tourist destination and while we were there the monster, city size cruise ships would pull into the deep harbor and hordes of tourists would flood into the gift shops and restaurants. They would mill about for a couple of hours and disappear back into their ship.


To get to Sitka, we arrived at Prince Rupert, British Columbia via the Alaska Marine Highway. We had driven the two thousand miles from Denver to Prince Rupert enjoying the scenery and cities along the way. The final four hundred miles on that two-lane highway had magnificent scenery, but no towns. We did not pass a car going in either direction for miles and miles. We made a pit stop or two along that stretch, walk a little, start the car and drive some more. We finally arrived at our hotel in Prince Rupert and parked out front. After registering, Dick went out to move our car to the back parking lot and it would not start. The car had to be towed and had serious problems. We left it in the shop the entire time we were away. We cringed at the thought, “What if it had died along those miles and miles of nothing we had just passed through? We might still be sitting out there in the wilderness.” We could barely believe we were so lucky to have the car wait until we reached civilization before it died. 


After a restless night in a very noisy hotel, we were eager to get on the ferry the next morning. The two-day ferry ride on to Sitka was worth the entire trip. We spent hours standing at the rail on the wide, open decks to see whales and porpoises as we glided over the calm waters. The ferry made multiple stops at the many forested islands and along the coast line for those that use the ferry as their local transportation. There are no roads into many of those small towns along that rugged coastline. We disembarked at one of the small villages. The industries of the past were shuttered and the homes that were still occupied were worn and neglected. Many houses were boarded up. The trip was smooth except for the one hour we ventured out into open ocean during one night. I felt the swells as the ferry rocked and shuffled us around a little as we all slept.


Sitka was settled by Russian explorers in 1799 and in spite of conflicts with the native Tlingit warriors, Russian control continued until 1867 when they sold Alaska to the United States. The transfer ceremony was held in Sitka. Fishing is still a major industry there in addition to the tourism.


Our B & B, once we arrived, was very nice. Our room was small, all chintzy and pillows, but the bed was comfortable. The couple running the B & B split their duties. She made reservations and kept the books and he cooked our exceptional breakfast every morning and gave us history and insight into the surrounding area while we ate. We took the free bus that ran continuously from one end of the area to the other daily. We could go down town and stroll the waterfront or out to the far reaches where the salmon were running and the bears were feasting. We walked miles to one of the giant fish canning facilities where the local fishermen brought their catches. We walked through the silent forests of huge trees hung with moss. Tall ferns and giant elephant ears grew out of a carpet of bright green moss with streams running here and there. We expected dinosaurs to come crashing through at any moment.

We walked through parks filled with tall trees and beautifully carved Tlingit Totem Poles and visited the modern, colorful Tlingit museum. We visited the historical buildings from the 1800’s in town and had excellent meals in very nice restaurants or ate fast food at popular chains from home. We stopped for a drink in a small, local looking bar one evening where one of the natives insisted we try some of his, “Fresh caught and smoked salmon,” he had in a greasy paper bag. We did and managed to smile. It was raw and so bad. I am sure the locals were laughing uproariously as we left. They had spotted us as green horn tourists immediately.


Our week passed too fast and it was soon time to leave, but we still had the great ferry ride back to the car to look forward to with its interesting passengers. Instead of renting a small cabin we simply slept on the benches along the perimeter of the big open indoor observation lounge. Going and coming, we were surprised at the number of people with baggage, groceries, children and live animals that flooded onto the ferry at each stop. We were grateful for the two benches we had staked out as the crowds slept on the tables, under the tables and in between so that one had to step carefully over them to get to the tiny head during the night.


After collecting our repaired car in Prince Rupert, we stayed the night at the best hotel in town, a very elegant, modern place. Palm trees bordered the long curving drive out front. We had freshly made croissants and jam over-looking the bay our last morning there and began our long drive home after another surprising, amazing adventure.


                                                                                 ****

Early on, Dick and I drove back east to one of his Syracuse University biennial class reunions. Dick attended college and law school there and the friends he made at his Fraternity House became and remained close, lifelong friends.


When we traveled, Dick made reservations on line for flight, car and hotel via computer and printed out everything. All correspondence to finalize those reservations in printed form was quite a stack of papers, so when we approached the counter to get our rental car at the airport on our first trip to New York we were both standing at the desk while Dick thumbed through his stack of papers trying to find his confirmation.


“Just give me your name sir. I can find your reservation.”


 Dick continued to shuffle papers. As he did so, he dropped the stack and papers fluttered to the floor. We both bent to pick them up and banged our heads together, hard.


“Ahhhhhhhh, Owwwww.” Dick screamed as he grabbed his forehead. “I’m bleeding,” he cried as he pulled his hand away and saw red on his palm.”


The other clerk rushed to a back room and came out with gauze and tape. It wasn’t blood, it was red ink.


I grabbed our luggage and slunk off to a corner chair across the room. Dick gave the lady behind the counter his name. She did not tell him about his car and where it was, she simply excused herself, went out back, got the car and pulled it around. She came in, got our luggage and put it into the trunk of the car and guided us into the front seat. She was courteous and smiling and probably wondering how on earth we would find our way out of the airport.   

 

We stayed in one of Dick’s friend’s home that first visit. Another friend and fraternity brother, a DuPont heir and champion of the university through the years, entertained us all in his lovely home and welcomed us to his private box to watch the football games.


One of the members of that group lived in California but had a cabin on an island in the St. Lawrence River. During the reunion week, he picked us up with his boat and toured us through the maze of islands to have lunch with he and his wife at their cabin. Interesting, accomplished people we loved spending time with brought us back to those reunions every other year for many years.


I was amazed at the beauty of upper New York in the fall. The rolling hills of fall colors, the classic Yankee white clapboard houses with black shutters and close clipped lawns, banks of chrysanthemums and shocks of wheat on their porches looked like post cards. There were scarecrows in cute straw hats and big, orange pumpkins everywhere.


On one of those trips back east, a life-long desire of mine to stand on the North Eastern tip of Maine, one of the farthest reaches of the United States, was realized. I stood on that rock and peered out across the ocean remembering doing the same at the tip of the Florida Keys looking south with Robert. Touring that remarkable area, eating the fresh seafood, discovering the beauty of the ocean side towns and villages with even more fall colors was another wonder. Over the years, Dick introduced me to the Great Lakes, the Finger lakes and Niagara Falls. All of those visits Back East were seminal events.


We had just returned from one of those trips when I got a call. Lee had died while I was away. I called Vern. After a long conversation of condolence and funeral arrangements, Dick was livid that I had been on the phone with another man.


“Dick, his wife died,” I cried in frustration.


“Oh. That’s too bad. That assures you should never go into that building with him, a single man, again.”


I insisted that Dick go to the funeral with me. Vern, devastated, retired. His son closed pending contracts and I never saw them again.


                                                                                                2011

December started with a surprise three-day Birthday/Christmas visit to the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, the first of many. The elegant, beautiful campus, hotel and restaurants were classically decorated for the holidays. There were glistening eight-foot Christmas trees in every lobby and a life size ginger bread house. Our room was exquisite and the meals divine.  We enjoyed the lap pool and city size Jacuzzi and walked around the gardens and golf course. Classy retreat.


Dick went out of his way to please me, to make me happy. I appreciated his efforts but struggled with his demand that we be joined at the hip twenty-four seven.


Most holidays gathered family at Dave’s and Patty’s ranch. Ken did not often attend. He was embarrassed. He had realized how he had failed his daughters. He was embarrassed that he could not stop smoking though seriously ill.


Those Christmases at Dave’s ranch through the years were wonderful. Always Dave and Patty, Karen, her children Jesse and Kacy and sometimes a friend of theirs. Nevada and Hunter, very active, enthusiastic boys adored handsome, smiling Kacy who was eventually planning to attend college in Hawaii. Jesse would eventually obtain her masters from CU.


Often, Ashley came with her husband and son Ryder. Haley came and brought her baby girl. Though living in different states, those cousins remained close while growing up. The big, two-story Christmas tree, cut from Dave’s property, stood over the pile of gifts. We did the traditional turkey and stuffing followed by the traditional hike through the Pike National Forest that spread out behind their property, often in deep snow. Dick and I had cut our little Christmas tree there the week before.


A Walk In The Forest

Death and Dying among the trees

Do they grieve?

For the loss of a tree

As we?

 

Death and Dying, I’m  Eighty Three.

We do grieve

For the loss you see

Of We


Our community had a fun Christmas party each year and we celebrated with those of my family in town at the time. One year, Mike and Maggie, Randy and Robert, Peg and John, in from California, and Peg’s Amy and Scott all came to our house Christmas Eve. As they began to arrive around noon, the house began to fill with smoke, choking, thick smoke. The men rushed around opening windows and doors while we women pulled the turkeys out of both ovens. Smoke billowed from both ovens as we opened them. Both aluminum pans the turkeys were in had pin holes. Grease had dripped into the bottom of both ovens. I have had smoked turkey before but these were not the same. It took weeks to find a cleaning crew with the expertise to clean the burned grease out of those ovens so that we could use them again.


Dick was warming up a to my family members as he got to know them a little better each year and one Christmas, a once in a lifetime fun time, my entire family as well as some of Dick’s family all gathered on Christmas Eve at our house and did the White Elephant gift exchange. Dave was amazed at the intense, cutthroat stealing, bargaining and serious though laughing hijinks my family did to get the gift they wanted during that game.


FAMILIES

Where does a family begin? Where does a family end?

Like expanding space, there is no beginning or end.

 

Some families form within friendships and overlap and extend,

To neighbors and others with bonds that don’t break or bend.

 

Other families disperse, lose interest, deal with strife,

Become disconnected, such a loss to one’s life.

 

For me, my family view looks outward from my five,

Extends to their loved ones and offspring and their lives.

 

Family members of others have entered my life and gone.

While the connection of my five has always stayed strong.

 

Dick’s family members dropped by the house often and we all had dinner together regularly. I loved Dick’s family members and enjoyed their company.


****


We were seeing members of my family more often. Randy and Robert lived fifteen minutes from us. They invited us to dinner. We laughed while driving over remembering the first time they invited us to dinner after Dick and I met. Trying to be cool, Dick tried not to show his angst at having dinner with two gay men. By the end of that first evening, he had made two new good friends. Dick liked my guys very much. They have a beautiful home surrounded by beautiful gardens. The views from their deck spans downtown Denver across to Pikes Peak far to the south. Robert served one of his gourmet dinners to us under the pergola at the back of that deck with wine and interesting conversation. Dick eventually met Ida, Robert’s mother, liked her very much and enjoyed the visits when she came to town.


2011 saw us traveling to see Peg and John again, but this time in Wyoming. They were managing a ranch not far from the stunning Teton mountain range. Unfortunately, my back went out during our drive up. Riding in the car was very painful. Walking was very painful. We stopped in Jackson Hole for lunch, but I found it difficult to enjoy the meal or the beautiful surroundings. By the time we arrived at Peg’s I was not interested in anything but being very still. They put me in a brace, gave me Tylenol and took Dick on a tour of the big ranch and the beautiful Percheron show horses. Everything revolved around those horses and their huge heated barn. There was a big pond out front with two pair of snow-white swans gliding across the smooth surface and the main ranch house was a showpiece. It was a great place and after a couple day’s rest and a good massage from Peg I was feeling better.

Peggy gave a great massage. As Amy was growing up, her cerebral palsy kept her muscles tense and painful. Craniosacral work and massage provided relief for Amy so her mother had studied both.

When we left Peg and John we drove the 140 miles to Sheridan, Montana to visit the father of two of Dick’s grandchildren, Brad. Dick and Brad had remained good friends after the divorce from Dick’s daughter Karen. We stayed in the beautiful home Brad had built and his wife Jan prepared amazing gourmet meals for us. She had a small restaurant/catering business in their small community. We extended the dining table and Jessie and Jan’s daughter and her husband and baby joined us for dinner. Good food, good company.


Brad had built a two-bedroom log cabin out of the city and had invited us to use it anytime as a get-away so we left their warm hospitality and drove to the cabin for a few days of hiking and relaxation. The back went out, again. I was in terrible pain, so we called Jan to get a recommendation for a chiropractor close by. With an adjustment and pain meds I was able to walk around again so we bought groceries for a cook-out and invited Brad and Jan to dinner.


Our dinner invitation happened to be on a Friday. Unknown to us, Brad’s buddies congregated at Brad’s and Jan’s house every Friday night. They never knew who or how many would show up, but everyone brought beer and Jan cooked. They just got on the phone and let everyone know where the new location for that Friday night gathering would be and cowboys started arriving at the cabin. Those cowboys had on starched, tight, creased jeans that broke just so over their western boots. Their starched white shirts sported a red or blue bandana tied around the neck. They were all tall and slim and wore a big sombrero or western hat, tilted just so over their full mustaches. I expected John Wayne to saunter in any moment. We scrambled around for more food and the beer flowed into the night.

A week after our stay in the cabin, a huge boulder the size of a car rolled down the mountain behind the cabin and crashed into the bedroom where we had slept. It splintered the wall and the bed. Wow! 


                                                                                                ****

Another adventure that year was a trip to the Bosque del Apache, just out of Sucorro, New Mexico to see the migrating birds that land there each year to rest and refuel. A large area of multiple ponds and streams surrounded by cattails and brush provide for the 100,000 cranes, ducks and geese during peak season. The surrounding farmers leave part of their grain crops each year to provide food for the birds.

We rose at 4:00 a.m. There was coffee and freshly made cookies waiting for us in the B & B kitchen. We drove to the wildlife refuge in the dark and parked among the other cars.


Quietly, the many people waiting in lawn chairs or standing in groups with their thermoses became evident. Finding an open spot, we settled among the reeds and grasses surrounding an open pond. A faint hint of dawn began to chase away the dark and we could see the silhouettes of birds. Thousands of birds standing or floating wing to wing. One by one, the birds began to stir. As the sky began to lighten even more, there would be a ruffle, one bird would hop up, then a few more would call out and flap up a little before settling back down. As daylight slowly crept in, I saw that undulating crowd of thousands and thousands of birds becoming more restless. Then, in an instant, an explosion of sound, and wings. Thousands of birds roared into the sky as one. That huge wave of flapping, calling birds flew higher and higher as one black mass and moved on looking for breakfast.


****

Dick and I lived right up against the foot hills of the great Rockies. White Ranch, the largest open space of Jefferson County, sat just Across highway 93 about a mile and a half from our door. The park sat at the top of a 7,400-foot mountain. We originally took the trailhead closest to us on the east side of the open space, but the trail was very steep and the multiple bikers that rode up and down, along with rain erosion exposing big boulders, made it almost impassable. I have no idea how those bikers did it.

We discovered this beloved park soon after moving into our house and drove about fifteen miles around the mountain to another entrance on the west side often. Gaining altitude as we made that drive the view out over the plains, across the top of our tiny house below stretched all the way to Kansas. Tiny Denver sat in the mist halfway across. Buckley Airforce Base and DIA sat on the far horizon. That 3,000 plus acre open area of pine, juniper and scrub oak exploded with tiny wildflowers of every color of the rainbow each spring.


We claimed a pavilion overlooking that amazing view as our own. We cooked and picnicked there, just the two of us as well as with family members many, many times. Deer visited us there by twos or threes and one year a migrating group of twenty-three just slowly sauntered by the end of the pavilion, not looking right or left, totally ignoring us. Driving up one day, two, obviously young, buck elk with huge princely racks pranced across the road in front of the car. Their strong muscular bodies flashed in the sunlight like Walt Disney drawings. 


Best of all, Dick was tending the fire in the grill between the pavilion and the view one evening when I happened to look back toward the very top of the mountain. A female moose, totally unexpected in that area, was nibbling lower branches of one of the trees.


“Dick, turn around.”


“What?” he said as he turned. “Oh my gosh. What on earth is she doing here?”


One does not see moose around Golden. We watched her for quite a while until she finally sauntered off down the hill toward a ravine.


One summer, while visiting Red Feather Lakes area, we were hiking through the spring woods of pine and cedar. A few yards ahead, a big black shadow began to rise between the trees next to the trail. The very big moose stood and stared at us as her little calf struggled to stand beside her. We froze. We stood very still until they finally moved off. Strangely, she did not move out into the forest, but sauntered just ahead of us on her long spindly legs parallel to the trail for the next half mile.


Back to White Ranch, we loved the multiple trails and hiked them all many times. We even camped out once at the very nice camp grounds. Having camped out our whole lives, Dick and I considered ourselves more than capable. Granted, it had been a few. We did not take a walk-in tent because we had to carry all supplies over half a mile up and down from car to camp. We took a pup tent and air mattress. Come bedtime, we pumped up the mattress and crawled into the low tent. “Oh darn,” Dick muttered, I’d better get back out for a pit stop.” As he began to crawl out, he began to cry out with pain from leg cramps. I tried to help him out of that tiny tent and off that air mattress at ground level. 

Finally settled back in, just as we were dozing off, I woke in agony with leg cramps. Dick thrashed around stiffly, leg cramps of his own trying to get out quickly to pull me out since I couldn’t move. We did get a little sleep that night but decided maybe our camping days were over. 


Probably my hiking days were over also. Very early in our relationship, on a ski trip with several members of Dick’s family, I had been the slow one getting into my boots. Everyone was fitted out, out the door and headed for the ski lift when I was still struggling with my rented ski boots. I did not snap the clips to hold the boot tight to my foot but rushed out the door. My loose boot caught on the top step overextending my foot, stretching the toe down. I caught myself and did not fall but the foot hurt like hell. I did ski the entire day, but in great pain. That foot slowly became more and more painful for a month until I finally reached out to a doctor and was told the ligament had been partially torn when I skidded down those stairs.


We continued to ski into our eighties but hiking became too painful. The tendon helped take over some of the lifting duties and special arch supports helped until nothing did. The foot slowly went from bad to worse through the years until hiking was too painful. Dick grieved. Our together life changed. Hiking, long daily walks were as important to him as breathing.


****

My granddaughter Kimila was graduating college. Her major was music and Dick and I were invited to her graduation recital. I loved any excuse to drive to Texas and spend time with family. I had always been close to my son-in-law David’s family, the Leaches, and had spent many Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays with them throughout my single years. They and other family members and friends half-filled the small darkened auditorium. Kimila, a tiny, slender girl with a big smile in a long gown, walked onto the stage of that auditorium with her accompanist. She nodded to him and he played the intro. My tiny granddaughter began to sing and this huge, rich, deep operatic voice poured over us, lifted us and sent her Gran into tears. Dick muttered Wow? We could hardly believe the half hour of beautiful, powerful music pouring out of Kimi, the granddaughter born during that Texas storm I drove through that had me musing, “What kind of energy is entering this world in this storm?”

Her mother had a lovely voice. Why hadn’t we given her music lessons? Why hadn’t I encouraged my children to reach for higher education with more ferocity? I wish I had had higher aspirations for my children. We were so proud of Kimila.

WHO

 

Am I this fragile child that cries, feeling unloved,

and fear of being alone?

 

Or this mature woman, safe and secure

hiding among friends and social poise?

 

Am I this mother filled with empathy,

wanting to shield and protect?

 

Am I this tender, passionate lover

wishing to be desired?

 

Am I a composite of all these facades,

thrown up at will?

 

These many rolls are interesting, but are they all that I am?

 

                                                                                               

We had not been home from Texas long when James called. “Robert died this morning.”


After I could finally speak, I said “Thank you for letting me know James.”


“You know there won’t be any service?”


“I know.”

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