Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Acid Bath

Back in the year 2001 or so, Jack and I flew up to WA so he could meet my dad's side of the family. My dear Uncle Jerry had said that they were going to put Jack through "the acid bath." Of course, I worried so much that I called Jerry to find out what this was about. What I learned was that back when my dad was alive, they would put my dad's girlfriends through this. My dad had so many girlfriends and was married enough times that they figured that if he brought the same person to a family gathering more than once, then he was going to marry her. (Not too far from the truth, either.) This was basically harmless family fun, but they wanted to meet the guy I was so crazy about. When my dad died in 1990, Jerry decided that since I didn't have a father anymore that he'd do what he could to fill that role, and this was part of it.

When we went to Jerry's it was like a family reunion. All the local family was there, and it was great to see everyone. While we're all hanging out in Jerry's lovely back yard, Jerry starts asking all kinds of questions of Jack like about his bank account and so forth. Jack, of course, hesitated on some of the answers. Finally, Jerry came right out and asked Jack, "So exactly what are your intentions toward my neice?" To which Jack replied, "Jerry, I'm going to marry her and knock her up. In that order." End of ribbing. He was accepted into the family. And it wasn't as bad as I was afraid it was going to be.
L to R: my mom, Jack holding Gabby, me, Sarah, Uncle Jerry, my brother Ken (deceased) and his s.o. Sarah. This is a photo from Gabby's "first year" photo album

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Urn

Jack now officially has a more permanent urn. At last. After he died, our friend, Dan, said that he was probably in there bitching about being in plastic. He was right. I know it took a long time, but better late than never. He WAS in a heavy plastic bag in a brown plastic box with his name on a label. C'mon. He deserved something more classy than that. (This is said to myself.)

the original plastic box

I found this urn on the internet at a good price (for an urn). The darned things are expensive! I found one in his favorite color - cobalt blue. It's a stone and resin mix. I had it engraved with his name and his birth name in honor of his entire life, not just the later years. I hadn't originally chosen the pentagram on the order, but I let them know that a pentagram would be nice. When I saw the first proof, there it was. Could have floored me! I also retrofitted it in true Jack fashion. I used the pentagram that hung as a charm in his vehicle the entire time I knew him. What better way to wish him a safe journey in his life on the Other Side? I think he'd be proud.

I transferred his ashes into the new urn today. It feels good to have done that.

The top of the new urn. (The ashes go in through an opening in the bottom) Color is not totally accurate.

The new urn from the front, complete with retrofit. Color is better here

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Happy Birthday, Jack. A day late

Yesterday would have been Jack's 54th birthday. I had a plan. But then I fell asleep in front of the TV the night before, and when my alarm clock went off the next morning in the other bedroom, I managed to fall off the bed when reaching for said alarm clock, hitting my head and my leg in the process. So, after seeing the doctor, I spent the day at a friend's house resting. Of course, the girls were there too. I managed to give myself a bit of a concussion, but I am feeling better today. (Glad this happened on a Sat. morning so I didn't miss any work.) So I'm certain that Jack would understand being a day late.

Our remembrance of him was pretty simple. We got the idea from a TV show on PBS about grieving children. We went to the store and got 3 balloons in Jack's favorite color. Or at least as close as we could get. (For those who don't know, his favorite color was cobalt blue.) We then each wrote a short note to him telling him how much we love and miss him. (OK, I wrote Gabby's for her.) Then I attached a note to each balloon, and we went into the back yard and let them go to him up in Summerland.

He is still missed and still loved and always will be.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Comments about Jack

Before the memorial service for Jack, I collected a bunch of comments that people made in emails and other places about the kind of person Jack was. I've decided to post them here for everybody to see. He was a multifaceted man with varied interests, and he knew folks from various walks of life. But what comes through is his vibrant energy, his love of life, and his love for me and our girls.

The Person Jack

He may have died of a heart attack but it was purely physical as his was a special heart, big and generous.

I cannot help but feel a little bit of joy, not for the fact that you’re gone, but for how you lived your life, and for how you’ve taught us all to live our lives, to be totally and unapologetically true to ourselves, and most of all, to love, love, love.

He had a way of being exactly who he was, never apologizing for it, never hurting anyone by it, and always leaving people around him somewhat inspired. I've never met a Jack before. And the rare thing about Jack, is that all these things about Jack that are good, people said about him when he was living as well.

His energy and vibrant energy were so amazing.

There is an unfathomable void left in our lives where his larger-than-life presence once resided.

Jack Darkhand was a great, great man. He was also my friend.

He was a blaze of talent, a brilliant head, a lot of fun.

Jack pretty much saved my life

His humor and passion for life were infectious and his willingness to share wisdom inspiring. He was a true individual

He's a man that recreated himself dozens of times in dozens of ways.... and some know him through one, many or all of those incarnations. I think of him in wonderment.

Such a great man... so talented, kind, thoughtful

He was just Big; such an unmistakeable presence. Expansive, active, outgoing... I know no one else who is his match -- such a force!

He wrung every possible moment of happiness out of his life. What was best is that he decided this was how it was going to be.

Jack on the job

If you put Jack on a project to bottle farts, he would STILL be over the top and authentically enthusiastic and make you think that it was his life long dream to do that exact project. He would then get everyone around him excited to work on it. He had a way.

Every moment of his day that was not actively engaged in work I know was spent thinking of you. When it was time to go, he was in a hurry to get home to his family.

Jack as astrologer, brewer, Tarot reader, Pagan

People were awed by him. He was so accurate, it was scary. . . And the absolute best thing about it? He achieved this uncanny accuracy not through any psychic ability, but through pure and simple science.

He was an incredible man, intelligent, kind and thoughtful with a huge heart. . . I was so inspired by our conversation and by the magic of plants in general that I went on to study herbal medicine and have been working as a professional herbalist and healer since 2002.

Jack as loving husband and father

I was so inspired by the relationship you had with your wife.

He loved with great passion, and his romance with Linda was legendary.

There are few people who touched my heart they way Jack did. Everything he did, he did with great passion and he loved life to the fullest -- and the best part of his life was his love of Linda. I am honoured to have known him -- and I will deeply miss him.

The depth of his love consumed him. He left no doubt that Linda was the most beautiful, desirable, wonderful woman in his world. I was in awe of his love, and still am.

When I think of love, of marriage and what it can truly be, I think of Jack. I always will.

Everyone who knew Jack, knew Linda and Sarah and Gabby by first names and all the details. He gushed over them.

He died in a house of love, filled with that which was most precious to him, under a roof shared by those that loved him back. I don't think anything but death could have take him from your side.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Life Goes On

It's been a long time since I last posted. There are so many ideas that go through my head for blog posts when I'm away from my computer (like when I'm driving my car), then by the time I'm home, I completely forget.

It's hard to believe that yet another season has passed since Jack died. While the pain isn't as intense as it was, it can still be hard to believe sometimes. He is still missed, and he always will be. Be that as it may, the world continues to turn and life goes on, whether we want it to or not.
One of the significant events that occurred is that Sarah completed kindergarten. She loved her kindergarten teachers and going to school all day. She learned so much during the school year, and she seems so much more mature now. I am so proud of her!

Sarah with her kindergarten teachers, Mrs. O'Connor & Mrs. Stewart. Yes, she has a black dot on her nose. They were the Otters, so it's an otter hat and black dot for a nose.

Gabby is still going to her montessori preschool. She likes it, and she does well. I've decided that she won't start kindergarten until she's well past age 5. I think it will be better for her in the long run. She has picked up on a lot of what Sarah has brought home from school, but I think she'll be better off socially if we wait until 2011 for that big step.

The really huge thing that has happened is that I've gone back to work. Yes, folks, I am now officially a working single mom with all of the challenges that that entails. I got a job with Providence Hospice out of Everett as a Case Manager working 32 hours a week. That will give me a day off during the week to do whatever I need to do without kids, and it will also give me benefits such as health insurance. I can't stay on COBRA forever, that's for sure. So far, I really like the job. This is my first week, and all has gone well so far. It feels good to be back in hospice work again.

While it feels good as an adult with a career to go back to the work I love, it does bring with it challenges. Jack and I had talked about what the schedule would look like if I went back to work. This was a few months before he died and before I started my RN refresher course. Well, that plan is right out the window! So getting me and the girls up and out the door on time in the morning can be a challenge. Then getting them fed and in bed by 8:00 when we frequently don't get home until 6:00 can be another challenge. Finding the balance where they get fed and enough rest but still get kid time can be really tough. I can get a little frustrated with them if I'm worried about timing. Plus, I'm getting used to a whole new routine! More than once, I've wished that Jack were here to make this an easier process. But he's not. So we manage without him. But it would be so much easier with him here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Apollo 13

Jack was one for having fascinating, true tales to tell from his life. He was one of those guys who seemed to just attract really intersting stuff happening in his life. (Or maybe he was just really good at telling the story!) Here's a true tale from when Jack was 13 years old:

Jack's father, Joe, was an astrophysicist. He was involved in the Apollo space program. It's how he made his living. (Yes, my father-in-law really WAS a rocket scientist!) He convinced (or helped convice) NASA to put crosshairs in the porthole of the spaceship, and Apollo 13 was the first spaceship to have this feature. At least this is what I've been told.

On the evening of the Apollo 13 crisis, Jack and his family were sitting down and having dinner. The phone rang. Joe got up and answered the phone. He didn't say anything on his end. He just hung up and went upstairs and came back down with an already-packed suitcase. All he said was, "There's trouble upstairs." meaning with the astronauts. Shortly thereafter, a car came and picked up Joe. Very little was said to the kids.

The next day, Jack's mother, Blanche, put the kids in the car and took them someplace (I can't remember exactly what it was) where the families of those involved could listen in on the talk going on between mission control in Houston and the astronauts. Jack and his family could hear Joe asking the astronauts what constellation they could see in the crosshairs. They would answer, then Joe would tell them which rocket to fire and for how long. And the process would be repeated until they were able to come safely back to terra firma.

This is one of those "larger than life" things that happened to Jack. It's a true story. While he and his father may have had issues at times, he was always very proud of his father's involvement with the space program, and especially the Apollo 13 crisis.

Monday, March 22, 2010

One Year

Last night was one year ago that Jack died. Hard to believe sometimes. A friend came over. We hung out and talked until VERY late and drank some of Jack's last brew that he'd been working on. I was able to look at my watch and mark the times. I'm glad to have gotten through it.

Also, earlier in the day, the girls and I went to the Unitarian Universalist church that we've been attending. The girls and I wore our t-shirts with Jack's picture on them. I lit a candle of remberance for him. After I sat down, the tears started to silently fall. Within minutes, 2 ladies were sitting beside me, including one who remembers Jack from Ancient Ways festivals. It was good to be able to cry as long as I needed to. Another lady told me at the end of the service that her whole row was crying with me. Wow. It was comforting to get so many hugs and pats from people there.

Leading up to that day was difficult at best. It was anxiety-provoking at times. I was dreading it. I had medication to help me if needed (it was at times). In some ways, the build-up was worse than the actual day. But it was still tough. And I got through it.

The last year has been one of the most difficult years of my life. It has also been one of many things happening along with adaptation. In terms of our physical surroundings, not much has changed. I didn't want to. I'm not in a place to move, nor do I want to right now. Jack's passing was enough of a change all by itself. However here is some of what HAS happened: I have taken several trips with the girls, both by car and plane (some without help); the girls have finally been to Disneyland and met some of their favorite characters; Jack's dad has met me and the girls and spent time with us; we've connected with Jack's sisters and neice; we've found a church home where there's spiritual community and acceptance of our beliefs (we're still just as Pagan as we've always been); I've finished my RN refresher course so I can go back to work; I've adapted to being a single parent; I've found friends I didn't know I had.

Through all of this, I've still loved Jack, and I've known that he still loves me, even from the other side. There is a piece of my heart that will always be his. We remember him every day. Yet there is one thing that I'm beginning to learn through all of this: that I am loved just for me. Not because I'm Jack's widow, or that I'm Sarah and Gabby's mom. Just because I'm me. And, oddly, that has been one of the hardest lessons of all.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Evolution of Us

I was taking a nice, long, hot shower and thinking. (C'mon. The shower is where I do some of my best thinking!) I had run across my eulogy for Jack this evening, and I was thinking about the relationship he and I had together.

Jack and I first encountered each other at the first Ancient Ways Festival either one of us attended in 1992. And, it was more of an "encounter" than anything. Mostly, we were attracted to each other. To this day, I don't remember if we even exchanged words that year. But we were each on the other person's radar.

Around 1993, Jack started doing his astrology newsletter via e-mail. It was called the Pagan Update. The festival was where he found many of his early subscribers. I was one of his first email subscribers. So, we now had at least a casual email relationship. And, frankly, that's where it pretty much stayed for the next few years. Yes, we were both still attracted to the other. But, I was married to another man, and Jack was busily sowing his wild oats.

Then, in 1997, things changed a bit. As an aside, Jack was infamous for an alcoholic cordial he brewed every year called Sweet Liquid Trouble. Its primary ingredient was damiana, and it was an aphrodesiac liqeur. (Mighty good, too, if I do say so myself.) One day, I was sitting at my computer at home, and an email from Jack came in. The first person to answer the question right would "win a prize." And, the question was, "Why is Sweet Liquid Trouble called that?" Being the wise-ass that I can be sometimes, I immediately shot back, "Because it's liquid, can get you into trouble, but the trouble it can get you into is oh, so sweet." Lo and behold, I won the prize! (I later found out that he was really taken aback that my answer was the first response, and he wanted to get to know me better, so he decided to get creative.) What I won was him fixing me dinner at that year's Ancient Ways Festival. I was, again, working operations staff that year. I arranged for the time off. That was our first "date." He fixed me a wonderful meal of steak, veggie, and I'm-not-sure-what-else on his camp stove. We talked the whole time. It was wonderful. During that meal, he told me that I was one of his heroes. I couldn't believe this piece of news! Here was this man who I'd admired for so long for living his beliefs who saw me as a hero?! I asked him why. He then told me that I had said that I was going to change my life, and here I was about to start nursing school. So many say that they're going to change their life, but never do. My response was yet another wise-ass remark: "Ok, fine. Just so long as I'm not the wind beneath your wings." He told me that that was the moment he realized that I was always throwing out zingers like that, and he needed to pay closer attention to what I said. (As an aside, Glenn Turner, the organizer of the Festival was a guest at our wedding in 2002. And when I saw her at PantheaCon this year, I told her that if it weren't for her, our 2 girls wouldn't be here. She immediately asked if she could be honorary grandmother. Of course she could!)

Fast forward to summer 1999. We had a few wonderful week-ends together, but it didn't work out at that time. Yet, I realized as a result of the time that we did spend together that there was something better out there for me. Whether it was with Jack or not, there was something better.

Finally, in Jan. 2000, things in my life were such that they could work out between us. We started dating seriously. What I didn't realize at the time was that Jack felt just as serious about me as I felt about him. The man seriously courted me. He played the guitar and sang songs. We had romantic dinners. He cooked for me. I'd be all worried that, for some reason, he would suddenly not be interested in me. He'd say, "Honey, J.B.Y. Just be yourself." He had to move within a month or 6 weeks of us dating again, and the separation of 18 days just about killed us. It was tough!

Then, on the morning of April 16, 2000, Jack pulled his chair around to face me and take my hand. The conversation went something like this:
Jack: "If I ask you a question, do you promise not to laugh?"
Me: "Sure. What's the question?"
Jack: "Will you go steady with me?"
Me: "Well, what does that mean?"
Jack: "It means that we're exclusive, and we aren't seeing anyone else."
Me: "Of course I will. It's what I'm already doing."
He then produced a blue star saphire ring that fit my left ring finger. The ring matched one that he already owned. That was the moment that I knew for certain that he felt as strongly about me as I felt about him. And it was the best feeling in the world. And it only got better from there.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Widowhood, Holidays, and Life

This was our first holiday season without Jack. What can I say? We made it through intact, and that was a good thing. We made some new traditions, and we kept some old ones.

For Thanksgiving, we travelled to southern CA to spend the holiday week-end with Jack's family. It was the first Thanksgiving that we spent with them. When Jack was alive, he and I loved to cook the Thanksgiving meal. He did the bird, and I did most of the trimmings. We had fun, and we worked well together. The trip went well, and it was good to see everyone. I enjoyed having a holiday where I didn't have to cook. The food was good, the company great, and I made at least one new friend. On the other hand, it was sad to not have Jack with us in person. I'm sure he was there in spirit, though.

We stayed home for Christmas. The girls and I had a small Solstice celebration at home. We had a few friends over for the evening. We burned the Yule Log, which was bittersweet. I told the girls that we were sending the spirit of last Solstice up to Papa in Summerland. Last year, Sarah really cried when we burned the Yule Log. This year, she was fine with it. For me, it was bittersweet to see the log go up in flames. While it was the right thing to do, and the tradition in our home, it was also sad to see that representation of our last Solstice together go up in flames. On Christmas Santa was very good to the girls. They got pretty much what they asked Santa for. There were also some lovely gifts for me under the tree; some to consume, and some to hang up. My mom joined us, and it was spent quietly at home.

Today, I was changing the sheets on our bed. I put one of my favorite sets on the bed. They are the first set of 400 thread count sheets that I bought for Jack years ago before we were living together. After the fitted sheet was on, I could actually see the slight wear marks from where we both slept so many times. It was just another reminder that he's not here anymore. I find little reminders as I go through daily life just like that one. The intense pain of it is less than it was, but it's still noticable and a part of my life.

Life is moving on whether I want it to or not. I'm about to start the clinical portion of my nursing refresher course next week, so life is about to get a lot busier. Jack would be pleased that I've made it this far. After all, our last conversation was him being supportive of me doing the refresher course. I still wish that he was here to tell me in person.