Liverpool, Day 1

12 June, 2018
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Well here we are, in Jolly Olde. I think I may have overstated my worry about overseas travel, as I have received many congratulatory messages on social media for making it here alive — for “surviving.” hahaha OK, probably my fault. But enough already — please. I’m good. :-)

Speaking of overseas travel — or any type of long-distance trip when you’re cooped up in a cramped space with dozens of other people, I have three words of advice for you:

Noise.
Canceling.
Headphones.

I know that little Trevor (3-year-old seated directly in front of me) and little Georgia (also 3, seated several rows behind in the next cabin division) just wanted to get off that plane and go home. And six hours is a long time to make a squirmy toddler sit. But again….Noise. Canceling. Headphones. :-D

So along we went, soaring at 40,000 feet, and I monkeyed around with the video screen on the back of the seat in front of me. It didn’t take long to see that in some small way, the Thriller was here with me. On their “Classic Rock” music selection, they had the entire album End of the Innocence, which contains one of his favorite songs. I listened to it a few times over.

But I think he stayed on the plane, because it was insanity from the moment it touched down in Manchester. It took them f-o-r-e-v-e-r to find a parking space, and of course, I’d planned to allow myself 30 minutes to get to the train station (a 10-minute walk) after our on-time flight. Good, ja? Nah, not so good. I missed the first train, but fortunately I’d bought an all-day ticket. So I waited in the damp cold for an hour for the next one.

One train switch and an hour later, I was walking into Liverpool Central Station. A nice gentlemen told me how to get to my hotel. Fifteen minutes later, I walked into the beautiful lobby of the Nadler , ready to get off my feet after schlepping my 17-lb. backpack all over creation. They said sorry, but my room wasn’t ready yet. Oooookaaaay. I sat in the beautiful lobby and tried to not fall asleep. In 30 minutes, they came and got me. A nap was definitely in order, as I’d been awake for about 22 hours.

Then it was exploring time. I walked the narrow streets (many with the cobblestone and bricks still showing) and ended up at a pub on Bold St., where I had my first proper meal of fish and chips. Delightful! (But I couldn’t finish that enormous serving.)

After some more curious walking, I decided to turn it around and head back to the hotel, but not before stopping at Greggs and picking out a Spiky Mikey for a bedtime snack.

It’s late now — after 1 a.m. –and I’m still getting accustomed to the time change. I think I’ll sleep till 6, then escape somewhere for a quick breakfast before David, my private tour guide for the day, lah-dee-dah, comes to pick me up.

More tomorrow, fiends — thanks for coming on the journey with me!

Detours

29 May, 2018
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Greetings, all. I know — it’s been quite a while.

I wanted to write to you after the interment ceremony back on 27 April, but I just didn’t have it in me. Not much to say when you’re feeling kind of empty. But the days since have been so full of activity with the school year circling the drain, it didn’t really give me much time to dwell on it. And as I always say, he wouldn’t want me to dwell on it. So I try to honor that, for the Thriller, but…easier said than done, ja?

2015, in the peak of health- a beautiful Aussie specimen

It’s been a spring full of  disappointments, joy, revelations, more life changes, and a handful of mixed emotions. What a crazy, zig-zaggy road it’s been.

Three weeks ago, we lost Pax. He fought a brave battle after suffering an event that kills many dogs outright. I had another wonderful 11 months with him, and I will miss him forever.

I held his face in my hands and kissed his snout as he drifted away peacefully. I hope he sensed me there, talking to him. I have never known a sweeter dog. He loved everyone he met, and so many loved him back. Such a precious soul.

I’ve enjoyed having my four grandsons nearby — what fun!

The Odyssey is 13 days away. I’m très excité. But I confess it’s taking a back burner to my worry about sister Mavis, who’s in the hospital yet again with an infection and pneumonia, following her abdominal surgery last month. As my departure date looms, I get a little more nervous about leaving.

Sometimes, I admit wondering why things just can’t be easier. Then I think of people whose lives are truly difficult, and I’m ashamed to have complained about what many would term an embarrassment of riches: I have a good job, a comfy home, decent health, a loving family, and good friends. What do I have to complain about, seriously? I know — not much. So I’ll quit it, and just concentrate on paying all this forward, in gratitude and servitude, as so many people have shown that same grace to me in word and deed over the last five months.

Good to be back, writing to you. I hope you’re well. Four more days for me, then another school year is in the books. That alone is tap-dance worthy.

Hugs to all.
RF

Odyssey 2018

7 February, 2018
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I confess it makes me sad to look at all our past Odysseys in the category list and see the gaping hole that was 2017. Twenty-seventeen was a sad year, and I’ll always view it that way. I’m starting to become accustomed to the notion that I will never “get over” the Thriller not being with me; rather, I’ll just learn to deal with it better. And I’m all right with that, because I know that’s what he’d want from me.

He also wanted me to take this upcoming trip for years. So I’m doing it.

Odyssey 2018: The Pilgrimage.

Fully 40 years in the making, it’s going to be quite the reward for my outrageous fandom. I will try to not act like a giddy fool.

Now, to those who know me and my issues with aeroplanes, you know this is a big deal. And not only am I flying to UK this summer, I’m also flying out to Sacramento to visit Kay. Whaddya think of that noise? Me and my Valium will get a major workout on the runways.

My sister Vicki and sister-in-law (also Vicki, and a native of Manchester UK) have been super helpful with the details of what to do in Liverpool, and where to go, how to get there, and what to do stateside to prepare to leave. I’ve also done some research on good tips for women traveling alone, and I must say I’m really looking forward to it. Super huge thanks to my sister Mavis, who will take great care of my pups so I don’t have to worry at all. (Fellow pet people know what I’m talking about.)

Super-coolest detail, though: if the planets align and she can swing it, my dear fiend and fellow RtB citizen Suzanne will hop a plane from her home near Amsterdam to join me for a couple of days on the London leg of my trip. How fun is that?

So, come 10 June, I’m traveling to northern Illinois to visit with my four fabulous, crazy aunts, stay the night, and then drive to Chicago to jump on the plane to Manchester (if I must fly, I prefer direct flights and don’t mind driving a bit to grab one — and the price was right this time). From Manchester airport, I’ll get on the train to Liverpool to relax for a bit at the Nadler, then start my wanderings. Can’t wait.

Are you doing something fun or outrageous this summer? If so, do tell — I don’t want to feel like the Lone Ranger here.

Love to all.

New and new

1 February, 2018
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Fiends:

I wrote not a single word to you in January, letting an entire month go by while the dust bunnies gathered here (only the second time that’s happened since I started this little circus way back when). It wasn’t on purpose, but I guess it was meant to be. I suppose I just didn’t have much to say.

But life indeed does go on, and I’ve experienced some beautiful joy amidst the heartache. My family and friends have been constant sources of comfort. My fears about intense loneliness have been calmed by activity and new adventures. I’m grateful to my wonderful Thriller for being so attentive to detail so that this transition could be as minimally painful as possible.

I’m thankful to — and this will surprise some, I’m sure — the Social Security Administration, the VA, and the Navy for processing Michael’s information so quickly. They took care of me within a week of my submitting documentation. They made it easy for me to tie up loose ends, enabling the Texas loved ones to make plans to travel north in April for his memorial.

Christmas Eve seems forever ago. There’s still a big hole in the house and my heart and life, but from everything I’ve heard and read, that’s to be expected. I know he wouldn’t want me to mope around; I’m working on that with some success lately. Lots of new feelings and experiences.

Do you believe RtB will be starting a new decade this month? Holy cats. I must come up with something fun to celebrate my 10th birthday. Maybe a neat giveaway or a contest. Or I’ll mail you all a pony. So many possibilities.

But now, alas…the shower, the road, and the school house. Back at it. Much love to you all this first day of RtB’s birthday month. Finkuary. ;-)

RF

Peace

31 December, 2017
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The Thriller is at peace. Me, not so much yet, but I know I will find some farther down the line.

On this, our wedding anniversary, I reflect back on his life: one well-lived and full of great adventures. I’m sure at the end he regretted nothing other than the fact that he couldn’t stay with us. On my last post in the “Fighting Cancer” category, I will write about his last day while it’s still fresh in my mind, so I never forget.

The night before he passed, he kept his children up for hours (they had forced me upstairs to bed at 10 p.m., as I hadn’t slept much over the previous four nights), wanting to walk around the house, suspended on the arms of his son and son-in-law. They all took turns walking him around in his restless, somewhat agitated state. This was his active period; according to my research and what I was told by the Hospice staff, cancer patients in their final hours have periods of activity or restlessness. They often cry out or moan or talk in their sleep. They see and talk about people who are long dead. With other patients, it’s a time of physical regeneration, albeit temporary. Such was the case with the Thriller.

He refused to lie down to nap on that last full day and night, and it was wearing us all out, because he couldn’t be left alone for a single minute. We feared for his safety, as he wanted to stand up on his own and try to walk, but as soon as he’d take a step, he would surely lose his balance. At this point, he was almost completely non-verbal, with just the occasional “yeah” or head nod.

Anyway, about 5:00 a.m. on the 23rd, I came downstairs and told the kids to go get some sleep. Oldest daughter Becky stayed, and my younger son came over. They helped throughout the morning, and then at 11 a.m., I told them to go on home, as I had convinced Michael to lie down for a nap, finally.

He never left his bed again.

As Friday gave way to Saturday, we noticed his breathing becoming more labored, so I increased his morphine, and it helped. Then the apnea began, and throughout the day, we counted up to 20 seconds going by between breaths. This continued throughout the afternoon. We all sat by his bedside, taking turns holding his hands. We told stories, laughed together at funny memories from the kids’ childhoods, kissed him and stroked his hair. I’m convinced he could hear us and feel us.

In the early evening, his breathing changed somewhat, and he began breathing in through his mouth and out through his nose, at a faster rate. We took more time to talk to him and tell him how much we loved him. When his physical body control gave way and there were several accidents, we teamed up to clean and change his clothing and padding, while talking to him and doing all we could to spare his modesty. We put on our gloves, and while the girls assembled the waste bags and replacement garments, Josh lifted and moved his father (saying, “Sorry if that’s uncomfortable, Dad; I’m just going to lift you up…”) so I could clean him. No one minded. It was our privilege.

I suppose I could have/should have called Hospice in at that point, but as wonderful as they are, I didn’t want them there. I wanted it to just be family. And since he didn’t appear to be in any distress, I was fine with it staying that way for a while.

Just before 11 p.m., his children and I saw Michael open his eyes wide and look right at me. I knelt down beside his bed and said, “Well, look who’s awake.” It was then that his eyes closed again, and he exhaled softly. We waited for him to start breathing again, but he never inhaled. It was over.

There was no wailing or rage or histrionics. It was perfect, still silence. After a few minutes, we called Mavis and the boys, and took turns sitting next to Michael, holding his hand and kissing him goodbye. We held each other. We talked and cried.

After a couple of hours, I called Hospice. A nurse arrived and formally examined him (although we know he died at 10:58 p.m. on the 23rd, his official time of death was when the nurse examined him at 1:35 a.m. on Christmas Eve; hence, the 24th will appear on all official documents, and on his grave marker). She then contacted the funeral home. By the time the two men came and placed him on the gurney with a beautiful quilt covering him, it was 3 a.m. We gave him a final kiss goodbye, one by one.

And now I begin another journey: my future. I’m sure the good times will return, but it’ll be a different kind of enjoyment. I’m as ready as I will ever be for it. Next post, I’ll be back to my normal drivel about entertainment, daily life frustrations, school, grandchildren, grammar, and various and sundry things that make me alternately happy and furious.

Happy new year, fiends. Much love to you all.

#teamthriller