Island Blog – I am alive

And so it rains again, sideways and spiralling like wet smoke. I watch islanders walk by attached to damp dogs, legs all a-skitter. The humans are water clad, their faces shining rosy, their laughter lifting into the sky as they share a chuckle, again, about the rain, again. Visitors drive by, droop-faced, vision misted, windscreen wipers tick-tocking to keep the skinny road clear ahead. Where will they go today to see notverymuch I wonder? Inside the heating warms me, the fire curling amber red flames around the dry wood that spits and crackles; timpani. This is the island, the one that tongues far out west, dividing the Atlantic with its basalt and granite determination. I am content.

Walking out to feed the jittery birds sinks my feet into the sodden grass but no weather stops the need to feed their hunger. They scoop and swoop in, wary of the neighbour’s cats, of the sparrow hawk dive. I watch them cluster around the swinging feeders and am thankful that my meals are easier to access and without danger. I hear the drip drip of a ceiling leak, the plink of the drops as they land in an enamel jug. I used to need buckets, four of them, but not now, not since the ingress was located and bunged shut. And so I am thankful for that. Soon the day will kick off, unfold, pull me here and follow me there. I have music, words, timpani, birds, windows and rain. I am alive.

Island Blog – More than, less than

I am all about words, concepts and life choices that augment. In these times of so called lack, even if our gone generations are currently sniggering, we all need to believe in growth, personally. Mostly personally. Spring will come. Sun will shine. Streets will clear and flights will fly. But we, we, must look to ourselves as we have never done before; not in our lifetime #gonegenerationsnigger. There is much talk about connecting with nature, from me too but it thinks me of those who have no nature in their immediate grasp. Where do they look? Surrounded by concrete and gang troubles, where do they look? I cannot answer that but the thought of them arrests me. From the position of privilege, aka warmth, safety, food, money enough, I am a veritable baby in this world. Although I have seen poverty close up I have never lived it.

From my place of privilege, I can write, walk in safety, talk to the trees and many other things that, I imagine, would swingbat a head bash from one who sees me as a princess; as I must be, to them. So many layers of life, so many and most of us who whine about dog poo along our verges or the lack of produce in our local Co-op are only highlighting our ignorance as we whine. Our problems are so First World.

Nonetheless, all of us within our very different layers must needs find ways to grow from the pandemic. I write ‘grow from’ because we are all affected by its many-layered tails, the loss of confidence, the fear, the anger, the isolation. All of us, privileged or not. We are all pandemic babies, no matter our age. All of us. And, as babies we can augment, we can grow and we can outmanoeuvre ‘going back’. I never got that. Nobody ever goes back, not to work, not to school. We move forward, always, with what we have encountered, learned, understood and refused in the interim. We can decide to walk a different way, choose a different direction, make good the old gaps in our relationships. We can augment, be more than.

This day the rain slew sideways. It skimmed across the tidal loch, the sky, obliterating the far shore. It smoked away the trees, big pines, altercating their place in the skyline and yet not causing a riot. I noticed that. Such an altercation in a pub might have led to a punch up, but not in nature. There is allowance. An augmentation, a rise, a raise. I watched the rain turn into rivulets, trickling through thicks of coppered beech leaves, spinning off the track and down down to a burn, already bubbling and singing its way back to the sea. I stopped beside a stand of hazels, noticed their reaching out boughs, the gnarls, the reaches and I wondered. What stopped you there? What gave you the shine to reach out there? I will never know the answer but I/we loved the asking moment. Beneath the pines I enjoyed a pelting of raindrops. It laughed me, and, I believe, them. I stood beside stand water, noticing the sticks fallen and longtime floating, how ebony they are, how slick black and how well they catch the light even in death. I encouraged a Silver Birch, rooted in the water. Go well, Girl. You have a lot to work through, not least a 12 inch puddle of endless rain. I saw how raindrops create ripples, how they augment the stand water, not just visibly but with sound, with a beat. I waited until I connected, stamped my sodden boots to the rhythm. Laughing my way home, I came into warmth, safety, home.

Not everyone can say that.

Island Blog – Dancer

This lovely day I am aswirl with thinks and memories and some very deep hurt. Bereavement, however much of a relief it might be, does not adhere to a timeline. Recently I have gone through the however many stages of grief backwards, flip side up, out of order or all before lunch. I make the mistake of berating myself for this chaos but only until I literally wash my hands of any control. This chaos is not birthed from me. This chaos just snuck in and is currently picking away at wounds and digging the black hole even deeper than seems possible. I had no idea there was so much space inside for black hole-ness, one I cannot navigate nor have a conversation with because any questions I send its way just echo back to my ears in triplicate minus an answer. All I can do it seems is to trudge through the hours of light and the longer hours of dark until this chaos gets tired of chaoting and moves on to bother someone else. If, I tell myself, this process actually looked like one I could understand, I might be then able to formulate an algorithm, one that would guide me step by step up and away from the turmoil. But I can grasp a hold of nothing. All is smoke, mist, cloud wisp and yet so heavy and solid around me. I cannot run from it, nor hide. I change my thoughts but my mind is colluding with the chaos so quickly does it shift back to the black. I get the Amy Winehouse song now because I feel it, just like she did. It takes huge and determined focus to remain in the positive when I am not having to pretend to the Out There, a role I can play with ease. A song, a phrase, a catch of light, a lift of birds, among my beloved trees, all can shunt me back to a memory that cuts like the sharpest of knives. I remember, I remember, I remember. I remember that song, that disco tune, Chain Reaction, the one you always played for me when the dance floor was empty and it was up to me to bring the kids off the walls. You grinned and watched me taking over the whole floor, spinning, moving, electric, fiery, wild. Many years ago, yes, but it comes back so clear, that smile from the stage and my smile back.

I suspect this dark time is a good thing and I don’t fight it. I sit with it, walk with it, let it flow through me, no fight, no fight. It is exhausting, upsetting, deeply painful and my mascara is invariably decorating my chin, but when I remember saying to my counsellor about 4 years ago whilst in the thick of caring for a man who still looked like my husband (sort of) but who was not that man, that all I wanted was to cry real tears, so taught and fraught and caught up was I in controlling my whole self, I realise I have achieved my goal. And there is a feral beauty in that for it has been a deep longing for many decades.

I smile as I realise how drawn I am these days to running water, a waterfall, a trickle, rain, a slow tidal dance as if my eyes are glued; it takes something loud to snatch my attention away. Walking this sunshine afternoon, I found my favourite tree. Looks about 100 foot tall, its topknot fingering the clouds, a softwood, strong and with the girth of half a country. I remember it holds water after rain until the water pools in a holdcup where two great limbs conjoin. Then, all of a sudden, the level raised to meniscus as it hits the air, it begins a spill and a walker by is soaked. I stood beneath the massive giant and looked up. Drops from way up there landed on my mouth, nose, eyes, head and shoulders. Ha!! I chuckled. You minx! I moved back a little only to be pelted once again from another branch. Game on! I said and for a few moments, a few playful moments, I and the giant made each other laugh out loud as he stood still and I danced, just me, alone on the floor moving to the song of the singer and the rhythm of the rain.

Island Blog – Drips, Droops and Defiance

I got drips. No, sorry dad. I have drips, less than of old but drips nonetheless. I quite like hearing the plash of each one falling into the enamel jug placed in place. I had to poke a hole in the plaster above the window recess last year. Actually, I have to do that poking thing every year until the plaster sags like an old woman with little to define her younger contours. I pull it all down, revealing the hen stone, the beginning of this sturdy place, the stones that protect me and many before me and then I reach out to a plasterer and the whole thing begins again. However, there used to be buckets here some 19 years ago, and everywhere, in doorways, mostly in doorways where an old 3 foot wall argued with the efficacy of whatever modern attachment attached itself. Poorly, it seems. Windows allow ingress, depending on the wind direction and puddles appear on floors. I look up. Seems logical but nothing is logical around drips. Water will in, no matter how clever you are and in homesteads built circa 1830 you are battling with just too much and it is so much better to catch the plash rhythm and to dance with it.

I empty the jug once, twice daily depending on the wind direction. It slightly bugs me that the wind has all the say in the matter, but then there is always someone who has all the say in the matter and I know that place. The rest of us work around the sayer, to a degree. We are canny, nonetheless, finding a dance that works for us, that makes the situation less rigid. I look around the rest of my room, of my home. No leaks. Just this jug-gler one, controlled until the plaster comes down. Accepting what is, even recognising and then acknowledging it, is what works for me. I have, with builder help, found the source of many leaks. This one is challenging me. She, must be a ‘she’, is telling me something. Check the outside. Check the mortar. In the olden days, there was lime in the mortar. This building could have housed King George 1V, had he travelled to the islands. Lime was a marvellous thing back then, as all new things are marvellous until they’re so not.

As we move from the old to a new we really don’t want, there will be leaks. I leaked today, here, in the wind and rain and alone. There is nowhere for these tears to go. I drooped, I confess. We face, and we do ‘face’ an uncertain future. Our fears, our lime mortar is crumbling. Our resolution is to dance but we also need to dig deep into the truth of what life is, this new life. We can decorate the inside, jug up the leaks, play positive and all that is really important, just as long as we get what is happening and grab it by the throttle. This is how it is. This is Defiance. The knowledge of what is and the fight for freedom in spite of it.

Island Blog – These November Days

It rains here a lot and never mind the November thing. It just rains. We have too many hills and we stick out too far into the Atlantic and we are used to it. But I am hearing from other drier folks that rain has confounded them. It is the way it is in our times. For those of us who know it, expect it, we are prepped. We already have the boots and the wherewithal to counter any walk in any weather. It thinks me.

At what moment did we ever think things were stable? Back to our forebears, when danger was all around, when nothing could become a very big something just when we turned back to the pot of soup, the comfort of a fire, the predicted course of the evening, I question the complacence of nowadays. When we moved to this wild island, we did because of the instability of things. I wasn’t paying attention, just following my leader but I get him now. He knew there was a big change in the coming and he responded early. I’m talking late 70’s so he was wise before his time. In the turbulence of moving, of shifting kids and location, of heading out of the comfortable warm and into the cold was not pleasant, not at all and I whined a lot and fussed more, demanding the same as was before, the safe warm of a southern kitchen, but his shoulders were broad enough to shut me up.

As I walk out this day inside heavy rain, I think. Not cold, should be. Leaves still on trees, almost. Whipping rain yes, abundantly so. The pines are falling, the land eroding. We are here. This is now for us. Will we scrabble for the past or will we recognise our now in these November days?

Island Blog – The Nothing

It rained today. A lot. The track is more like a little stream despite the culverts, now all clogged with copper leaves, hesitating the flowaway. I stop to watch the trickle that should be a steady flow. This rock, this island, is good at sloughing off water and it needs to be for we would all drown otherwise. There is enough height, enough of the waters need to return to Mother Sea, to ensure we just require wellies and macs and a good attitude. Our skin is good up here, less drying wrinkles, more flow and adjust, much like the land upon which we live. I skim the puddles where the land lifts like a shrug, just enough to allow a sort of dry footfall. My old boots, my beloved boots, are more than happy to share the wet with the wet and I can often squelch homewards. No matter. Things can always dry unlike sad hearts, hearts that just recently have filled with salt tears with nowhere to go. Not my heart. Mine is dry as a desert and there may be a problem there, but this is not about me. This is about them, the ones who cannot see beyond the rain, cannot see the bright light in between clouds, the geese flying black against the darkling sky, the swing and waggle of some shrub grown way beyond its boots and needing a cutting reminder of its place in the garden.

I see the old pines out back, quiet now that the stripping wind has exhausted itself. Larch and pine needles thicken the steps up to the compost bin as I walk them today. The burn is loud and wild with peatwater, brown and luscious and thinks me of whisky. So fast it falls, crashing down into pools and slowing like a slug as it builds and bubbles golden froth in the waiting time. I hear it at night as I try to sleep, listen to its song. I love to hear living water, I love the tidal crash. I love the argument between land and sea and I love the way they work it all out. But it does think me of where something stops and another something begins, such as a life, a death.

As I diddle about with should I, shouldn’t I in the confines of Covid fear I think of those who are in the place I was over a year ago. They are there right now and I can do nothing to ease their pain. They will be feeling everything and nothing at the same time. They will be numb and practical, baking, cooking, serving, anything to fill in their moments, anything to keep their feet moving, their smiles bright. I know this place but I know nothing about their place. It confounds me, thinks me of the crash of the burn as it falls into a pool, almost a relief, about the slug in the waiting time. It is, in a word, tapselteerie and yet they will be fighting to hold on to normal because for decades normal was normal. Effortless. She knew who she was and he knew who he was. Now that he is gone, who the heck is she? What is normal?

And Nothing is waiting at the door. Nothing is but a bit player on this stage. But, for some time she will give him the limelight. As I did. As I still do at slug-froth times. My respect to her, to any of you who know what the heck I am talking about.

Island Blog – Flowing Free

I hear the drips plopping into my little jug below the hole in the plaster. It used to infuriate me. Ach, another leak, even though it was not ‘another’, but instead the only one after years of buckets catching loads of leaks. How odd it is, when I think on it, that my leaking past jumps into my now, irrelevantly. I pause and rejig myself. Always a good idea and certainly for me. It is so easy to wear the gloom clothing, after all when Gloom is busy elsewhere and quite fed up with the fact that yet another human is calling him back. I wonder about Gloom. Is he actually an okay sort of person, one who had no idea when the gods gave him the Gloom job that he would be so busy and for so long? I have one small leak in a place where the rain falls like it just has to barf and the only place that allows is it in is here on the very Westerly West of Scotland; the last place before said rain makes no impact whatsoever in the wild expanse of the great Atlantic Ocean, an expanse of so much water that any amount of rain spill goes unnoticed. And we all want to be noticed.

I see the mosaic of infracted plaster overhead and I see art. Soon, I will need to pull it down, again. But, for now, it is rather beautiful and it thinks me. This morning woke me different. Yes, I had been up within the night, padding down for a cup of herbal and to leave my worries behind. Why they all tangle in the bed sheets is a mystery to me, but they do. If I walk down the stairs, I leave them behind and when I return, they’ve bored themselves out in the waiting and I can lie down without the damn things. I secretly believe they have no substance, hence the frishing away so quickquick. I have learned this technique over many years of believing they were the truth and holding on to them, thus allowing them to define me, to trip me up, to collude and to coagulate so that breakfast is always, was always, a guilt trip. To hell with that nonsense now. Here I am, dancing alone to Mr Beaujangles, in my kitchen, remembering the days when I could actually dance, catching my face in a passing mirror and seeing an old white haired woman who bears no relation to the one I know myself to be, and I rest and I chuckle. A So What, rises in me. And I like So What.

I spend the day completing a tapestry. For me, there is a story in every one. I give them away. I don’t sell. If someone identifies with the mountains, the tidal flow, the moon, the little home tucked away behind rocks, a safe place, then their story connects with mine. It was all I ever wanted and I got my dream. I am lucky. Folk say that we make our own luck and I agree to a degree but they miss the point. It is gratitude I am feeling, communicating, and the rest is just semantics. Words change, meanings change over time, over generations, and all of that is just as it is. Flow is key. Moving on with whatever comes at us, no matter how much value we put on the past of our past, means we don’t die wishing things were as they were. And I am so not doing that. Was is, not is. Can never be.

I walk inside the sheets of rain this afternoon as the light dims with two friends. We laugh in the rain, the diversity of dogs and their boundary shouts. To be honest, the only shouter was Poppy, but, thankfully, my friends were kind about her issues with any dog walking on what she considers to be her patch and her patch alone. No matter how often I tell her we do not own these lands, she is strong in her confidence, but it slows and calms quite quickly and so we walk together through lashing rain and bright fallen beech leaves coppering our path, larch needles like exclamation marks, crushed rowan berries, blood drops beneath our feet. We talk of village matters, of a strong and wonderful man who died yesterday, and, at that, we pause. This man is gone. His wife is in shock. We are not in that place. She and her children are not in free flow, but we are. We cannot change their situation but we can change ours because of their situation. We do it as we come through the kissing gate. We hold the news, together. And, in a few seconds we rejig our own lives, our own petty angst and we flow again, we flow free.

Island Blog – The Best View

Heavy rain, like water bullets, straight down rain, none of this fluffing fallshift of soft water dash against my face. This was a wetting. I watched the opportunity for a while. I considered my cloaking, my ineffective coveration, my footwear, and pulled back. I pulled back long enough for even the Pull Back to raise its eyebrows. Are you going or are you planning to spend the day lurching towards the window like a catapult with old pants elastic?

I don’t like the old pants bit and it stirred me somewhat. I stand taller. Ok, I say, I am offski. Before the old girl in me can catch up I am footed and rainproofed and attaching the wee dog to her lead. Door open. We are out. Good grief! This rain is pelting like reproval. It is so straight down I turn to yell (and regret it) Bend Somewhat! It is either deaf, the rain or determined. I sigh, open the gate and head for the wild place. The track is jiggling water in potholes, the rain-off sloughing like a serpent down into anywhere that’s down. Water always seeking the sea, the river, the outfall, the easy way to go. I am not doing ‘easy way’ but I am not water, I remind myself.

As I wander, because I like the whole wander thing, even in the rain, I observe. The chestnut tree is hanging low, branches so huge and so powerful are bending. I look up and say hi. On and more trees, bowed in fragility and yet still so strong. The wind rises and rises puffing and luffing, lifting, playful. It wonders me as I see massive wood limbs holding life-giving leaves, reach out way too far from the body, from the mother trunk. And yet there is power there, control and the fabulous knowing that that ancient trunk is holding you, holding and holding.

The leaves are already turning, I see the beech leaves twisting at the edges and giving in to copper. I hear the woodland choir, led by the wind. At the shore, where I walk every day to remind myself of not where we began but where so many hundreds, thousands of others began their beginning with us. The chance to see whales. I can smell the excitement even now as I wander in a past land, through gorse, popping seeds and noisily, where the seaweed lays across the out-tide rocks, copper, flaxen, lime, blood and where a heron squawks at me and lifts in lazy flaps; where oystercatchers fly above the tide, turn to me, catch the sudden sunlight and turn into fluttering pearls; where the chance of seeing some wild thing lifts a head above the water in an hour’s watching. We yearn for the wild encounter. We always did and we always will.

Let the seasons be. They are not as we once knew them, predictable and uniform, to a degree. They are wild now, and free. We have a hand in that but it is not the hand that gives up, that turns, that lifts in latent anger. It is done. We are here. We can dance through them, adapt and welcome. We can be a part of what is happening now or we can whine and criticise from the sidelines of life. Eish…….don’t do that. Engage. Join me in the frontline. We’ll get the best view.

Island Blog – Rain, Cloud Talk and Moving On

The garden drinks deep as it must when rain falls, a goodly rain, one that isn’t just a wheech of drops that barely land at all. I can see the flowers, the shrubs and the trees looking up, hopefully. Not enough, they say and I agree and then yesterday their looking and pleading brought the clouds to compassion which is an achievement when you know clouds. They are crabbit creatures, no, not just crabbit. It must be a big responsibility to have the remit of collecting droplets from myriad bodies of water and such a relief to dump what you have have been carrying for ages, as it is a relief for one of us to lay down our long held baggage. It thinks me and asks me this:- what baggage can you lay down you island wife? Well, where do I begin with all my guilt and shame and regret and failures?

Ach wheesht, come the clouds back. You think you are special or something?

Well, no, I say, a tad humbled. I was just saying.

Don’t say. Do!

Okay, I reply, hesitantly as I lay down my ‘Special’ fixation. It was quite heavy, although that is an oxymoron. Something cannot be ‘quite’ heavy. It is either heavy or it is light and the prefix ‘quite’ means absolutely nothing. It is a sort of burble, a mumble word in such a grammatical position. I could say, should someone ask me if this child is alike to his mother, Well, he is quite like her, thus meaning not exactly, but as a prefix it says nothing about the thing and everything about the person busy oxymoroning. Just saying.

Then I ferret about for other baggage. Regret. Hmmm. Describe that. I cannot. So I lay it down. I am beginning to feel light about the ankles, flexing, able to move more easily.

Shame. At what? Oh, well, at, er, at my past behaviours? I make a mistake turning this into a question. I am now at the mercy of the cloud response. One of them does, the big Payne’s Grey one with a truckload of wet just about to head earthwards. He looks like my dad in a fury. Are those past behaviours still an active choice in your present?

I resist the urge to remind him that, by definition, my present and his are the same. No, I say, firmly.

Lay it down, he barks, and then barfs rain.

Guilt. List your crimes, says the softer cloud butting up against the empty Payne’s Grey, now shredding into whisps. She says it gently. I wonder if she has some of her own to consider. She sounds empathetic.

At my choices, the things I sometimes say that hurt another.

Can you make amends? She asks. I like her voice. It’s warm like melted cheese.

Yes, I say. I already did.

Then lay it down.

I am now almost able to fly I am so light. The sky is clearing and so is my scurrilous brain.

Failures. She is still with me, the melted cheese cloud, but there is another big fat grey one right up her aspidistra. She sighs and moves on. I wait.

What failures? he asks, not aggressive despite his load.

Oh, general failures.

Is that a military title? he asks then guffaws. I roll my eyes and say nothing. There are jokers everywhere. Go on, he says, once he recovers from his obvious cloud brilliance.

Well, I wasn’t the mother I planned to be.

Who is? he says, having not a clue about what being a mother means, but I go with it and bend to lay that one down.

Next? he asks.

I could have been kinder to my husband, particularly as he folded into dementia.

Well, he says, it is too late now. Lay it down. Is that it?

Pretty much. Now here is another nonsense response. Not quite an oxymoron, more just moron.

Move on, he says, as another cloud butts up against him.

Just Move on.

And I do.

Island Blog – I would tell you

This is for you my one and only husband. As you know (I am sure the angels will have reminded you) today is our 49th wedding anniversary. I can barely believe either of us stuck it out for so many years. I see you smile at that. Neither of us had a scooby about such an intensely complex relationship, speaking out the vows with all that enthusiasm and emotion and blissfully unaware that things would change. That we would change, not at the same time, which was always deeply inconvenient, but singularly and fully expectant of the other to adapt immediately, without a cross word spoken. How naive we were, how trusting in our own set of plans, dreams and expectations. We said we would do it different, remember that? We would never alienate each other, never endure long periods of stony silence, never break apart, never run away, and yet we did all those things. And we survived it all. Did our children, I wonder? Do any children? They are so aware of parental strife, of tension within mother, within father, it cannot leave them undamaged. I suspect we are all damaged, bringing into all our relationships the breaks and black holes from our pasts. As much as I look for the ‘perfect’, there is none.

I would tell you these things. Today I walked beneath the rain-heavy boughs and caught the raindrops, the water from heaven. I cupped them in my hand from a delicate larch limb and drank in the rain. I watched the grey above me, saw the light over the Isle of Coll, open as a window into the sky beyond. A beckoning of light. Look, I said to you, can you see? I wonder how it looks from wherever you are now. How I look, a pinprick dodging puddles in my favourite boots. Did I tell you how hard I have looked for a repeat pair? I find them nowhere. I found five orchids beside the track, no idea what sort of orchids but that doesn’t matter to me. Pink and sudden, for they weren’t there just yesterday and to see an orchid is to find myself in some foreign land. The walk today was the short one. I find walking in the rain jacket a cumbersome sort of walk. My frocks are curtailed from their desire to swish and they mutter beneath the waxed waterproof coat thing that weighs a ton and is far from a pleasant covering. As you know, my slim puffa jacket is as ready to absorb the rain as a sponge might be, although I have donned it pre a rainy walk purely out of vanity and respect for the swish of my frocks, returning drenched.

Then I showered and changed. In other times, this would have been in anticipation of an evening out to celebrate. Not this year. I walked barefoot through the garden to pick myself some flowers and you would not believe the rose you planted some years back, the one called Wedding Anniversary, the one that has heretofore only ever produced 4 or 5 buds. This year it is heavy with blooms and I hope you can see them. And I have been remembering past anniversaries, even as I do have to dig my way back before dementia to find the happier ones. I remember you saying, we are going out at 7. I held the excitement all day long, thinking about what I would wear, what we would talk about, where we would go. You were always the best at celebrations, thinking of everything. Even during dementia years, when you could barely eat, let alone drive me somewhere, let alone walk, you could still smile up at me and I would smile back, so much said, so much unsaid.

I want to tell you I am ok. Better than that, I am doing well. I am learning how to let go and how to make myself into a whole me. I am supported, safe and warm. I am also, finally independent. I know you hated that word, fought like mad against it, but it means something different to me. Independence does not mean a person needs nobody. Oh no. We all need somebody or we die of loneliness. What I mean by that word now is that I have confidence in myself, in my choices, my actions. I take full responsibility for everything in my life and I lay no blame, not even on myself. Although there are things I would have done differently given the chance, I am proud of who I am. And I am thankful. Thankful to you for being my broken rock, for protecting me and our children in the only way you knew; for loving and living as you did and you did your best. I can see that now, for all the squawking I did along the way.

I touch your face in a photograph and remember the feel of your skin. I remember your hands, strong, warm. I remember your smile and the ice blue of your eyes, a gift to our daughter.

These are what I would tell you this day, my husband.

Maybe I just did.