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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Let the Sunshine In

My sun went out the day the Quad Queen died. Five months later, it went out for real.

It's been quite a stretch of time since I last wrote a post, and I finally have a few things to say. Thank you all for your interest, caring, and support in the interim. I've heard from a lot of you in one way or another and appreciate it.

Since Karen passed away, life is a thumbnail sketch of what it used to be. The familiar shapes and motions are still there, but much of the time they seem transparent, and in black and white.

Sometimes I manage to get involved enough in something to feel joy for a while. Sometimes I feel motivated. Other times I am completely discombobulated.

Playing music with my friends was one of the best therapies. For a few hours at a time, my mind was completely on the music. Playing guitar, thinking of the next solo or chord change, singing, blending in. It was like a holiday from mental anguish.

Playing a gig with the Tragically Hips. Yes, we headlined at The Carport.

On the whole, throughout the winter, things slowly improved. Since returning home to Flusherville, I feel submerged again, coming back to the home Karen and the dogs and I shared for some 28 of our 36 year marriage.

Grieving is tough.

Since I've been out of touch, I might as well deal with things chronomalogically. Let's see now...

The last 2 nights of my Christmas Vegas trip, I felt horrid. I had a couple of Maker's the last evening, Dec. 30th, and they just didn't sit well. It turned out I was coming down with something and started 2024 a pretty sick guy.

My niece LaMondo had done Dry January the year before, so I thought, well, maybe it's time I gave my liver a break. So I stopped drinking.

Alcohol is a depressant and the last thing I needed was one more thing piling on to the mental burden I was carrying.

I figured I'd do Dry January, and follow up with Flat-faced February. But no, January ended and I just kept going.

For the first three months of 2024, I did these things:

  • didn't drink
  • practiced guitar at home, had two band practices a week, and played five small shows
  • painted half the inside of the house
  • did estate tasks and financial planning
  • had visitors
It was simple and it kept me afloat. Niece Lamondo visited first, then Dwiggie, then LaMondo's brother B.R. and his wife. It was nice having someone to talk to that wasn't imaginary.

Every night at bedtime I talked to Karen and still do. I told her what I'd done, and if I had a good day, and how much I miss her. Every night I dreamed of Karen, and I still do. I wake up and realize that the world I'm actually in is the one where she's gone. I hate that moment and it happens every morning.

Painting was good therapy. I applied 7 gallons of paint. I reckon I did 60 days of 4 hour sessions of work between Nov. 19th, when I started, and mid-March. I had February off. Two thirds of the painting time is preparation and clean-up, but it still takes effort. Taping and taping and taping. Moving things. On and on.

The walls - every single wall in the entire house - was painted in "Camel". Not very goddamned Florida, if you ask me.

The results are great and Karen would have been thrilled. (I'd promised a few things to her on her deathbed, and one of them was to paint the house, something we'd wanted since we'd had our first winter there, just two short years ago. Another was to try to be happy, something I'm still working on.)

I also got a job and then lost a job. A government contract at Royal Canadian Veeblefetzer. I'd had a zoom interview and done well, and even produced a few grommets at a local facility to show my prowess at the menial but important process. I was good to go for about a day when the government re-orged. Dozens of contractors working with the same procurement firm that I was using lost their contracts, and mine evaporated into the ether. It was meant to be and then it wasn't.

I don't really want to work per se, but I want to ensure my future can be the way the Quad Queen and I planned it out. I really don't want to give up my winters at the Greacey Palms Senior Putt Putt Trailer Park. That would mean losing all of our retirement dreams to ALS, and I refuse to give in to that son of a bitch.

For years, Karen had talked about the eclipse that would happen in 2024, and we planned our return date to Canada around it. Flusherville is in the path of totality, and she talked about the coming celestial display for literally years. Every April 8th she'd mentioned it. "Only 7 years to go!".

She had a little notebook on her desk that we used to count down the weeks until retirement. She'd written the dream to get laid off in 2021 (she managed it in 2020). And the weeks until my retirement are marked off. I finished in May 2021.

But look in the upper left-hand corner. April 8, 2024@3:24 pm. The eclipse.

In a discussion just after she died, I remarked that she'd miss the eclipse and that was sad. We talked about other things like what to do about a memorial and Lamondo blurted out, "The eclipse! That's the perfect day!" There was no doubt, it could only be that day.

The season in Florida started to wind down for me. I completed the painting goals I'd set out to accomplish with about 10 days to go, and then it was into my 98 item shut-down checklist. I won't bore you with details. I'll bore you with other things instead.

Mid-march packed up my stuff, and Karen's remains, and I left our retirement dream home behind. I headed for the AutoTrain station in Sanford, FL.

I'd booked a roomette for myself and I'd try to get some sleep on the overnight journey. I watched some episodes of Married at First Sight Australia as we rolled out of Florida and had a couple of cocktails with the last of the bourbon I'd had at home. The no-drinking streak had lasted about 3 months. It was good to have a nip, and a fitting time to do so.

The night was bad, as I had a terrible toothache, and the wall wart for my CPAP kept falling out of the loose outlet (the only outlet in the roomette) and landing on my head. This happened four times.

During breakfast I was seated across from an elderly couple. A new couple. He was 88 and she was 80. They told me their story and how they'd found (and continue to find) they have so much in common.

They'd met through a newspaper ad 8 months age. Each had had a spouse that was ill for 15 years. Each had cared for them. They both had had Jack Russell terriers, both named Cooper!

They lived half a mile from one another in Vermont, on the water. Their families and backgrounds were similar, and they seemed easy and happy together. They seemed 'right. They seemed happy.

"My deceased wife was named Maria," the fellow told me. "Guess what her name is?" He nodded like a wise old professor.

"Cooper?" I asked.

(It was Marie.)

They wished me well and said I could be happy again one day too. I practically ran back to my roomette, on the verge of tears. It was a very intense, meaningful, and interesting experience. But I have no interest in a Jack Russell at this point in time.

The rest of the trip was bad too. I was tired, my tooth was killing me, the weather was getting colder and gloomier and I found myself for the second time in my life filling up with gas at Frackville, outside in 40 degree weather and blowing winds, still wearing my Florida shorts. Apparently the car uses exactly a tank to get to the AutoTrain in Sanford and then from the AutoTrain in Lorton, VA to Frackville.

I stayed in the same hotel we'd stayed in on the way down. Maybe it was a mistake, but it's a good one and familiar. A bit sad, but I managed.

Crossing the border into Canada was easy but the agent asked some pointed questions. "Are you traveling alone then?..." They know everything. There was a discussion over the phone with a supervisor as to whether they'd have to inspect my stuff, but in the end, I just got sent on my way.

Being home without Karen was weird. Her presence lingered everywhere. Marks, papers, and supplies, and equipment from her fight with ALS were everywhere. As I had in Florida, I set out to eradicate it all - or as much of it as possible. At this point, there are a few things left to do, particularly repair or replace marks in the woodwork from wheelchair hubs and commode armrests.

They are scars that I hate. They stand out like devils, watching and taunting me, reminding me of the loss that that fucking disease handed us, and the struggle and pain that ensued.

Having learned something about life, I had arrived home with plenty of time to prepare for the memorial and deal with the house.

I set about putting things right. The previous summer all of my energy had been focused on Karen and everything else got dropped, right where it was. I could barely wade into the dining room for all the stuff in there.

I happened to heard a piece of music that I've always loved - a song in two parts. The first third is mysterious, ethereal, soaring with complex vocal harmonies punctuated with white light horn stabs, speaking of the universe, its power and majesty in bringing about a new era of harmony, cooperation, love and acceptance.

The second part shifts gears completely, dropping into overdrive in a lower key, blasting into a gospel funk R&B groove with a bass line that grinds, pops, flits and soars. If the sun itself had hips, it would be grinding them. Over top of this, a singer belts out a bluesy, desperate plea for peace, togetherness, understanding, love, and rebirth.

Totality for the eclipse at Flusherville would be two minutes and 23 seconds. The length of the first part of the song? Two minutes and 20 seconds.

On Monday April 8th, family and friends gathered to celebrate Karen's life. It was a wonderful afternoon of remembrance, togetherness, grieving and celebration.

As the eclipse began, we noticed changes in the light. Small at first, then more and more dramatic. We had the approved eclipse glasses to watch and we could see the moon biting away at that which brings all life like a once-in-700 years PacMan.

We hit totality and I hit the music. The sun was completely blotted out. I'd been thinking all winter about the symbolism of this and when I found the music to go with the event, I realized that in a sense, we'd all be saying goodbye to Karen at the darkest moment of any day for centuries. We raised a toast to her together during this darkness, this special, unique time, an accolade to a special and unique person.

Like life, the sun would return. I would be reborn starting with the tiniest sliver of celestial sunshine, a baptism of nuclear fire. I would move forward because, like the sun, you can't stop time, and someday perhaps, I would be able to let all of the sun shine in.

In the days after the memorial, I've found myself deep in depression. Estate tasks like removing Karen's name from the house deed and car ownership, final tax returns, and the bad weather we've had since, have chipped away at me. I've been dealing with Karen's things, getting rid of clothing and the like. I'm quite isolated and I've been struggling.

But I have made progress at putting this house in order, and there's still along way to go.

The prospect of putting together a trip report from the past interests me. I promised it last year and now it's time to get writing.

In the basement, I dug into the boxes and boxes of photos and slides. Stupidly, I brought three cubic feet of photos upstairs.

I did find what I was looking for - the original prints and the negatives of the vintage, never before published on the blog Vegas trip report.

Of course I had to buy a film scanner.

But the dining room I'd so thoroughly mucked out was torn asunder (sort of like my life). I had to suck it up and bear down. I did an initial pass, opening each of about 50 envelopes of prints, and marked what they were, when they were, and whether the negatives were inside. That done, I'm going to pack them into smaller boxes and put them all away again. I'll deal with them... sometime.

Meanwhile, I bought a slide and film scanner and I'm going to see what I can do to bring this trip report to life.

As far as trips to Vegas go, I have no current plans. 

But I also found some other surprises in the photo deluge that I put aside... for a later date.

Now, I've got a new old blog to put out. From 1997.

When is the Age of Aquarius? For what it's worth, "in 2024, the location of the Sun on the March equinox is in the constellation of Pisces but also on the border of Aquarius. So, we are slowly moving into a new age, from Pisces to Aquarius."

When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars

This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, Age of Aquarius, Aquarius, Aquarius

Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind's true liberation, Aquarius, Aquarius

Let the sunshine, let the sun shine in
The sun shine in
Let the sunshine, let the sun shine in
The sun shine in

Oh, let it shine
Come on - now everybody just sing along
Open up your heart - and let it shine on you
And when you lonely - hey, let it shine
You gotta open up your heart - and let it shine on in
And when you feel like you been mistreated
And your friends turn their backs upon ya
Just open up your heart - let it shine on in
You got to feel it - you got to feel it
Oh, open up your heart - and let it shine on in
Now, let me tell you one thing - I want you to sing along with the 5th dimension
Hey, and open up your heart - oh c'mon - and let it shine
Glory day - hey, you got to feel it - you got to feel it
When you open up your heart - you got to let the sun come on in
Now I say, in the morning - late in the evening
Open up your heart
Hey, when you're feeling low - let the sunshine in


    1. Mr.Flusher. Thank you for your honest and heartfelt posts. Reading about your journey on having to deal with grief after the loss of a dear spouse is uncannily similar to my path, almost eight years ago. I truly enjoyed reading your total eclipse story. I was in Mazatlan Mexico for the total eclipse there, and felt my late wife near experiencing the spectacular event as well. It was magical. Anyways, just wanted to take the time to say Thank You.


    2. Many fans are going on this journey with you, hope your path gets easier as time goes on.

    3. Thanks for updating us on what you've been up to. So much to deal with but it seems you are working through it like a champ. I'm sure Karen's spirit is with you, supporting you and giving you strength this whole time. I look forward to your 1997 trip report because that would be right around the time of my very first trip to Vegas. -jm

    4. Such a fitting celebration of life for your bride. Thinking of you, Bre from VMB

    5. RF - I missed reading your writing so it's great to have something new from you. Thank you for continuing to provide these glimpses into your grief and your life after Karen's passing. I'm certain that I'm not the only one who has benefited from reading your words and finding value/insights into our own personal issues and struggles. Please know that you're not alone and besides your friends and family you have loyal readers who have been with you for a long time and are here for you, even if it's just to read things that you benefit from getting off your chest.

      I can't wait to read this 1997 trip report!! My first trip to Vegas was in 1998, and I can't wait to walk down memory lane and discuss things that have changed for better or worse since then. It feels a bit both like yesterday as well as a lifetime ago.


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