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I’m going to write up an entire blog post about this book. It may be one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s a memoir by Pat Conroy (an author I’ve long admired). He died a year or so ago – sad, that. In order to get the most out of My Reading Life, I recommend you BUY THE HARDBACK. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s an autobiography of sorts, but not really. He never wrote one, I don’t think, and I doubt he would ever have written one as he likely didn’t believe anyone would want to read about his (sad) life. In this memoir, he chronicles the books (and the people who recommended them) that influenced his life. Starting at his mother’s knees and continuing through influential teachers and mentors and friends. One of my book clubs read it, and I devoured it, cover to cover, with little plastic flags inserted all the way through to re-read some of the prose. Pat Conroy was a fabulous writer – he studied words from a young age and used them widely and wisely throughout his writing, but better than most authors would. He adored his mother, and hated (with venom) his aviator military father who physically abused everyone in the family, including his mother. They all took it like stoic Buddhas. I’m going to have to read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel because of reading this book. I’ve never read it. Conroy says that book’s first page is the best first page of any book he ever read in his life. Wow. And maybe my book group is going to re-read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (Vintage Classics) too because of the chapter on that book. We might have to assign that to a 2-month or longer read. If you have friends or family who are avid readers, this would make a great gift, this book, My Reading Life. If YOU are a reader, it needs to be on your bookshelf, but in hardback, so you can go back to it and re-read his stories. It’s a series of essays, each one about a sub-section of his life. A must-have and a must-read.

Also read The Towers of Tuscany by Carol Cram. It was a bargain book through amazon or bookbub (e-book). Back in the Middle Ages women were forbidden to be artists. Their only place was in the home, caring for children and sewing and cooking. But the heroine in this book was taught to paint by her widowed artist-father (in secret, of course). When her father suddenly dies, all hell breaks loose and she must fend for herself. Much of the book takes place in Florence as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

Also finished The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel by Gabrielle Zevin. It popped up on a list I subscribe to and was available for $1.13 as an e-book. As it begins, you’re hearing from A.J., a grieving widower who owns a bookstore on an obscure island off the East Coast. He’s angry, rude and every other negative adjective you can imagine. A book rep comes to visit and he’s awful to her, yet she perseveres and manages to sell him a few books. You get to know his friends (a friendship with him is full of sharp points) and one day an abandoned toddler is found in his bookshop. In between the story line about A.J., the book rep, the little girl and others, you will learn all about A.J.’s book tastes. If you’re an avid reader, you’ll really enjoy that part. It’s a charming book; loved it.

Also read a quirky book, Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong. She’s a new writer (newly published, I guess I should say) and this story is about Ruth, a 30+ something, trying to readjust to life without her fiance, who’s dumped her. She goes back home to help with the care of her father, who has Alzheimer’s. Written in a diary style, it jumps all over about her life, her mother, the funny, poignant things her father says on good days, and the nutty stuff he does on not-so-good days, her ex-, and her very quirky friends, too. Then a woman flits through who had had an affair with her father –  you get to observe all the angst from the mom about that. Mostly it’s about her father, as he’s relatively “together” early in the book, but then he disintegrates. Reading that part isn’t fun, although the author is able to lean some humor into it. I’m not sure I recommend the book exactly – I read it through – and felt sad. It doesn’t tie up loose ends – if you need that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Essays, on March 31st, 2016.

roses_table_dinner

When I look at the picture above it bring tears to my eyes. Grieving is such a long, slow process.

It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about my grieving, and today seemed to be a day that brought it all current, even though it’s now been over 2 years. I’ll never stop missing him, my DH, Dave. A good friend came to visit today and we talked a bit about my grieving and where I am today, how I am today. And most days I’m doing well – most people tell me I’m doing remarkably well, and I suppose I am. I’ve learned to adapt to a life alone. Many hours of the day I don’t think about it – I just go about my day with errands, reading, paying bills, attending meetings, helping at church, cooking, or whatever. I’ve adapted. I fill my hours with a variety of activities, mostly Monday through Friday. Weekends are still a conundrum to me – I go to church every Sunday morning – but many of the hours of the rest of Saturday and Sunday are filled with nothing. Not that I sit twiddling my thumbs – I always find something to do – a project, filing, some TV perhaps, grocery shopping, cooking, sorting the mail. Nothing important, really. Sometimes I go to a movie by myself – I don’t mind doing that – I used to do it when Dave was in San Diego on our boat and I was home, so going to a movie alone isn’t a problem.

Probably talking about Dave today brought it into the now, rather than pushed to the recesses of my emotional soul. I can do that mostly – just “not going there,” as they say. I could let myself go sometimes, but most of the time I am able to convince myself that it will only make my eyes red, make me congested for an hour or two, and make the rest of my day a sad one. That’s kind of what happens if I hit a trigger. And there can be any number of them. Seeing one of Dave’s shirts (one in particular hangs in with my own clothes, a favorite shirt he wore often, a Tommy Bahama polo shirt). Occasionally I hug the shirt to me and wish I could catch his scent. But no, it’s long gone. Today I was talking about Dave. My friend Darci was remembering when she heard about Dave’s death. When she left I felt a bit down.

roses_vaseAs I was preparing my dinner I glanced out the kitchen window and noticed the profusion of blooming roses out in the garden. I’ve paid absolutely no attention to them. But because I was sad already, they were a trigger for me. Dave loved roses – particularly red ones – and the two bushes must have about 20 blooms on them. I felt guilty for not noticing them. If Dave could talk to me he’d be telling me to GET OUT THERE and enjoy those roses. CUT THOSE ROSES! So, in addition to cutting a few of the roses, I decided to do something that I’ve not done even ONCE since Dave died. I set the dining room table and had my dinner there. Alone. Classical music playing from my Sonos speakers.  I took the pictures before I actually ate the meal as I thought I might write about it. I poured myself a glass of wine, but it didn’t taste good to me. The dinner wasn’t very good, either (leftovers). Up to that point I was feeling okay, but as soon as I actually sat before my plate of food I began to cry. I looked out at the view (a gray day today, cold almost) and just felt incredibly lonely. I talked to Dave. I told him about his roses and apologized to him for not noticing them. And I cried some more.

Most evenings I sit at my kitchen island – with the TV on for background noise – and I eat there. Dave and I only ate our breakfast and lunch in the kitchen – we ate in our dining room every night we ate at home (or on our patio outside during the summer months). He actually enjoyed setting the table and setting up candles and a nice ambiance. All I had to do was cook the food and he was ready and there with the lighter for the candles, his glass of wine, music, etc. I may have mentioned this before – sorry for repeating it, but it’s on my mind – a few weeks before Dave had his stroke we were eating dinner as usual. Dave was a bit melancholy and said something about not feeling all that great – just didn’t have much energy and he said he had a feeling that he wasn’t going to live all that much longer. I, of course, in my usual chipper (naysayer) way said, oh, honey, you’re all right. Maybe you’re anemic (he sometimes was). He said, no, I just feel like maybe I’m reaching that point. I’ve lived so much longer than anybody thought (because he was a Type 1 diabetic and had lost 2 legs and had had heart bypass surgery – even his doctor was surprised at his energizer-bunny-body). Dave was 74 then, and that IS a fairly long life for a Type 1 diabetic. But he’d plumbed some depth of himself and was preparing himself, I suppose. We had a very heart-to-heart talk and among many things we said to one another that evening, I’d told him that if he went before me, that I’d be setting a place for him at our table.

dinner_aloneBUT, since Dave died I’ve not been able to eat at the dining room table by myself. I’ve entertained many times and that’s not a problem, but to eat there – all by myself – has been just too hard. I was able to eat in the dining room tonight, but no, wasn’t able to set a place for him. Just couldn’t. I’ve thought about it lots, setting his place next to mine. I’m not yet able to stand up to the kind of grief and trigger that will bring on. It sounds like a little thing, but for me it’s not. It’s a bit of a hurdle – a mountain I must climb – and I’m not ready to do that yet.

Music is also a trigger for me. Am sure I’ve written this before too, but a few weeks after Dave passed away I set up a custom station on Pandora that plays a wide variety of relatively quiet classical and choral music. Many pieces by John Rutter and others sung by the Mormon Tablernacle Choir. There are some pieces (which always play when I select that custom station) that just bring on the tears, and I only play it when I’m feeling sad and am willing to “go there” with my grief. It’s cathartic, I think. Dave loved jazz, though he liked classical music too.

Until you’ve been there, you just don’t know how losing a dear loved one is going to affect you. Dave was the love of my life and I miss him so very much. Thank you for reading. Sorry for unloading all this emotion on all of you who come here for recipes! None today.

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  1. Nancy

    said on March 31st, 2016:

    I have been following you for some time and love your writing. About the time your Dave passed away I met my true love, Richard again. We were friends in Jr. High and then became boyfriend and girlfriend. First date, first kiss, first love. Remained that way through High school, then just slowly drifted apart. Never really sure why. 40 years later he contacted me and we were together again, like no time had slipped away. It was so wonderful. I had been divorced for over 30 years and so alone. He had been alone for 5 years. His kids and mine were so happy we had finally found each other again and were so in love.
    I lost my Richard in January of this year. It was not supposed to end like this. I told him often he owed me at least 40 years that we had missed. He was the most gentle, loving, passionate man I had ever known. I know what you mean about music. He had so much love and knowledge about music. It was a big part of our time together. I can not listen to it now and sometimes have to leave a store or restaurant if they are playing certain songs.
    I know everyone says it will get easier and I know it will but right now it hurts so bad.
    I want you to know you have been a strength for me. Thank you. You are in my prayers.

    Thank you so very much, Nancy. You’re not alone, and I hope you have friends or family who can console you during those tough times. God bless you, Nancy. . . carolyn t
    If you can please keeps post private.

  2. soozzie

    said on March 31st, 2016:

    Once, on my very worst day, a call came from the blue from a distant acquaintance for whom I had worked professionally years before. She had been thinking about me, and what I had done for her,and she said, as I tried to keep my composure given the other tragedy looming, “Know that you are beloved.” That has become my comfort, which I share with you. Because it is true.

    What a nice phrase. Saying just “know that you are loved” doesn’t quite have the same soulful meaning as BEloved. Thank you for sharing the story with me. . . carolyn t

  3. hddonna

    said on March 31st, 2016:

    I had been thinking that you had not talked about your grief in quite a while, and that though you have been bravely going on with your life, you must be still deeply feeling your loss. This was a very moving post. I’m sending cyber-hugs your way.
    Donna

    Thank you, Donna. Cyber-hugs in return to you, too . . . carolyn t

  4. Toffeeapple

    said on April 1st, 2016:

    I am still feeling very sad for you Carolyn, I wish that I were geographically nearer to you. Hugs. x

    Thank you, Toni. If I ever take a trip to England again, I’ll be sure to tell you so we could meet up at least for coffee of something. Thanks for the hugs . . . carolyn t

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