Monthly Archives: July 2014

On losing a close friend

Dear god-daughter,

I have followed your Twitter and Facebook posts about losing your close friend. I could not possibly have fit this in the 140-character Twitter limit, and despite the 60,000+ character Facebook post limit, Facebook may arbitrarily restrict or bury the post, so this medium will have to do. You were very special to Lucy and you are still very special to me. I hope you find some comfort in these words and please remember that you have friends and family who deeply care about you. It has been hard to find the right words since this is an experience I know all too well.

A close friend is someone who can make you laugh with just a single word or a knowing look, who says the right things to comfort you when the universe is sending you tests rather than gifts, is someone you trust unconditionally, has unquestionably accepted you as you are, is someone who would help you in any way possible and wants nothing in return, and is someone who you can think about and your day immediately brightens. There are over seven billion people on this rotating rock, but only a very tiny number become your close friends.

There are different types of love. Family loves you because of a couple of billion years of genetic conditioning to protect others sharing common mitochondrial DNA. It is a very powerful and wonderful love, despite my clinical description and the occasional bickering and quarreling of course, but you are born into it. Family wants what is best for you even if it does not seem that way.

Close friends are a special kind of love. A close friend is someone you chose and who has chosen you. It is a very pure form of love. When Lucy died, I lost my closest friend and I still miss her with every breath I draw and every beat of my heart. My other close friends have been so supportive of me and they have helped me with my healing process. There will never be another Lucy, but my close friends help me to celebrate what I had with her rather than mourn what I have lost with her passing. Your mom is one of those people and I am deeply grateful for her support. I have another close friend who calls me nearly every night so we can share how our respective days went. It may sound mundane, but it means the world to me because it means someone chooses to share that time with me.

It is OK to question your belief system. It is never fair when good people pass on while evil people go on living. Philosophers and theologians have tried solving that riddle since the beginning of recorded history and no one can adequately explain why. The hardest part is we want answers and there is no answer. “Everything happens for a reason” is true, but as an example, did Lucy deserve to fight a cancer battle? Did your friend deserve a stroke? What was the reason for either of those? The belief system that you may or may not question is the belief system that will eventually help you heal.

One of the books I read in Psychology 101 was Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s “On Death and Dying”. Profound loss has five stages, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance (DABDA). These five stages are not linear, are not on a time line and are quite interchangeable. One part of acceptance is no longer questioning why because we will never know. Your inner strength, belief system, family and friends all will help you.

Take your time to properly grieve, because as the grief leaves your soul, the happy memories flow in to fill the void. This is the other part of acceptance. I can talk about the fun things Lucy and I did without tearing up and feeling empty and alone, though it seems to make people a bit uncomfortable. Every person is unique, so there is not established schedule or protocol for grieving. People mean well but may sometimes say things that upset you because they do not understand how you are feeling; you may not understand how you are feeling. People are fallible and most people have good intentions at heart. You may think they are trying to smother you, but they are not. Forgive them when they falter and appreciate their concern and compassion. As part of your healing, you might cry one minute and laugh in the next one; sometimes you’ll do both at once. Certain songs or objects may cause a sudden crying spell. Let the tears flow because they will wash out the hurting and clean out the filter between the conscious and subconscious mind.

Humans long for a sense of connection with our lost loved ones. The truth is your friend is still part of you and lives on in you. A wise and wonderful close friend reminds me of that fact when I occasionally forget. Honor your friend’s memory by being the best person you can, the person that your friend knew and loved. Just because you stop crying does not mean you have stopped loving or missing your friend. The wonderful memories are too powerful to stay suppressed and will eventually erode the walls of pain and loss. No one will ever take the place of your friend because each of us is unique and each of us is irreplaceable. Cherish that uniqueness and treasure your good times together.

I am deeply sorry for your loss but I am overjoyed for the time you two were in each other’s lives. I’m here if you need to talk and I do miss you. I hope you find something to smile about today and in the upcoming days ahead.

I love you, sweetie,
Your god-father.

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I got nothin’


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It was thirty years ago today…

Today was the 30th anniversary of my first date with Lucy, not the 10th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper teaching the band to play.

July 15, 1984 was a very hot day with a light breeze and little humidity. Today was almost fall-like with the high over 10°F cooler than normal, moderately breezy, and low humidity making the air feel crisp. Despite the heat and sun, we managed almost three hours at the Minnesota Zoo. I know she had a good time because she wanted to go out with me again.

Lucy made such a positive impact on me that I can remember that first date in extraordinary detail. I see Facebook updates and blog posts from others celebrating first date anniversaries. It is nice to see I am not the only romantic remaining. Lucy and I had such a successful marriage because we kept the romance alive, laughed often and treasured our time together.

For those of you still lucky enough to be with your special someone, take a moment to give that person a meaningful hug and think back to your first date. Whether it was romantic or a disaster, that date set into motion the events that drew you together as a couple. Cherish those memories and may you have many more moments together.

First date 30th anniversary bouquet

First date 30th anniversary bouquet

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Skeeters and face flies and gnats, oh my!

The relentless deluges abated this past week. It did cause the Twin Cities metro area to miss the wettest June record by a mere 0.31″ with a total of 11.36″ falling, most of it in a two-week period. Bear in mind our official climate records only date back to 1871. Some of the flooded roads in the area opened again, sandbag walls began coming down and people could focus on enjoying what is now a shortened summer.

One vexing and lingering problem with the excessive precipitation is an abundance of flying blood-sucking insects. A hike in the hot and humid weather means losing a couple of pounds due to sweating and blood draining. There has been a noticeable drop in the mosquito (skeeter), face fly and gnat populations with the current lull the monsoon season. The warmer weather did finally end the wood tick season, and none too soon. I was wondering if this region would experience a doxycycline shortage. Choking on gnats while giving a garden tour is not one of my favorite activities.

Bloomington has its annual fireworks display as part of Summer Fest on July 3. The weather could not have been any more perfect: light breeze, low humidity, temperature near 80°F and no rain. I met a friend for dinner at Romano’s Macaroni Grill and afterwards we went to the Summer Fest. Various cover bands and the Bloomington Symphony played until the fireworks display. For the families that brought their young ones, the northeast corner of Normandale Lake Park had activities and food booths. Unlike last year, we did not have a huge Great Dane puppy keeping us company, but it was still fun to kick back, converse, and unwind. The fireworks display was fabulous, of course. With the thousands of people attending Summer Fest, there were no problems that required police intervention.

There is some concern with Monday’s forecast and the potential for very heavy rainfall tomorrow night. Even though the amount expected is between 0.75″ – 1.5″, the ground is still soaked just a couple of inches down. I am hoping the forecast is wrong. It is nice being outside without needing a transfusion after merely running to the mailbox and back.

The copious rains are contributing to a potentially bumper crop of raspberries and a very disappointing apple crop. Monarch butterflies have appeared in greater numbers than in years past, which is exciting. Peonies must not like wet weather, because this is the second summer in a row mine never bloomed. There are no Japanese beetles yet (and I hope it stays that way), and the aggravating June bugs were hardly an issue. Last year, the June bugs kept flying into the aluminum siding so it sounded like a mild hailstorm. The wet weather did kill off all the blanket flowers and one small clematis, though. I will be doing some replanting before fall. Soon the toads, tree frogs and cicadas start sounding and the fireflies start blinking. Lucy and I really enjoyed that part of the summer.

I hope my American readers had a wonderful and safe holiday weekend. It is a badly needed summer break that lets us recharge, even with skeeters and face flies and gnats, oh my!


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“Mistaken for granite”

Our hearing can play tricks on us. There are web sites and books devoted to misheard song lyrics, and Norm Crosby has a long and successful comedy career as the “Master of the Malaprop”. Sometimes a foreign-born person’s accent causes an unintentional new phrase. I was waiting in an auto repair place and thought I heard an upset gentleman with a thick Eastern European accent say he was “tired of mistaken for granite”.

While “mistaken for granite” was an amusing take on “taken for granted”, it also had a deeper meaning. I have five very close friends who have been there for me since Lucy passed away. Like Lucy, these five people are loyal, supportive, generous, and hard-working. Those qualities also subject them to added stress at work because of toxic co-workers who are selfish and uncooperative, who have figured out that while there is no “I” in “TEAM”, there is a “ME”, and therefore everyone else is “MEAT”. That toxicity seems prevalent in workplaces, from small companies with a double-digit headcount to Fortune 500 companies with five- and six-figure head counts.

It is quite easy for someone taken for granted to be mistaken for granite. Granite is strong and can withstand tremendous pressure. It is durable and withstands weather extremes for centuries. But even as strong and durable as granite is, it can fracture under intense and prolonged pressure. Fissures allow water seepage that weakens the granite from the inside out. Repairing a granite monument or facade is very difficult and expensive.

The people who are routinely taken for granted are the ones who are the first to offer help, to listen, to support, and to comfort. They rarely ask for any recognition in return and put others first. That level of generosity comes at a price. It takes a lot of strength and sacrifice being there for people in need. Like a hewn block of granite, these people have incredible inner strength but that strength can erode or crack under pressure.

Many people are lucky enough to have one person like that in her or his life; I am blessed to have five. All five know I am ready to help no matter the size of the task, to listen, to support, and to comfort when required. Lucy taught me much about compassion and it reflects by the quality of my close friends. She knew four of my close friends and they loved her. I know my fifth friend would have loved her, too.

Please take a minute to thank the “mistaken for granite” person or persons in your life. More than likely, the response is something humble, but you will brighten that person’s day. The rock solid stability provided is priceless. Be extra nice to the “taken for granted” people. Those people have feelings and problems like any other person but are not apt to freely disclose what pressure he or she experiences on a daily basis. Altruistic people are a rarity and our society can ill afford to lose any more of them. As always, give your special someone a meaningful hug because you are blessed to have that person in your life.


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