Another New Year Has Begun

December 30, 2013

Since it is the New Year, here is a note from “Notes To Stephanie: Middle Aged Love Letters And Life Stories”. The New Year is a milepost and a sign of renewal, and also hope.

Another New Year has begun. And we are in our second year of being married. Plus in June we will have known each other for two years. The marking of time, the noting of important mile-stones like anniversaries. These things show us where we are and where we have come from. The passage of time and of our lives is marked by these mileposts you see. The signposts on our journey through life together are these temporal markers seen on our calendars.

Certainly everyone has these events. Some people note them in different ways. People celebrate these things or simply note them quietly. Or even ignore them if there is pain associated with some date that to others is nothing in particular or something to note with happiness. So far, we have been marking our time together with celebrations even when other unhappy or difficult events swirl around the edges of our otherwise mostly idyllic existence together. I prefer to remember our important dates with happiness, not sadness or regret you see. Indeed, there are dates on the calendars of both of our lives that mark sad times or even the good and the bad all at once. Why things happen on certain dates is but either chance or the result of a decision made or a combination of such things. The date does not mark the calendar by itself, but life and our actions do.

So where we can let us always try to make the events that one day will be remembered and marked with happiness and glee. Why not try to do this since life will always try to throw us some curves? The happy times will hopefully be numerous and overshadow the bad ones. And together these days on the calendar will one day mark the time we had on this Earth and in this life, and especially in our life together as a couple.

Jeff To Stephanie January 2, 2008


The Perfect Day

December 21, 2013

This is the first Note in “Notes To Stephanie: Days Remembered”. It is also one of my favorites. Dig and fill up a little ditch, drink some beer, look at your bikini clad wife who COULD wear a bikini well? Indeed, a perfect day.

Do you remember the day we finished the French drain in the backyard by the pool? You did most of the work digging the trench that first June of our married life. With a large rainstorm looming, we had to finish the project to see if the drain worked. So, we decided that day was the day to get it done.

And so, we did. That day was like many June days. It was cloudy, humid, and windy. The radar showed the heavy rain was coming in, so we rushed to get the trench filled and smoothed over before the deluge hit us.

So, there we both were: me in my swimsuit and you in your light green bikini, looking sexy indeed. As we shoveled the dirt, we both got covered with mud from head to toe. But that was part of the fun, you see—working together to finish that important task under the threat of more rain to come.

Then, it started raining on us. We had a couple of beers and kept moving dirt as the rain fell. We finally got the ditch filled when the bottom fell out of the grey sky, and a long downpour was upon us and the earth.

But the pouring rain was a good thing. It cooled us off and also washed off all of the mud, grass, and sweat. Do you remember standing up in the rain as if it were a shower, laughing at that as we chugged on some beer? Since there was no lightning about, we just enjoyed being out in the cooling rain, getting clean and a little drunk at the same time.

We were out there awhile, and then the rain let up; and we went back inside and took a real shower. The rest of the day we relaxed, satisfied that the drain was diverting the water and working well. We were happy about taking a shower outside in the rain with a cold beer in our hands to wash away the dirt covering us both.

Certainly, that day was a perfect day. We did something as a couple and really enjoyed it from start to finish. A day filled with work was also filled with fun and love together in the pouring rain on a warm summer day in June in the backyard by the pool.

Xmas Audiology with Roger

December 20, 2013

Sometimes Christmas is not some Norman Rockwell-like fun and relaxing family get together. Sometimes it involves caring for your child who has a medical issue. In the end in my case I was given a wonderful present that transcended mere gifts.

To Roger:

When you were little, we took you to physical and occupational therapy because of your early birth, in order to catch up your development. You also saw an eye doctor and other specialists, too; plus, you had eye surgery and wore a patch over your eye to strengthen its muscles. But the one treatment I maybe remember the most was the treatment for your hearing.

Based on a variety of things, we were sent to an audiologist by Dr. Scroggie, who was your doctor. A new and different type of treatment was recommended to improve your hearing. Plus, it was not a one-time procedure, like a surgery or a weekly trip like your OT and PT. Instead, you had to go to an office twice a day for a week to get a one-hour treatment using sound. The treatment played back sound with varying tones to make your ears respond, exercising them in a way, which would improve your hearing and cognition. Your mom and I discussed this technique and agreed to have it done.

Since your mom and I both worked, we decided to do the treatments over Christmas. I had some spare vacation days, so we decided I would take you over to Addison twice a day for the period prescribed. So it began, one weekday after Christmas.

We would get up, your mom would head out the door to work, and you and I would pile in my car and drive over to Addison off of Beltline Road, near where I then worked. We would arrive around 9 or 10AM, after rush hour. In we would go. Since I could not be in the room with you, I would go back to the car and read or listen to the radio. When you were done, we would drive home, have some lunch, and turnaround and go back there again. In the afternoon, I would do the same thing: take you in, go back out and read, get you after it was over, and drive back home before the tidal wave of cars flooded the roads during rush hour. So it went for many days.

It was a less than relaxing Christmas break since commuting twice a day was not much fun. But that was okay; merely having you around was the biggest present one could have. If you had not been there, Christmas would have not been the joyous time it is now when we are together and can loudly and clearly hear each other’s words. Your “new ears,” as your mom called them, seemed to work just fine. That was a precious enough gift for me.

One Xmas at Granbury

December 19, 2013

This is a story from one Christmas out at my mom’s in Granbury, Texas. The array of Christmas scenes set up within the little town library by a group of citizens touched me deeply. The look of my daughter then little totally engrossed in a “winter wonderland” of sorts is still clear in my mind even now. It is in “Notes To My Kids”.

To Jane:

Do you remember one of the Christmases in Granbury? One in particular is still sharp in my memories. That Xmas was the first time we went through the downtown park with all of the lights on the trees and the library that had been turned into a giant, indoor Xmas diorama of sorts.

I remember one night before Xmas when we went walking around the park. The city had trussed the trees with bright strings of lights. The lights hung from the trees in the park, casting warm and soft white light over its grass, playground equipment, and all who walked through it that cold night. The only thing that would have made it more magical would have been the presence of some snow on the ground, which, of course, was very unlikely. The city of Granbury does this display each year, and that year was special to me because all of you were there with me looking at the lights. Like most young boys, Roger was not so engaged by it, but you were. You looked at it with glee, while he walked through the soft glows more stoically like me. But what really got everyone’s attention was what they did to the inside of the library. That sight made both of you kids take notice and me as well.

And what did the library do? Most of the inside of the building was turned into an indoor winter wonderland. Little dioramas, masses of decorations, nativity scenes in miniature, a forest of Christmas trees, and little Christmas towns adorned the place. They called this elaborate production “The Enchanted Forest.”

I remember everyone walking around the place, marveling at the details of the exhibit. You could have spent hours in there and not seen all of the minutiae contained on the tables and shelves. All of it was draped in white tree flock and lit by candles and flickering lights, giving the library a soft and shadowy glow. All in all, it was a big place filled with Yuletide glee, built with a horde of small and beautiful things.

But what was most magical to me was the look on your face. You were perhaps eight or nine and immersed in what you saw and were fascinated with the many small things surrounding you. You walked around in quiet, wide-eyed wonder at the huge panoply of holiday objects around you. Your brother liked it, too; but being a boy, he was not immersed in it as much—his mind was perhaps on other things like the unwrapped presents and gifts at the house.

But yes, that look of little girl wonder on your face was something that still shines bright like the lights in the park did that cold, wintery night. Christmas is a bright and magical time of the year, filled with family ties, gifts, and other delights. But the real present that night was seeing your face: happy and filled with delight, as you walked through an enchanting place with your brother and me. You as a little girl lost in wonder at a joyful place during a happy time of the year is still a bright Christmas light in my mind even now.

The Valentine’s Trilogy

December 18, 2013

On our first Valentine’s Day I wrote a series of three Notes to Stephanie. You see the love and excitement we then shared. But that faded away as you know. Here are all three from “Notes To Stephanie: Middle Aged Love Letters And Life Stories”.

Valentines 001

I’m ready for many, many fun and happy Valentine’s together with you too my Stephanie dear. Each succeeding one will be better than the last since we will have the memories of the ones previous to add to the one in the present with each other. Such times will enrich our love for each other and our life together as we get old. So one day when we wake up together and realize we are grey and wrinkled, it will be OK because we will have had many good times with one another. Valentines will be but one set of such memories that will fill our hearts and minds as the years unfold. The panorama of our experiences together will show everyone how a couple can be happy and enjoy each other without growing tired or weary of one another, even in the face of life’s ups and downs and having a few eccentric personality traits.

Perhaps one day in a future that we can only dimly imagine our kids will realize that our love is a good thing and not something to see as a threat to their lifestyles, something to question, or be an object of their ridicule. But instead see it as something to aspire to have in their lives and remember fondly when they themselves are old and we are gone from this Earth of ours. Maybe one day in the twilight of their own lives, when they are thinking about us across the broad sea of decades long since past, they will realize they learned to love well by watching how happily and fully we loved each other.

Jeff to Stephanie, Valentine’s Day 2007

Valentines 002

My dearest wife, friend, partner, and lover, I will always cherish you too. We will always walk hand in hand through the sometimes prickly garden of life. The sharp thorns of existence stick us but will not injure our love and affection for one another. To the contrary, such things will bring us closer together and strengthen our relationship that is now so young, so full of fire, and brimming with the spirit of life. Our garden of marriage will be like the spring time: green, bright, sunny, and warm. Not dark, cold, and barren like other gardens in life we have both been in. Truly, having seen landscapes that did not bring forth a rich harvest from life we both know that what we have sown through our love will provide a cornucopia of contentment. A Thanksgiving of the heart and soul will be ours, and is ours today in fact.

I know we will always be excited to be with each other and always long to see each other every day we are together across the years to come. I look forward to the rest of our lives with each other, regardless of the ups and downs that surely will be there. Traveling across these bumps, and also smooth places, in the highway of life are what define existence and reality itself. Regardless, such a journey will be the greatest trip we have ever taken. And the most fun, the most satisfying, the most comforting, and the most fulfilling. So I am ready to saunter on with you too down the road we have decided to walk down together.

Jeff To Stephanie, The Day After Valentines 2007

Valentines 003

Well now my love, we are a week past Valentines now and we still know we love each other as before. Somehow I know that the passage of time will not lessen or dull our sharp affection for each other. While we are still learning about each other’s personalities, we still know what we knew all along: “I always loved you, I love you now, and I will always love you”. Those words, spoken at our little wedding, ring true even now in our hearts.

That permanency of love is such a simple idea but yet it is so important to us both. Inside of us, we feel comfortable with each other and realize we will always feel that way. That certainty brings peace to our hearts as we live our lives and deal with its challenges. Many couples never know how that feels but we have it and will not lose that emotional warmth, or the closeness it has brought into our lives.

So now my wonderful, true Valentine and wife, I do love you so very much. And I know you love me the same way. This true commonality of feelings will make us one for as long as we live on this Earth. As will the words above that we spoke so truly at our wedding last Halloween.

Jeff to Stephanie, a week after Valentines 2007

The Ghost Of Love Past

December 17, 2013

This is one of the last notes I wrote to Stephanie in 2009. It deals with me seeing my kids as adults while the images of them being little remained in my mind. It is from “Notes To Stephanie: Middle Aged Love Letters And Life Stories”.

In the past two days we have seen both of my two kids, they are yours too you know, feel upset about something important in their lives. In both cases I too have felt sad due to their personal sadness. And in both cases I have responded to them, of course in different ways since they are different people with unique personalities and situations. As I wrote the other day, as a parent I want to “make it all better”, but I cannot do that all of the time. It is very true that I remember them both as if they were little kids again. Innocent, full of love and full of life’s experiences which at a young age are mostly full of wonder and excitement. Of course they are both young adults now but the ghosts of their childhood haunt me it seems.

Much of this emotion comes from knowing they are grown now and also from not having them around. Per se I do not suffer from “empty nest syndrome” but in a way perhaps I do. One’s happy memories of for example taking them to the park and watching them play are always somewhere in my sub-conscious mind. These fond remembrances are present; such things fill your mind too. Knowing that these times will not replay themselves is something that one knows but at the same time perhaps wants to reject the obvious reality of.

The reason is simple. As a loving parent our kids are always there in our minds and hearts. Maybe they are not always in the forefront of our thoughts but they always color our feelings. Even when these long ago images are far below the waves of the sea of our conscious minds. Thus, when things happen to them that remind us that they are adults our minds, anchored in the past, want to revolt against this fact and thus we are saddened.

I can fully understand now why my mom is the way she is. She always was there for me and my sister. And let us not forget my dad as well. And she still is when times get rough even though we of course sometimes do not see eye to eye. Regardless of the occasional enmity, she still is a loving mom. She always will be. I hope our kids will see us the same way over the coming years especially when we are gone from this life. Certainly she still sees us as little as we once were. It is only natural to do so.

In your case, you really never had a true family but yet you have the same type of attachment and love for your two kids, they are mine as well, that caused you to care so very much. I think that the fact that you were an orphan made you love your kids even more, giving them what you did not have as a child. You are a very loving mother that is certain. And it shows in the angst you sometimes feel about “your two”. If you did not I would be worried about you (and if I did not you should be worried about me). Perhaps this shows that all of us, regardless of our backgrounds as kids, have the capacity to love our children as they grow up.

So one can see I think that it is a natural thing for one to love their kids, even when they are grown. As we can never forget who they were when they were little so can we also not forget that they are grown up now like us. Our love remains for them but how we express that love is different since they and us are at different points on life’s road. And that we must always remember and is something they too will learn one day when they are parents.

Jeff To Stephanie January 21, 2009

An Unnamed Girl Is Sent Into the Cold

December 16, 2013

This haunting Note is from “Notes To Stephanie: Middle Aged Love Letters And Life Stories” which is my first book. The style is different from “Days Remembered” since I literally was writing the Notes to Stephanie.

An unnamed girl is sent into the cold, cruel city to sell matches by her equally cold, cruel father. She turns her income over to him and he beats her when he feels she has not sold enough matches. One night the girl, frozen to the bone, lights a match. A glorious Christmas tree appears, bright and blazing. That vision vanishes along with the match when it burns out. The second match she lights shows a splendid holiday feast – a Feast of Illusions. This, too, fades away when the match burns out. The final match she lights reveals her beloved, deceased grandmother. The girl runs to her, never to return to the cold city streets. The next morning, she is found, frozen to death in the street”.

My dear, you have been through many things in your life that were not so good. Nothing like what the little match girl you have identified with went through, since you are alive and well, but many tough things nonetheless.

Regardless of your tribulations, you have become a very wonderful person indeed. Your many great and admirable qualities are things I must always keep in mind and recognize above all else about you my Stephanie. Yes, you sometimes irritate me with your somewhat less than organized ways, but that is but a small thing to bear when weighed against your high morals, intelligence, and love for me, our kids & family, and human kind in general. In spite of the woes that befell you at various times past, those things did not make you sad, angry, or sour on life.

It seems that the opposite in fact has happened. You do see the glass half full, more than I do many times, and therefore you are blessed with a good and happy nature and a celestial light that shows your love of life in spite of its past bad times and the present challenges that confound us. And perhaps I have done the same thing too due to a different set of cards dealt to me by the dealer on existence’s poker table. But differently than you since I am such a “black and white” realist who looks on the glass half empty sometimes.

So in a way when we met, we both ran to each other like the little match girl ran to her grand-mother as the last match faded, never again to feel cold and pain but to know only love and comfort without woe or worry. The vast majority of the time our love brings each other in from the cold winds of life to a bright place where we can spend the rest of our lives. Safe, warm, and loved by the other. Surrounded by many good things that bring comfort to our sometimes roughly handled souls.

Jeff To Stephanie October 4, 2007