Day 30: Monday washday

Monday 12/31/2018

Stripped the bed; sorted and started the laundry, then went for a run. On return the bleach load had finished, so had some underwear to put on, yay!

Yesterday I learned that following the UCLA game this coming Sunday, Stanford Women’s Basketball will honor two recently-deceased supporters. One is DeeDee Zaweya, for many years the office manager for the WBB staff office. Last night at dinner at Nancy’s, I learned that DeeDee, while apparently loved by the staff and team, was not particularly popular with at least some fans. I had only very brief encounters with her, so have no opinion.

Anyway, the other person to be honored is Marian! I was asked to supply some photos and answer a couple of questions, which I did. And I emailed Jean and Darlene (Marian’s sister and cousin) suggesting they might like to come to the game, and they quickly replied they would. So now I need to get four seats together. It’s a regular-season game against a popular rival, so I can’t count on there being empty seats near my usual place, as there usually are at pre-season games.

So I drove to the Stanford ticket office on campus, on the chance it might be open, but of course it wasn’t. I’ll have to do that first thing Wednesday.

Finished up the laundry and re-made the bed. I’m a little conflicted about the bed. I’ve been sleeping in my usual spot, on the right side, and the other side of the double bed is unused of course. Not even a pillow. I just pay no attention to that side of the bed, except  to tuck in the sheet on that side. Well, so what? Nothing wrong with that. In my next abode, I’ll probably have a single bed; and this bed will be sold along with the rest of the furniture. Fine.

Did a spot of programming, added some features to the program and fixed one bug (yay me!) I don’t mean to be mysterious; I’ll write about my software projects in more detail sometime.

I’m scheduled to have dinner with long-time friends Bob and Lolly at their retirement place in Berkeley at 5. So I “dressed up” a little. Meaning, I got my sport coat out of the closet and put on slacks instead of jeans. I’m not happy with the fit of any of my slacks. Although my reduced weight means they are a comfortable fit at the waist (instead of suck-in-my-gut-and-button-the-waistband-quick, as they were last year), they have too much fabric in the thigh. There’s a jodhpur-like wideness I don’t like. I suspect they are… mature in style. And the sport coat: only worn for the WBB awards dinner the last few springs. It’s ok but I dunno. Not snappy in any sense.

Dear lord am I actually thinking about buying clothes? I may be! Yuh go into Macy’s Men’s and buy a new belt, and who knows what will happen next!

I’ll write about New Year’s Eve dinner tomorrow.




Day 29, little grief, some dinner

Sunday, 12/30/2018

Started the day walking to the coffee shop on the old route. Maybe not such a good idea, because… Well, let’s back up to 5:40 AM when I woke up in a sweat with that something’s wrong, something’s undone, anxiety. Took a while to go back to sleep, but did. So two hours later, walking to coffee on the old route, the route we’d have walked a couple years ago when Marian was still healthy, and grief and regret swelled up in the back of my throat.

“Regret” is maybe not the word; is there a word for strongly wishing things were not such? For me, “regret” has links with guilt, or at least responsibility, but that’s not accurate here. I regret that my life is how it is, but I don’t rue that, it isn’t my fault; it just is the case and I would it were otherwise.

As I tried to work out that train of thought, my logical brain finally produced a little comfort with the thought, “Well, how would you have things be instead?” Followed by the realization that there is no credible alternative to how things are. Would I have it that Marian had not died four weeks ago? But what then? Four more weeks of the really miserable, feeble condition she was in? How is that desirable? Or, suppose I had a time machine and could go back to the start of this year, when presumably the cancer hadn’t blossomed in her pancreas? There would be nothing anyone could do, even with perfect knowledge, to prevent that. (Imagining a sci-fi scenario, a person from the future pops in and tells an apparently healthy woman, “You need to start a course of chemo, stat!” Right…)

So that helped a bit, actually quite a lot: to work it out that, despite how much I wish things weren’t as they are, there is no other believable way they could be. So… what? Blow your nose and soldier on, I guess.

Afternoon, I did a docent tour. Fortunately today there were two of us so I had a reasonable size of group, about 20. In the evening, I was invited to dinner with Nancy, Don and Kate. Everybody is being very nice to me, for which I am grateful.

Day 28

Saturday, 12/29/2018

To-Do list:

  • Drop off Marian’s knitting
  • Drop off canned goods
  • Buy a belt

Explanations. Early on I collected all Marian’s knitting supplies — a fat sack of assorted hanks and balls of yarn, three nice cloth binders each holding dozens of knitting needles, some other knitting doo-dads — into a basket. I offered the collection to a friend who had often talked knitting with Marian, but she said no thanks, she had all that stuff. So now the collection needs to go to Jean, who will take it to the Church thrift shop. So I went through the basket again before putting it in the car, and spent the next half hour sniffling. She worked so hard at that hobby, enjoyed the challenge and even the frustrations (“Oh no, I made a mistake three rows back!”), created nice things. And of course had all her tools perfectly organized. It’s just deeply saddening to see it go.

The canned goods? Two bags of unopened tins and jars from our pantry. I cleaned out the pantry a week ago, dumped a lot of partly-used stuff (I expect never to use panko crumbs again, or the opened box of cake mix, or a half bottle of balsamic, etc. etc.), but I set aside the unopened items, meaning to donate them to some food bank. I had a notion there was a donation barrel at the local Safeway, but there wasn’t. So this morning I googled food banks and have the address of the nearest, coincidentally not far from Jean’s where I have to go anyway.

The belt. My weight dropped significantly over the past months. Per my PAMF online records, it was 185 this past August. Sometime in November I noticed my weight was just under 180 for the first time in several years. This week it has been bouncing between 176 and 178. That’s not an unhealthy weight for me at all, and not unprecedented. Back in 2009 we both did calorie-counting for several months, and I see by the PAMF records I was at 176 then for a couple of visits, before climbing back up into the 180s. (For the record, my high school weight was 165.)

Anyway, the result of being smaller is that I’ve been having to hitch up my jeans often. My belt is in its last hole and isn’t doing the job; it needs to be one hole shorter. I could punch another hole, but the belt’s at least ten years old, so why not buy a new one, sized to fit me in the middle of its range?


Mostly. The food bank (at the Mountain View Community Center) wasn’t available; Center closed for the holidays. Got a nice belt. Dropped off knitting stuff. (Later Jean emailed to say she would offer it to another relative who’s a knitter. That would be nice!)

Then did a thing I’d written on the list with a question mark: “Campbell?” Looking ahead to where to live, I place a high priority on being close to, or actually within, some walkable town center, so I can easily stroll to shops and restaurants. I had a vague recollection that Campbell had such a center, so I drove down to look at it. Campbell does indeed have a compact, interesting and “Historic” town center. I walked around  and was impressed by the dozen or more attractive restaurants, a couple of coffee shops, and lots of people strolling.

Back home and then off to a

Basketball Game

where I had an awkward moment when two fans, Fred and Cheri, asked “Where’s Marian?” I thought everybody we knew among the fans would have heard, at least from the banner that was on the fan website for a week, but nope. I wonder who else I know hasn’t heard? It was awkward; and taken aback, I just baldly said, “Oh, you haven’t heard! Marian died just earlier this month.” Which was rather a shock to them, and I apologized for being so blunt, “dumping it on you like that” I think I said. Making lemons out of lemonade. Well, so it goes.




Day 27, socializing

Friday, 12/28/2018

Went for a run first thing. Ordinarily my Friday exercise is a long walk, but I’d shirked exercise both Tuesday and Thursday. Passed the time unproductively until 1pm when it was time to go to the Museum to lead a docent tour. The Museum was unusually crowded and I was the only docent who’d booked for the 2pm tour. Ordinarily there’d be two on a holiday weekend, so we can split the tour crowd to manageable size. Not today; so I started off with over 40 people in tow. That’s too many; there’s just not standing space around the exhibits I want to talk about, and the people in the back can’t see. Well, the visitors solved that for themselves by just peeling off and leaving. At the end of the tour I had about 20 still with me, which was just fine by me; but I regret the other 20-odd having a frustrating experience.

In the evening, met Su for dinner at a restaurant (hi, Su!). A lot of the conversation revolved around retirement facilities: what we want out of them, what we know of them. That was fine (and informative to me). At least we did not talk about that perennial subject among elders, our medical problems!

Emotionally this was a pretty calm day, and at times I felt quite comfortable in my new skin. I’m only slowly grasping that this is really my life now, and it’s up to me to run it. You’d think I’d’a figured that out during the months of anticipation, and I did, at an intellectual level. But there’s an emotional settling-in taking place now which is quite different (and hard to describe).

Day 26, out of town visitors

Thursday, 12/27/2018

Today I had a long-planned visit from Joanne and Brad. Joanne is the daughter of Marian’s college roommate and long-time friend Lolly. Marian liked Joanne and Joanne shared Marian’s interest in birding. Joanne and Brad planned this visit back in November, expecting, of course, to see Marian. When that sadly did not work out, they came anyway and I was glad of their visit.

Besides Joanne and Brad, there were their daughter Sierra, and Ria, a visiting student from Thailand. As I had planned, I gave Joanne a silver and onyx pendant that Marian had made when she was learning jewelry-making in her 20s. The pendant is kind of large and clunky, but Joanne seemed to think it was quite wearable.

Then with some trepidation I invited the three women to look at the remaining items in Marian’s closet, those “better” items that consignment stores didn’t want (see Day 20). I thought they might flip their way through the hangers and see just old-lady stuff, but in fact they seemed to enjoy looking at everything and critiquing each other’s taste, and took away several items each.

Then as planned we went to look at the Stanford campus, although since the trip was planned Sierra has decided not to apply to Stanford. After a short walk around the quad and a bit of a drive around, they dropped me at home and headed off to meet another friend. So that was a pleasant and warming visit.

In the afternoon I spent another couple of hours on a programming project and actually made some progress.

In general I think I am feeling more comfortable in my new life. I haven’t been bothered by that low-level anxiety for several days. It’s easy to trip into spasms of grief of course (I nearly broke down explaining the provenance of the pendant), but on the other hand I’m noting little satisfactions. Every partnership requires compromise, and when the partnership ends, those constraints are removed. I mentioned in passing on Day 9 that I’d gotten rid of three ferns that I’d never liked. That was one compromise eased. Here’s another: I stopped at the grocery store yesterday and among other items, bought a loaf of bread — bread of a brand that we never had in the house because Marian didn’t like it. I did like it, and now I can bring it home when I want. Trivial, but a tiny up-side to the process of fitting into a new life.

Day 25, Boxing up shards

Wednesday, 12/26/2018

Began the day with the customary run. (Marian often complimented me on doing something for exercise every — well, almost every — weekday morning. I accepted the compliments but felt awkward, as if I didn’t deserve credit for doing something so simple. I really  do it out of fear; I’m scared by prospect of how fast my body will turn into a blob if I don’t keep it moving. Twenty years ago, when I was still cycling, I was “off the bike” for six weeks because of a persistent pneumonia. I’ve never forgotten the shock, when I could get back on the bike, of how feeble I had become in a few weeks, and how long it took to get any sort of condition back.)

Then I took care of a loose end. I’ve been keeping Marian’s laptop going just so I could check it each day to see what mail she’d gotten. Boy, was she subscribed to a lot of lists! But after a couple of weeks of clicking “unsubscribe” — and changing the contact email on a number of financial accounts — I’d gotten it down to almost no incoming mail at all. But in the middle of the night a couple of nights ago, it had dawned on me, doh! why do I not simply redirect email to her gmail account, into mine? There must be some way to do that. Today, with only 15 minutes of fiddling around reading Gmail help articles, I found out I could sign in as her, then designate me as a “delegate” who could read her emails and reply or delete them. So I set that up.

Now I can let her laptop sit on a shelf until such time as I can get up the nerve to reformat the drive and sell it. Opening it to see her familiar messy desktop littered with files she’d created… I can’t. Not yet.

I spent a couple of hours on a programming project, or rather, an hour rummaging through system documentation trying to figure out how to do something, and then encountering a bug that kept me from running a test case, then an hour googling for solutions for this bug. Programming. I do it for fun, I tell myself.


As 2pm was approaching and I’m due to help sort books at FOPAL today I pulled down another shelf of books to box up and donate. Here I hit a couple of “shards”, bits of the old life that is going away, which hurt quite a lot as they peel off.

IMG_3540One is a box of bookmarks. We were both readers and until, say, ten years ago we had several books apiece in progress. So we needed bookmarks, and we’d grab free bookmarks wherever, and after a while Marian set up a box on a handy bookshelf to hold bookmarks so it was easy to grab one. There are bookmarks in the box from several decades of reading. Bookmarks from bookstores we’ve been in: Powell’s in Portland, Davis-Kidd in Knoxville, the Tattered Cover in Denver, Munro’s in Victoria. Dozens.

Now, here’s the thing. Starting a decade ago, we pretty much stopped buying physical books and moved to reading on our laptops: stuff on the web, or books on Kindle for Mac. We typically had one (1) bookmark in operation, in whichever book we were reading aloud from at bedtime. Everything else was on a screen. So these bookmarks have been gathering dust, unused, for years.  The newest is from a hotel in Normandy from our 2012 trip there.

Unused, unregarded bookmarks. They should be tossed. But it definitely hurts to do it.

IMG_3543As I was boxing books from this shelf I hit three map books from our days touring the UK: a road atlas for Ireland, the AA road atlas of Great Britain, and a book that was absolutely essential to us for several years, the Master Atlas of Greater London. You see, children, there was once a time when we didn’t have GPS or a phone that ran a map app. We were utterly dependent on maps printed on paper, if you can imagine something so crude!

These handsome volumes have no use whatever now or in the future. The maps are out of date; before today they literally haven’t been off the shelf for 20 years; it has been literally forty years since we used the London Atlas. On my first day of sorting at FOPAL I learned that travel guides printed before 2000 are not kept; they go straight to the recycle bin. These books need to go into the recycle bin right here at home.

Along with the bookmarks.

And it hurts.

I can imagine a sympathetic person saying “Well, why don’t you keep them, then? Or a couple of bookmarks anyway.” But that just puts it off. I’d face the same issue when packing to move to wherever I go next spring. It’s just more possessions to be responsible for, and really useless ones at that.

There’s the contradiction: these objects have a triple nature:

  • To me, they are powerful symbols of a life I once lived.
  • To anyone else they are meaningless.
  • And for me, they have no practical use in the life I am moving into.

There are a lot of objects in this house that have this contradictory nature. How many do I keep?



Day 24, Christmas

Tuesday 12/25/2018

Had a very quiet morning: a walk around the neighborhood, then couch-potatoed for two hours catching up with my YouTube subscriptions. I only subscribe to a few people’s channels, but I hadn’t looked at them in weeks and they’d been busy creating content. (Which makes me feel mildly guilty for not producing any content for my little channel with its 150 subscribers. Well, I’ve been… busy?)

During the morning I had very thoughtful phone calls from Dennis and from Marc, which made me feel connected. Appreciation for that.

That brought me to 2pm, when I drove the mile to Chuck and Suzanne’s house and got to participate in an elaborate and cheerful family Christmas dinner. Which also made me feel connected. So all told, a pretty good Christmas day.

Day 23, Calendar, Cushions, Varnish, Amazon, Good Grief

Monday 12/24/2018

My Calendar

It’s Christmas eve, and as of the morning my calendar for today and tomorrow was completely blank. This did not perturb me. I have intentionally, deliberately ignored everything about the holiday season this year, first as Marian was getting sicker and neither she nor I wanted any celebration; and of course after she died I did not want to go through any empty motions.

In an academic sort of way I thought it might seem sad to have nothing to do Christmas day, not so much because I desired company, but because if someone asked me later in the week, “What did you do on Christmas?” I would have to say (no doubt in an Eeyore-like monotone) “Ohhh, nuthinnn.” Which would be embarrassing, and would provoke entirely unwanted sympathy from the questioner. Or maybe I could lie, invent dinner with a relative the questioner doesn’t know.

I went for my customary run, which felt fine. During it, I got a text from my friend Suzanne, very graciously inviting me to share supper with them on Christmas day! I replied with a grateful acceptance, and now I have something on the calendar for tomorrow.

I texted back asking what I could bring, and Suzanne suggested “flowers for the table”. Sure, I thought, no problem… oh, wait. It’s Christmas bloody Eve and I have no idea where to get a flower arrangement, OMG OMG OMG what’ll I do? Yelp to the rescue; there are at least four florists within a mile radius. I walked into the nearest and the proprietor, a very pleasant woman, said, “Well, there’s this one I’m just working on,” and showed me a nice arrangement of red candles and red roses in pine branches (not botanically convincing, but a good color match). So I stood by and commented as she finished it with lots of sprigs of tiny white blossoms, so it ends up a bit like miniature fireworks. So that’s set.

Cushions and Varnish

After that I finished putting Leather CPR goop on all the green cushions for the second and last time, and put yet another goddam coat of urethane varnish on the little tables, because there were two little screw-ups in the previous coat that I couldn’t stop seeing.

Amazon Fail

Back in 2014 when I was an original backer of Soylent, my first order of Soylent came with a pretty Takeya pitcher for mixing a day’s nutrition. Last week, the plastic top ring split, so I ordered a replacement from Amazon. According to Amazon it was delivered to my porch Saturday at 5:30pm. That would be 15 minutes after I left the house to get supper and go to a movie. It wasn’t there, and didn’t show Sunday; then today when I got back from my run, on the porch was the empty box. It had been crudely ripped open, and inside was only the little air pillows for packing. Inside my mail slot was a business card of a Palo Alto police officer, with the note, “Inform Amazon your package was stolen, if that was the case.” I assume the officer had found the emptied package somewhere and brought it around to my house.

Well, you know, Amazon offers no way to tell it, “My package was stolen.” You can return a shipment if the goods or the package are damaged. I started down that path but realized, how could I return an empty box? It would just confuse things. Back to the “where’s my stuff” link: nope; Amazon doesn’t give you any way to say, my package was stolen, please send another. At least, that I could find. It was only $18, I just ordered one.

Good Grief

Pathways Home Health, the company that provided home care for Marian after her operation, and again during her Hospice period, send me a brochure on Grief Support. Based on this I think I’m getting off pretty lightly:

As we grieve during and after the death of a loved one, we may feel numbness or anxiety, shock or fear, nausea or exhaustion. Confusion, denial, or disorientation are also common. … You may feel flooded with sadness, guilt, or a sense of being in a fog.

OK, I’ve recorded anxiety a couple of times, although not the last few days. Surges of sadness, definitely; although the strongest of these are associated, as I’ve written, with the loss of a lifestyle or life-pattern, rather than the loss of a person. When I think of Marian I feel pity and regret. But the sadness of bereavement is different, comes at different times and from different triggers. (I still can’t bring myself to take down that list of entrées from the bulletin board; and there is a whole closet I am carefully avoiding.)

Anyway they offer a “Partner Loss” group session on Tuesdays, resuming January 7th. I will think about this; maybe I’ll attend one.



Day 22, another Sunday

Well, that’s a boring title, innit?

Sunday, 12/23/2018

This Sunday I maintained my long tradition of doing the Sunday* NYT crossword, the big one, first thing. Time, 38:40, about average, and entered it into my spreadsheet of crossword times, now nearing its fifth year of daily crossword time records. Who’s an obsessive nerd? Not moi!

That brought me to 8am, and I went off by car to Baron Barista for an almond croissant and a cappucino. I didn’t walk, like last Sunday, because I needed to get back before 10. I think I’ll go back to our old haunt for Sunday coffee from now on, the one 1/4 mile away.

Showered, shaved, and at 11 headed off to the Computer History Museum to lead the 12pm docent tour. Sunday of a holiday weekend there should have been two docents, but none of the other volunteers signed up, so I got to lead a group of 30, about twice normal. I did it well and several people told me they enjoyed my presentation, so that’s nice.

On the way to and from the museum I was “talking to my steering wheel,” a habit I’ve had since I’ve had a driver’s license, to lecture my dashboard about what’s concerning me. Homeless people do it while pushing their shopping carts of trash through the streets, and look crazy. In your car, nobody can hear you — and if they notice you talking, these days they’d assume you’re on the phone, probably talking to (depending on your vehemence) your dealer, agent, or parole officer. But not crazy.

Anyway, I was explaining the reasons I’m quite sure I won’t be hooking up with another romantic partner. There’s a lot of things I don’t expect to do ever again; this morning for some reason it occurred to me I’ll probably never go camping again. But not taking another partner was one of the first decisions I made when I began thinking seriously about “being a bachelor”, months ago after Marian’s diagnosis. Then it was based on practical reasons. Now — as I explained to my dashboard — I have another and stronger reason, one I couldn’t have conceived of then.

It’s this (and here’s the kind of snappy dialog my dashboard is privileged to hear): At the very top of my list of experiences to never, ever have again, is the experience of supporting and nursing a loved partner as they fail and die. I did it once, did it I think as well as it could be done; but a saint I am not, and I am not going to put myself in line to do it again, thankyouverymuch. At my age, any anticipated pleasures of love are very much overtopped by the anticipated pain of that experience. Or by the pain of the alternative, being the one who goes through the dying process, dependent on the generous care of a partner. Nope. Not going to be in an emotional partnership ever again, because at my age, one of those scenarios is the inevitable end.

That settled, I was home at 2pm to enjoy the rest of the day. A pretty slow afternoon; I should have improved it with something useful, but didn’t. The only event of interest was the delivery of a new reading lamp, but I think I’ll write about that tomorrow.

*actually the Saturday NYT puzzle, but our newspaper has always printed it on Sunday.

Day 21, what will I do with myself?

Saturday, 12/22/2018

9am: In my Google calendar, today and the next two days (through Christmas) are blank. The first un-eventful days since… I don’t know when. How will I fill them? There are many possibilities… I’ll update this post later.

For a start, I made an errand run, first to the hardware store to turn in three fluorescent bulbs for recycling, then to Whole Foods for some groceries. I supplement the meal replacements with fruit, cheese, avocados, occasional bacon or sausage. Stuff that I can prepare in 5 minutes or less. While making this run I was hit with a couple of waves of deep sadness, not triggered by anything specific, just… sad.

Putting the groceries away turned into a further clean-out of the pantry. I’ve been nibbling at the edges of this job off and on. Threw out two more boxes of breakfast cereal that were lurking up there. Box of cake flour: out. I’m recycling these food items: the food itself is poured into a bio-bag and put in the green recycle bin; the box is flattened for the blue bin. I set aside quite a few unopened cans and bottles; I mean to find a food donation box for them. Saved a container of baker’s sugar because it will work in the hummingbird feeders. But I wonder how long the cake flour and baker’s sugar had been up there? I can’t remember the last time Marian did any baking.

Brought in the hummingbird feeders and filled them. The feeders tend to get patches of a nasty black mold inside and have to be thoroughly cleaned. We’ve been supporting several hummers for a couple of years now. I feel obligated to feed them through the winter, but come spring when blossoms appear, they’ll be on their own.

Finished painting the little tables. There are imperfections but I’m done. They look better than they did after 40 years of neglect.

I have several “real” projects, projects that might have meaning beyond my domestic room. Two software projects, two books. I haven’t “laid a finger” (to use a phrase of my mother’s) on any of those worthwhile projects in weeks. This afternoon I spent two hours re-familiarizing myself with one of the software projects — rereading the code, editing the comments, getting back into it. Two hours is about all the concentrated thinking my brain can stand, but I did that much, and it felt like progress.

Watched the rest of the Return of the King DVD special features, all about the making of that huge project. They wrapped in 2003, 15 years ago. Wow.

Went out for a burger at Gott’s, then to see Bohemian Rhapsody. So quite a bit of stuff in this empty Saturday. Just to make sure tomorrow isn’t empty, I scheduled myself for a docent round at the Museum. And so to bed.