Happy Birthday in Heaven

Thinking of You in Heaven, Sweetheart.                                        
The kids and I are doing okay.

It was a really big deal that first year...I sold our house! I did it, honey...I got the money you'd always hoped for; and walked away with 18 years worth of memories in my heart as well! I couldn't stay there anymore without you, babe. The new family loved the deck and garden wall you built, and wanted the den shelves, your big desk and the outdoor furniture!

Guess what else? Treg and Cara left Ventura! Quit their jobs, put the girls and pets in the Volvo and road-tripped across the country seeing all kinds of amazing places. We're all back home in Michigan now...back where our story began. They found jobs they love; jobs with benefits, great pay...and yes...another company car! They had a darling house in Vicksburg and I found a cozy condo in Portage that's perfect for me. I subbed at the nearby school; you know I love being with kids and the challenge of new things.

The Littles are growing up, Grandpa. They’re thirteen and sixteen now...all doing really well in school.They are happy to have their other grandparents nearby to help out and to spoil them like you and I did for so many years! Drew is growing up...he'll be a high school junior this fall! His athletic ability just keeps maturing too. Lane is a hustler and anticipates every move on the baseball just like Drew. He’s quite good with music, just like we thought when he was a toddler...he plays the euphonium now in Middle School District band! You would love watching the boys together now...brothers teaching and leaning on each other. It's more Paige and the boys now, rather than Drew and the twins. Paige is still a sweetheart and quite capable of running the household! She’s on a travel softball team as well as the feeder team for high school. Takes after her Mama in so many ways!  The twins begin 8th grade soon...I’m learning to be teenage savvy once again. 
 Tracy and John gave me their blessing when I decided to make the move. They’ve taken weeks off to spend Thanksgivings and summers here with me so I could have the family all together.
Remember the summer of 2011 at the lake house...that grand strand of lawn and beach front where all five kids played chase on the grass and splashed all day in another Crooked Lake, improving their swimming, driving the boat, learning to fish! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for planning that vacation, sweetheart.The impact it had on our lives was tremendous.

McKenzie excelled in German all the way through high school and speaks it fluently, a nod to your ancestry, sweetheart. She switched from art to criminal justice at Valley and is quite talented with various styles of sketching, but focused on forensics and graphic design in law enforcement now. Even more impressive, honey...she inherited your writing gene and published two science fiction novels! It shows in her essays and research now. I’m blessed this delightful young woman wanted to live with me part of the time...remember how close we always were?  Kayleigh is a bright, beautiful college student with two years at Aquinas already! She’s a wise thinker, considering a gap year as she figures out her best path to follow right now. Best of all is her sweet, caring soul...she's Treg’s mini-me; half sensitive, half sass!

The kids are doing fine. Happy and healthy and making memories of their own. Tracy and John have taken their kids to Disneyworld twice now! And they finally got a dog...a little Boston Terrier named Hershey. Treg and Cara divorced but are still the best of friends. Makes you smile watching how much time they spent together working on the house and doing things with the girls!

2020 was a global pandemic honey...very tragic and scary times worldwide. I left Michigan, moved back to Georgia as the elderly were most vulnerable to this deadly respiratory virus. Found out how resilient I am...staying isolated, wearing a mask, watching distance for a year. Mckenzie moved back with Cara, then to her own apartment on Western’s campus..she’s a junior at our alma mater, sweetheart...excelling in criminal justice! 

I am doing okay now too. Still working on the eating/cooking thing. I eat healthy, farm to table mostly. I moved into a townhouse on Windermere...remember all the games we watched at Joint Venture?  I can almost walk! Love being near Tracy and kids, but Kazoo calls me everyday, the pull to be back in our hometown tugs so hard... I’m selling again and moving back.  
My beach bike was great for Portage  trails, but riding's not the same without you and your three-wheeler. I rode anyway because it felt good...the wind always connects me with your voice and smile, sweetheart. The bike sat lonely in my garage 
this past year because inclines and hills are no fun. 

One more thing about our beloved Kalamazoo, Jimbo. I  connected with the Gazette folks and love hearing the old stories; hearing how they miss you like I do. 
Hoping to get back to my happy spot in Michigan...near George and Amy's place. Such great friends that check on me regularly. KVCC's 50th Anniversary was a few years ago and Tom was in charge of pulling it all together as he does so well. I messed up by not keeping the bound Gazette edition....so sorry. You kept everything from way back to the way back....and I always wanted to get rid of things. Well, I did.  Even Tom said, "Jesus, Joan" if it makes you feel any better! The Herald celebrated their 100th Anniversary awhile back and I was interviewed as a former reporter. Marrying the editor turned it into a Valentine Day story! 

Our families welcomed me back too, first in Detroit with the Carswell/Bickley clan; then with all the Michigan Stommens at holiday gatherings. They’re all doing well, growing up, getting married, having kids. Can you believe my little brother and sister, 7 and 9 when we married, will soon be grandparents?! I’m growing along too, still learning to live on my own, still leaning on our oldest, dearest friends. 

Miss you so much, miss you at night. Miss having coffee with you when daylight comes. Miss you growing along with me, miss you loving me. Thank you for growing me up. I never acted like it, but it shows now I think. Thank you for equipping me to carry on; for building the foundation that made us us. And now, my darling...thank you for watching over us and keeping all the kids safe and healthy.

                                    Love you forever


  1. Joan,
    In many ways, I could have written this letter. My darling husband, James, died unexpectedly Christmas Day, five years ago. This January 31st, I sold our house, the one we worked on together. The one where everywhere I looked, I saw him. I also got what James had hoped for if we sold it.

    Unfortunately, I also lost my whole family that day. James's son, newly returned from Iraq, with problems galore, thought Dad would fix everything, and when he died, the son went off the reservation. I haven't heard from him since. Rightfully so, the son feared he'd helped cause his father's heart problem that day, and in order to make sure he never ran the risk of having it confirmed, he projected his anger about his life and the loss of his Dad onto me. Until then, the son and I had been close... since he was nine.

    I'm happy you have family and grandchildren to support you and in whom you see your Jimbo. My family and my life are my dogs and 1010ParkPlace.com, a site for women of a certain age. I continue to miss James... I waited all my life for that man. He saved me in so many ways.
    My best to you,

    1. I am so sorry for your loss, Brenda. Your words brought me tears and I left you a Facebook message because I had so much to say to you. I wish you peace and joy as you move forward...all that you share on 1010 Park Place is so very valuable to our circles of midlife women..your purpose and passion show! Thank you for reading and understanding...sending hugs to your heart. ♥♥♥

  2. Ahh Joan, yours are the first digital words that I read this morning. You fill my heart with tears, yet in a strange, comforting way. Love really does carry us.

  3. You are so right, Adela. The kids and I are comforted with memories and being back in his hometown also helps. Thanks for reading and commenting. What a nice surprise finding you have two wonderful blogs to enjoy!

  4. I spent the holiday going through the pictures and papers of my sister who was killed in 1992. Today's post is a few wise words she left and thankfully sharing them is leaving a great legacy.

    1. I am so sorry for your loss...so young she was! Her words of wisdom matter even more today...I read them and commented. Thank you for reading me and your kind words, Antionette!

  5. I'm a widow as well and that was a beautiful letter. So nice that you have a nice place to live and family all around you. I'm sure he's smiling down on you.

  6. Thank you, Rebecca. This five year mark seems harder for me this tear...writing about it and grief support have helped. And I make sure the kids and grandkids remember him...mostly funny stories 😊 I hope you are doing okay on your own too. Hugs.