Category Archives: susie.life

This blog goes back to our first vacation in the keys with a boat in 2013. Many trips and life events have been added since, and I hope many more are to come.

The Trauma 10 Years Ago

On this very day ten years ago – February 22, 2008, I took this picture on the way out of the ATV park where we were meeting friends for the weekend.

I was following Dave, who had flipped his 4-wheeler. The ambulance took him to the nearest hospital – Lake Placid, I think, and they said they simply could not handle such a case. So they set forth to find the best place for him while I whined, “Why not West Palm Beach?” When they said, “No,” I said, “Okay, then Ft. Myers.” I could not imagine not having the support of friends and family, and I hadn’t even a clue yet of what he was in store for.

Tampa General Hospital was where he would go and when I asked, “Why,” they said, “Because there, they have the best brain trauma unit.” I tried to keep it together for Dave’s sake, and it was hard. Our friend Patti, a nurse, stayed on the phone with me and was a huge help.

According to the hospital records, it was 10:07 p.m. when Dave arrived at Tampa General. At 2:47 a.m., it was decided that he would go to OR and at 3:11 a.m., the hospital tried to contact me to let me know. Awakened by the call a little too late, I tried calling back almost immediately. I was transferred to a nurse who transferred me to the coroner.

The coroner then put a priest on the phone who generically started a comforting spiel. “No, wait,” I cried, “for crying out loud, what happened,” I demanded. “Well, we are checking on that,” the priest said, and then explained how they did not exactly know where my  husband was at the moment. He was soft-spoken and gentle. The more gentle he was, the more I wanted to reach through the phone and scream in his face. I was the most terrified and shocked I have ever been in my whole life.

I did not want to hear this person, or any person, say one more word unless it was to say that Dave was okay. They tried to assure me that they had every reason to believe he was, because there was no evidence suggesting he was not, and that they would get to the bottom of it and call me right back. I hung up the phone and called my friend Debbie in the middle of the night.

“What’s wrong,” she said, answering her phone at three-thirty in the morning, and I proceeded to tell her all that had happened. My call-waiting beeped and it was the hospital. They had found Dave. He was in the operating room and was expected to be there for some time. They must have been on their way to the OR, and were in “limbo,” they told me, when I had called. Mistakenly, I was put through to the coroner and the priest just happened to be there.

The next day it dawned on me that I had two trucks, two 4-wheeler’s and a 30-foot RV to get back home, over two hours away. I thought, “I’ll call our son,” and then, “oh my God, I have to tell the kids.”

The Q-tip Quip

For years, when I would complain of not feeling well, Dave would listen to me the first or second time and then suggest I not focus so much on the ailment. Although he meant well, this usually did not go over well with me. Whether it was my inflamed sinuses or a migraine headache, a shooting pain or blurry vision, or my favorite – my fuzzy ear, his solution almost always involved positive thinking. I accused him of not caring. He said if I cared I would get it checked-out and not just complain about it.

So I did just that. And after two rounds of a heavy-duty antibiotic, I got the “all clear,” yet I still felt something going on in my ear. My doctor was puzzled, so she sent me to an ENT specialist. I just knew it was going to bad. I had gotten an ear infection after swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, and then we heard about bad bacteria being found in the body of water. I just knew the antibiotics weren’t working. I could feel it and I was scared.

As my family physician suggested, I went to the Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist. He took one look in my ear, and simply said, “Quit using Q-tips.”

I sat there a little dumb-founded. It seemed as though the appointment was now over, but he said it like an aside.

“That’s it?” I asked.

“Yep,” he replied, “your ears are trying to heal themselves and you are not letting them.”

No, something else is going on, I thought. Does this guy even know my plight?

Trying not to seem like the hypochondriac that my husband has lately insinuated me to be, I inquired about the feeling of cotton moving around in my ear and the associated pain I felt. His response was, “The ear canal is supposed to have skin.”

Yeah? And? I sat there a little confused. The questioning, and almost angry look on my face prompted him to explain that what I am feeling is skin trying to form, and the lack of it means I have nothing protecting my ear canals. “Quit using Q-tips and go enjoy life,” he instructed as he walked out the door.

I was definitely dumbfounded.

The first thing I did when I got in my car, was cry. Is this guy for real? What if he is wrong? These were my immediate thoughts. Next, my thoughts revolved around the amount of money I had just spent to be told I was fine. I felt happy about this, being fine, yet scared of the notion that he could be wrong. And although I was sure that Dave would be happy to hear this news, I was just as sure he would not be thrilled about the cost.

I started thinking of ways I could spin this, to make it seem like less of a waste of money somehow, and after running a few different scenarios through my mind, I laughed at myself. “This is no excuse to go backwards,” I said to myself aloud, and when I got home and Dave asked, “What did the doctor say?” I sobbed and said, “Quit using Q-tips.”

The doctor’s words rang around in my mind for days. “Quit using Q-tips and go enjoy life.” Why did this make me so mad? No – he’s wrong, he has to be, I kept thinking. Doctors are wrong all the time. And then it happened. My “light-bulb moment” or “burning bush,” if you would, of how what I think, really does create the life I have – physically, socially, and of course, mentally. I could clearly see that I had two choices – I could go on a mission to prove the doctor wrong or I could go on a mission to enjoy life. Damn-it, Dave had this all along, for which I called him a “moron,” many times.

The following days and weeks, whenever I felt that feeling of cotton moving around in my ear, instead of thinking it was some antibiotic-resistant bacteria multiplying close to my brain, I imagined my own skin cells, diligently organizing all the tools needed to repair my inner ear. When I felt pain associated with the process, I visualized healthy cells attaching themselves to my skin, much like nailing a stud to a wall.

Two and a half years later – a full 30 months after that appointment with the specialist – I am happy to report that my ear issue seems to be solved, all by not using q-tips, and I’m sure, changing the way I was thinking about it. I have experienced other sinus issues for which I have also found a solution that does not include decongestants, which I will be sharing about soon.

Until then, may our perspectives positively develop into something good!

It’s a bunny, it’s a monkey, it’s Susie!

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People may have thought (and with good reason) that I was likely the latest resident of Royal Palm Beach to loose their driver’s license (or their home 😉 ), but thank God that was not the cause of my peddling more than nine miles around the town yesterday. “No, I am not a homeless person loitering in the lot,” I said to myself, and really, to others when they drove through the industrial park, looking at me a little funny as I packed up my bike for the day. “No, I am not a bum looking for a handout,” I silently said to people parking in the lot at Costco, “for if I were, would I have a Costco card? Doubt it,” I said to myself as I walked into the store, and then wondered if anyone watching me was wondering what I was going to get at Costco on my bicycle.

I didn’t think much more about it, rolling down Royal Palm Beach Boulevard, heading toward the DMV. My mind was more preoccupied with patting myself on the back for what a big a girl I have become. You see, my truck’s steering-something-or-other was loose, and although I allowed fear to get the first foothold, I turned it around and showed it the door and decided to be a big girl and see what I could do about it. As I determined where I would take it and what to do while waiting, fear came storming back in, and this time brought a friend – the head of the pity party committee.

While the two sources of major discontent tried their best to talk me into being the party’s guest of honor, I declined. After arguing with them incessantly, I remembered that the only way to win with these two is by doing, not saying. “Faith without works is dead,” as Jesus said, whereas works is synonymous with action. As in, what are you doing to combat these two trouble makers? So I went to Walmart and bought new tires for my bike.

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I also splurged on a side mirror that wraps around the handle bars, which I found to be real handy. The first time a fellow biker scared the heck out of my while whizzing by on my right, I was like, “Duh, Susie, what did you get that mirror for?” I was prepared each time after that. And I got passed a lot, for I was not on a mission, I was simply enjoying the journey. I had all day, or so I thought, to mosey on down to the DMV and get my tags renewed.

On my way, I stopped at Commons Park, had a picnic and took pictures.

I then got an hour’s worth of work done while waiting at the DMV. On the way back to retrieve my truck, I decided that it would be good mental health maintenance to do this once a week – to get out and ride my bike with no time restraints tugging at my mind. As I thought of my usual mental state, I decided that loosing this much time once a week would frazzle me too much. So I changed the frequency to once a month. By the time I reached my truck, I had talked myself into once a quarter being totally sufficient.

The absolute best part of the whole entire day – are you ready for this? My truck – it was a loose bolt. Now how many mechanics are going to hand you your keys and say, “It was a loose bolt. Have a nice day!” I was dumbfounded. Really? Well I can’t believe the difference in the way it drives. He could have gotten a hundred bucks out of me, easily, and I would have been happy. But he is a good guy, George – the owner, and just one of the reasons why I will continue to take my vehicles to Value Tire in Royal Palm Beach. Much more than tires, they do, they do bushings and calipers and the knuckle-like things, they do brakes and of course, tires and alignments. So the next time your auto needs some help to get it rolling down the road safely, give them a call! When I need them, I say, “OK Google, what’s the number for Value Tire in Royal Palm Beach?” And then my phone even offers to call it. While I hope I don’t have to rely on them too much, it is nice knowing that I can when I need to, and having my truck for about 220,000 miles now, I sure am glad I found Value Tire in Royal Palm Beach!

Cake of Cheese

Dave is good. He called on his way home and after we hung up, I thought, “Poor guy, he’s probably wondering, does, ‘I don’t want cake’ really mean I shouldn’t get cake, or is this one of those times when I should know better?” Then I prayed for help accepting whatever he would decide to do.

But surely he won’t get cake – he knows I am sugared-out. And where is he going to get a non-GMO cake, is what I was thinking. Yeah, he knows better. And he did. So guess what he did? He got me a cake of cheese.

Not a cheesecake, but a cheese ball, and if you know me, well then you know that means Dave is good. So now on my birthday, a cheese ball is now called a cake of cheese. So instead of cake and ice cream, we had cheese and pretzels. And it was yummy! And non-GMO, of course.

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It was a good day to have a good day!

I almost started to wallow and wonder why I had forgotten to change my appointment for my semi-annual teeth cleaning, for who wants to go to the dentist on their birthday? I decided instead to be grateful that I can. I decided instead to call it a ‘celebrate me’ day. And after getting my teeth cleaned, I went to meet Tim Dorsey.

WAY out of my comfort zone I went – all the way down to Boynton Beach, by myself. South Congress Avenue, to be exact. It was so much out my zone, it took me ten u-turns to find the WXEL television station.

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So what was I doing at the WXEL’s television station for the afternoon? I was in the studio audience during the taping of their show “Between the covers,” which I found to be a very exciting and fun time. The people there at WXEL could not have been friendlier or more welcoming; they were great. It was a neat experience all around.

Tim Dorsey is the author whom host Ann Bocock interviewed for this show, which airs on Friday evenings at 5:30 on the local PBS station in the West Palm Beach area. Unaware that they would have books there for purchase, I bought mine at Barnes and Noble and in the future will be giving the public television station my business. Just saying. And while I’m at it, let me say that this author, Tim Dorsey, is a super funny guy. All twenty of his books are pretty funny too, according to the lady who sat next to me.

So the life-changing stuff for me is this – I decided to have a different attitude about my appointment and it worked. I had a wonderful time at the dentist today. Driving down to Boynton Beach, I told myself repeatedly that I was excited, not anxious or fearful about stepping way down south out of my box, into a studio, all by myself – and it worked. In hindsight, I was a little giddy and likely appeared over-exuberant. And I loved every minute of it!

On another note, the one that comes with, “Happy Birthday to you,” I would like to thank everyone who wished me well on Facebook as well as called, texted or emailed. I am so blessed to have such good peeps in my life. And thank you all for reading and following my blog. If you like it, please share! If you don’t, well share it anyway – it’s my birthday! 🙂

Reel Big Fish at the Fair

I think it is funny, how I had never heard of Reel Big Fish before exactly one month ago. On that day, December 26, 2016, we – me, Amanda and David – were driving the three hours from Ft. Myers to West Palm  when David asked if we wanted to listen to a CD he had. We said, “Sure,” and when it was over, agreed that we all liked it.

Three weeks ago when I was packing up stuff to send to Amanda, I saw the CD in the stack of stuff she had asked me to mail. I grabbed it and played it for Dave later that night. Although the genre is not his first choice (or even second or third), he enjoyed it well enough. They have some funny lyrics, and while reading them on the jacket cover, I noticed that the CD was from 1998. We were surprised we hadn’t heard of them since this was the type of music most of us mostly listened to back then.

Last week, we went to the fair, and not because I wanted to see the fair, but because I wanted to buy baby chickens there, as we had done a dozen years ago. We found out that baby chicks are no longer sold at the fair, which was sad to hear, and that the following week, Reel Big Fish would be playing. For some reason, this excited me. And since Dave’s been saying I need to get out more, I made the decision that we would be going back to see the band. We told David of the date and asked if he wanted to meet us there, which he did, and we all concurred that it was a good time.

The guys in the band are super funny. One of them was like, “Okay, we are going to sing the song that made us famous in the 90’s,” and upon hearing Hey now, you’re an all-star, get your game on, go play… the crowd went wild, singing along and jumping up and down and I was like, “Oh, I didn’t know they sang this!” They would go on playing for a few minutes before whining to a halt and then say, “No, no, no… just kidding, that’s not our song,” then say whoever it was and then, “Now, this is the song that made us famous in the 90’s.” They went on like this with four or five songs. It was really funny. Every time, I looked at David for confirmation – is this really their song? And only on the last one did he nod his head yes, which they played all the way through, proving it was indeed their song. I knew it from back in the day and concluded they must have been a “one hit wonder” band I didn’t remember. I also found this odd, since they were so freaking funny.

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Amanda’s Visit at Christmas – Part 2

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In Part 1 of Amanda’s Visit at Christmas 2016, I left-off on Christmas day in Ft. Myers, and in case you missed it, this has become my favorite part of Christmas – when we sing Happy Birthday to Jesus at Dave’s cousin’s house. She goes all-out, with a birthday cake and candles. I love it, even though I believe that this time of year was when Jesus was conceived, not born. Still, it is one of the best things I have ever seen.

Afterwards, we stopped by to see some friends of ours and by the time we got back to the condo, everyone was beyond ready for bed. The next morning, I drove Dave to the boat docked at the beach and the kids and I packed up my truck and headed home. Dave enjoyed a day by himself on the boat fishing. The three of us made plans for the following day to go out to dinner and then head downtown to see Sandi the Christmas tree, sculpted entirely out of sand.

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Choreographed to music, the lights danced around, blinked, and changed color quickly. It was pretty neat. Not missing a chance to capitalize, West Palm Beach made Sandi a star – she had trailer just like the movie stars and “Sandi Swag” was offered for sale.

Here, Amanda and I sit in Sandi’s dressing area – a good spot for a photo-opp.

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The following day, Amanda said goodbye to her dad, and she and I headed north. Because we needed to be at the Orlando airport at 6:00 in the morning, we decided to drive up and spend the night. We had planned on taking the long way and stopping in Sebring to see Jonathon, which we did, although we wound up taking the long, long… long, long way.

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In hindsight, I somewhat enjoyed it. I am glad to know where River Ranch is, and am happy I can say that I have driven through it. Even more so, I am glad to know that right down the road from it are fishing and boating communities. The best part though, and yes, I know this is just weird, but to be a little scared, driving in the pitch dark between Reedy Lake and Lake Arbuckle on a two-lane tiny road with no shoulder, well, I would have rather been with no one but Amanda, and since it was indeed her sitting next to me, well, in hindsight I can say it was a bit thrilling. My “drama-fix” for the year, perhaps.

I thought I knew where I was going and it was not until I saw signs for Ft. Drum that I realized something was wrong. “Ft. Drum!” I exclaimed, “we are going to pass Debbie’s house,” I told Amanda, “that’s not right!” After chatting for a few about our friend while I tried to decide what to do or where to pull over, Amanda pulled up the map on her phone. She showed me what it said. We determined that turning around was not the answer. So we took five hours to get to Sebring. They were also some of the best hours of conversation.

After having dinner with Jonathon, we continued north to Monroe’s on the Lake in Sanford, Florida. Unfortunately, I could not avoid I-4, although I would not have known that I wanted to until it was too late anyway. I-4 was under construction, bumpy with uneven pavement like I have never seen. The six lanes of highway twisted and turned and were as narrow as could be, and with semi’s barreling through the 60 mph zone going 80 while tourists slowed down to 40, trying to figure out where to go, it made for the worst experience on the road I have ever had. Amanda even groaned when she looked at the map and saw we had 20 more miles of it to go. Finally, we made it to our hotel a little before 11, and the first thing Amanda said was, “I see why dad choose this hotel!”

wp-1483449712211.jpegSituated on Lake Monroe in Sanford, Florida, this affordable hotel had a friendly staff and nice rooms. The room we were in on the second floor overlooking the pool was nice anyway, with a mini-fridge and wood (laminate) floor. The bed was comfy and had the type of pillow-top comforter that I love. Perhaps Dave figured, with a bass fish for an emblem, how can you go wrong? I am glad he wasn’t wrong.

In the morning I took Amanda to the airport and waited around, hoping to get a picture of her plane departing. Realizing it would be another 20 minutes or so, I decided to go back to the hotel, only 10 minutes away, and take them from there. Before leaving, I took a picture of the airport, where it appears that Allegiance Air has the place all to itself. The place that reminds me so much of middle-school pickup.wp-1483449362046.jpegBack at the hotel, I saw a plane take off at 7:20. I took a video and pretended that I knew it was Amanda’s plane. Then I set out to take photos of the scenery that surrounded me. wp-1483403287918.jpegThis would be a nice place to meet up with others, whatever the occasion. I believe they also have a banquet room, and this beautiful gazebo is in a nice yard area in between the hotel and lake. I also spotted a huge grill/smoker but do not know if this is available for guests or what the story is on that. Worth checking out though if you are looking for something like this and enjoy doing that sort of thing (like us).wp-1483403287927.jpeg

Amanda’s Visit at Christmas 2016

Three hours north and then a half hour west in the middle of nowhere, was about all I knew of the road trip I was taking to go get Amanda from the Sanford Airport. Although not in the middle of nowhere, much of the two-lane road ran right through the St. John’s River.

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And right through a fish camp.

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Arriving at the small airport just north of the Orlando International reminded me of middle-school pickup back in the day. Almost immediately, traffic came to a complete stop, where, for about ten minutes, I waited.

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Traffic started moving slowly and I inched my way closer and closer to the terminal. Then Amanda called, she had retrieved her luggage and was on the curb waiting. It was just like middle-school pickup.

The next day, back in our neck of the woods, I spotted a new sign I thought might interest someone:

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One day, Amanda and I went downtown to take Dave to lunch. We went in to see the tree he had been telling us about, and of course, get a picture.

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Our tree at home is a bit less traditional. Dave did all the decorating and I love it. “Dreaming of a black-light Christmas” is our song this year!

Presenting the Raffey Family Christmas Tree of 2016:
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The “pilot” Blacklight Christmas

For Christmas, we went to Ft. Myers, where, Dave and John carried on Gus’ tradition of hosting a Prime Rib dinner on Christmas Eve, followed by opening presents. Fourteen people got their fill and there were leftovers. Costco came through once again.

Dave said Gus’ traditional grace, to which Jeff and I traditionally tacked-on, “Rub-a-dub dub, let’s eat this grub!”

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Then we opened presents. Here, Dave is reading the tag – To David From Santa. At some point, he looked at me, confused. “You sure this is for me?” “Yes, finish reading the tag,” I told him. Because you will always be David first here, he read. And our gift tags confirmed this.

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Santa got him cookies – Butter Pecan Meltaways – to be exact. In a round tin with the cookie maker’s name written across the top it and, “a bite above the rest,” I had to try one. The name of “David’s” was a plus.

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Man, am I glad that Dave does not enjoy them nearly as much as I do. We would have to fight over them. But as luck would have it, or his big, kind heart, he allowed me to eat almost the entire tin of cookies.

On Christmas Day, we did the traditional get-together at Dave’s cousin’s house. After lunch we played games and then sang Happy Birthday to Jesus.

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Visit my site on Shutterfly to see more pictures.

The following day we came home and planned out Amanda’s last few days here.

To be continued…

Big Block Party of Birds

I took this video on Christmas day in Ft. Myers. Not a rare sight for those whose yard we were in; however, I was amazed. It was really something to be standing in the middle of! And I couldn’t help but think of my grandmother. I never will forget the time she started reciting a poem about a birdie in the sky who shat in her eye, after one did just that!

Saturday, In the Parker – Part Two

Exactly a month after Dave’s dad passed away, we were at his house, just Dave and I, on a Saturday night. Earlier that day, we had attended a celebration of life for Dave’s cousin, Peggy, then went to see the sunset when we “accidentally” wound up going over the bridge on to Sanibel. Since we were already there, we made the most out of our six dollars and drove down the island. We stopped at The Love Boat Ice Cream Shop where I ordered a Turtle Sundae and almost ate all three scoops by myself. It was the best ice cream.

So, back at the house after the six-dollar sunset, Dave was in the living room watching television and I, in the master bedroom reading, when a lady walked right into the house and greeted us.

“Well hi there,” I heard a lady’s voice say, just outside the bedroom door. I walked to the entryway where a lady who appeared to be in her 80’s stood in bare feet and a nightgown.

“Hi,” I said, walking toward her, “can I help you?”

“Yes, please,” she said, as she reached out to me. I came closer and she grabbed my arm. Instantly, the look on her face changed. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “He is so mean,” she said, and then started to cry.

Somewhat shocked, Dave and I both prompted her to tell us what was going on; who was she talking about? All we got was how he is so mean and says she can’t do anything right. The strong smell of alcohol coupled with the slur of her words spoke volumes to me. Of course, her choice of words – blaming her husband for all of her woes and ensuring her spot as the victim – prompted me to pray for her while at the same time, thanking God for removing such a mindset from me. While she was spinning it one way, I was seeing it another. I was seeing what I looked like just a little more than seven short years ago.

We let her go on, understanding ourselves that this had more to do with an insecure drunk woman than anything else. We asked her to come sit down and she refused. I wanted to get her a tissue but she did not see the need. “I’ll be fine,” she said, as she gripped my arm tightly with one hand and used the other to gather a fistful of her nightgown and wipe her face with it.

After a few more minutes, I suggested that we walk her home. “This is my home,” she said with assurance. “No… this was Gus’ home,” I said. She looked at me confused. I continued, “Did you know Gus? This was his home, and this is his son,” I said, motioning to Dave. She looked at Dave, threw her arms around him and busted out crying, “Oh, I loved Gus so much!”

A different kind of cry than when she originally appeared at the door, this unknown woman went on and on about how much she loved Dave’s dad and is going to miss him. I listened for clues to who this woman might be and where she lived. It had to be close.

Seeing a good opportunity to see if we can see her home, we walked out the front door, down the walkway, and onto the street. “I live over there,” the lady said, and pointed to a particular house. As we walked up the driveway, I said, “Oh, did you guys put up Christmas lights today?” “Well no,” she said, as it dawned on her that this was not her house. “Silly me, I mean, that’s where I live,” and she pointed next door. We cut across the yard and a dog started to bark. “Do you have a dog?” I inquired. “No,” she answered. “Well then that wouldn’t be your house either,” I informed her.

It was getting cold out. Dave and I decided we would take the woman back to his dad’s house while we figured out what to do. The three of us walked back down to the street where the woman abruptly said, “Shhh… someone’s coming,” and stopped walking. “Stay right here until they pass,” she instructed us, and then appeared as if she were trying to huddle into herself and roll-up into a ball.

“There you are,” bellowed the man walking toward us, “I have been looking all over for you!” It was the woman’s husband. Witnessing their back-and-forth was like a flashback of me carrying-on about anything I could to get attention off of me and my wrong doings. This man seemed to be sober and sincerely care about this woman. He pointed out to me their house and I walked the woman home while he and Dave stayed on the street and talked.

“How long have you two been married?” I asked her, as we walked up their driveway. She exclaimed, “Oh gosh, 60 years!” I took a big chance and said, “I’m sure he really loves you.” “Yes, I’m sure he does,” she replied, then turned to me, grabbed both of my arms and said, “I won’t remember this tomorrow, but I want you to come tell me.” I laughed and said, “Tell you what?” I did not really expect an answer, and she said, “Just come and say hi, promise me you will at least come and say hi.” “Okay, I will come and say hi,” I told her.

The next day, I went for a walk, and down the street I saw her sitting on her front porch. I said, “Hi,” as I continued walking by. She smiled and returned the gesture. “Beautiful day,” I exclaimed, as I carried on, taking a wonderful walk around the neighborhood.