and then . . .


we make the necessary phone calls, send the necessary emails that first night, telling ourselves how this was actually “all for the best.” we make ourselves downright giddy with anticipation of seeing confirmation that “this is sure to be the best thing that ever happened to us.” we’ve said it to others so many times, now it’s our turn.

“no alarm clock, right?” i ask as we get into bed.

“no alarm clock – maybe ever again,” he replies as we await the arrival of the sandman.

he sleeps until 9:30 and announces it a good, restful sleep. we tend the animals, do the barest of morning necessities, then because the rain is replaced with sun, and because we are no stranger to the escape mode of dealing with dreadfulness, we strike out for a day of errands. “together,” we say. “this is good.”

and we don’t lie. we absolutely love being together, we enjoy each other’s company. he still laughs at me, i still give him reason to laugh. we work every single day to have the kind of union we want to enjoy. after 38 years of togetherness, we still hold hands everywhere we go. i rub his back as we wait in the checkout line at the grocery store, he squeezes my shoulders as i call to get after the doctor’s office who hasn’t called in the refill for him, the refill he needs today. yup, we are good together.

our last errand checked off the list, he surprises me by turning right off the proverbial beaten path. “where are we going?” i ask him. “taking the scenic route,” he says.

and we do take the scenic route because like he says, we have “nowhere to be and no time to be there.”

we drive along the mountain backroads, the blue sky, the purple mountains, the white/blue/lavender clouds stunning us into silence. we see a fox and four wild turkeys. i vow (then forget when we get home) to look those up in my animal totems book. we see horses and cows, old barns and captivating falling-down houses. we see a donkey standing right beside the road looking adorable, as though that’s his role in life. roadside adorable.

“do you ever . . . did you ever come home this way?” i ask him.

“once,” he says then tells me about how he got behind a school bus that trip. and when it stopped at this one house on the lefthand side of the road in front of a house with a fence all around it, a little boy – maybe 8 years old – got off the bus and headed to that particular house. “there was a donkey in the front yard,” he tells me, “and when the donkey laid eyes on the boy, he started jumping up and down. that donkey was sooooo excited to see that boy . . . at least i think he was excited.”

“of course he was excited,” i offer. “that’s the story you made up about it, based on reading the ass’s body language.”

and we laugh some more.

we get home just in time to work side-by-side in the kitchen cooking supper. “this is gonna’ be great,” we tell each other.

this morning we are up at 7:30, dress, then ride into town together to deliver the dog for her spa appointment. then we go get the slow leak in his front right tire fixed, then, because we can, we make a spur-of-the-moment decision and stop in at the small, old-fashioned superette and take our time walking up and down the aisles filled with all sorts of odd and old-fashioned (and sometimes odd old-fashioned) delectables. from the butcher in the back of the store, he orders a ribeye steak, about an inch thick, for our supper. i pick up the potatoes and some frozen chocolate chip cookies because, well, we don’t have any chocolate in the house, and the time is fast-approaching, me thinks, when we’ll need a bite or twenty of chocolate.

“supper for two for less than $20,” he announces proudly, and i feel a twinge skirt around the edges of my smile.

we putter the day away, readying the house for the arrival of loved ones for thanksgiving week. we are quieter, but still laced with determined optimism. then he gets a call from a friend, and a crack appears.

it’s grief, you know. the roller coaster of grief. grief isn’t contained to bodily death.

we’ll be all right – and i say that with certainty. maybe certainty laced with a we bit of denial. maybe not, though. i guess we’ll see as we go along.

i’m lucky. i’m married to a man who never invested himself in his career for the sake of identity. he didn’t bring work home on the weekends unless it was absolutely, unavoidably necessary. he went in early so he could be at the kids’ soccer games, school plays, recitals, and other special events. though he never really liked the work he did, he eventually developed a solid good reputation in the industry for his steadfast loyalty, honesty, affability. i don’t think he’s sorry to not be making the 2.5 hour drive twice a day. i don’t think he’s sorry to be shed of that tiny, windowless office they stuck him in (something he never complained about, but still). i don’t think he’s sorry to be done with that, and yet it remains to be seen how he will handle living in a week of saturdays. it’s not as easy as some might think, this working from home all day every day. it’s what i do, and i love it. but i wonder: since he’s accustomed to having the structure of working in an office outside the home and enjoying the elasticity of weekends at home – how quickly, how easily will it be to treat home as both work and play?

so yes, there will be adjustments – how he will spend his time, how i will adjust and amend my daily routines and rituals, where we will go from here. not only am i accustomed to, i need long stretches of silence. i’ve trained the dog, i’m sure i can train the husband. one thing i know: we still have miles to go before we sleep. and maybe it’s escapism or avoidance or maybe we have our figurative fingers stuck in our figurative ears – doesn’t matter. we’re focusing on thanksgiving next week. on togetherness, on abundance of life and love, on feasts of love and friendship and family. and week after thanksgiving, we decide together, we’ll start crafting a map.

and me – on the side, i’m quietly conjuring things to do with the strips of cloth, beautifully tinted by errant rainwater . . .


  1. Ahewell

    Jeanne, this is beautiful!  I’ve been thinking about you and Andy all day and wondering if you know how much I love you both.

    I know, because I just know how Andy has always handled things, that he, (and you), know how to take lemons and make lemonade!

    • whollyjeanne

      Yes ma’am – we do love lemonade around here! Especially is it’s served over ice, with mint, in a glass pitcher that’s sweating from the coolness of the ‘ade. Love you, Mom.

  2. glennis

    moral of the story…always take the scenic route.

    • whollyjeanne

      you’re so right, glennis. and if you’re lucky, you’ll see a excitedly happy ass on the journey;)

  3. Meredith

    Having been through a period of unemployment, I know that things can be tough. However, I learned that unemployment doesn’t have to mean doom, gloom, and woe. It’s a gift of time. It’s a gift of reflection. It’s a gift we may resent in the moment (and many other moments), but it’s a gift nonetheless. Life will be alright. You two will make it through this. I’m sure you’ve made it through a lot of other scary things during your 38 years together. You’re a strong woman, and I have no doubt you’re married to an equally strong man.

    • whollyjeanne

      Thank you, Sugar. We are approaching this just the way you describe – with strength and open minds and hearts. We’ll be just fine.

  4. Angela

    Jeanne, I am grateful for your storytelling gifts–this one read-aloud worthy, so I did it.  And a week of feasting on love with family and friends sounds like the perfect prelude to the crafting of a new map. xo

    • whollyjeanne

      Wow – read-aloud quality. You know that’s like the ultimate compliment, Sugar. Thank you. And hey, “prelude”. Perfect word for Thanksgiving around here. xo

  5. Square-Peg Karen

    SO beautiful, the way you are taking the scenic route, looking ahead to Thanksgiving with loved ones and all TOGETHER! Beautiful!! 

    • whollyjeanne

      Thank you, Sug. Together. You and I, we love that word, don’t we? xo

  6. Anonymous

    You described exactly what I want: someone I want to spend every waking minute with. I had that once … it’s good to be reminded of it and also to know it can stand the test of time. Especially nowadays when people only stay married for 3 months at a time. 😉

    • whollyjeanne

      Oh, Sugar. Your past tense brings tears from my heart, and hopes, wishes, prayers that you will know it again. Soon. xo

      • Anonymous

        Thank you! I will! Pink once said something like “Love is great, it kicks your ass sometimes but I can’t wait to do it all over again.” That’s how I feel. 🙂 It’s great to know what it feels like and to be reminded that it’s still out there … that’s what this post did for me. I’m so thankful for that.

  7. Anonymous

    Also, this is AWESOME: “roadside adorable/”

  8. Alana

    What a beautiful glimpse into your lives and your relationship. You will be okay. Absolutely 100% more than okay.
    I remember when my father retired I thought he’d either be happier than ever before or dead of boredom within the year. He finally gets to do all the things he loves instead of the things he has to do. He cooks and cleans. He just got himself a tractor. I think he’s the happiest I’ve ever known him to be.
    Sending you both love as you figure this out, together.

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Hey, Sugar! I'm Jeanne Hewell-Chambers: writer ~ stitcher ~ storyteller ~ one-woman performer ~ creator & founder of The 70273 Project, and I'm mighty glad you're here. Make yourself at home, and if you have any questions, just holler.

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