I knew I couldn't be here when the anniversary of dad and my husband's deaths came up, so I made plans to fly to Sarasota, Florida to be with Jean, a dear friend I haven't seen in almost 10 years. I met her on a flight back from Tampa - we were seatmates. I usually don't talk to anyone on planes, but we struck up a conversation and became great friends. She's almost 20 years older than me, but very young at heart and we got along famously. Then it turned out she lived in Annapolis, only about 10 minutes from where we lived in Crofton, Maryland, so we ended up becoming good friends. I call her my fairy godmother, LOL.
So I asked Jean if I could come see her - she and her husband, David, moved to Sarasota full time last year. She was ecstatic. I made my reservations and flew down there on US Airways on November 3rd, a Saturday. No problems with my connection and I almost cried when I saw Jean. It had been too long!
We drove to her place to say hello to her neighbors and see David real quick before zipping me off to my hotel, a Holiday Inn Express near Siesta Key (where they live). I kept telling everyone maybe I'll get smarter staying at that hotel (if you haven't seen the commercials, go here
The hotel was nice, I got a King suite for just $70/night. Not a bad deal!
Jean came back to pick me up for dinner at a little seafood place where I had alligator bites (real gator, tastes like chicken - really!), then off to the Ringling Museum of Art's Asolo Theatre
to see Murder by Poe
. Yes, that Ringling. John Ringling and his wife Mabel were quite the art collectors and such.
The play was wonderful and when I got back to my room, I talked with Chris on the phone for a bit, then collapsed to sleep. I knew that being away five days would test us - it would be the first time since we'd moved in together that we'd been apart. He was already missing me and told me the dogs were missing me, too.
The next morning Jean picked me up at 930 am (giving me time for my treadmill jog and some quick breakfast) to go on a 2-hour tour of the bay put on by the Sarasota Historical Society
every year. There was a buffet breakfast (mainly doughnuts and pastries) and a bar - LOL. We got great seats at the back of the boat we were on, so I got some sun. The tour was educational, fun and the weather was gorgeous.
Afterwards, we walked around the park at the marina, then stopped by Best Buy and Walgreen's to pick up some things I wanted to get. Then Jean dropped me off at my hotel. She and David had a preplanne charity event they had to attend. I called Chris, then collapsed and took a nap. At 6 pm, I went to the local sports bar and grill for a cheeseburger and a beer. The New England Patriots were playing (and won), so the place was noisy, but fun. Called Chris when I got back to my room, then went to bed.
Jean came by again at 930 am to take me to the Ringling Museum of Art
to see a Cuba modernism show, a Goya show and some Reubens paintings. We walked around the mansion John Ringling and his wife had lived in. God it was beautiful - steps from the ocean.
Had lunch, then back to the hotel for a quick nap, call to Chris (he was *really* missing me by now and I was missing him, too - it's hard to sleep in a big bed alone when you're used to having someone there), then Jean picked me up for a dinner party.
Jack and Judy are a couple in their 70s who met just over a year ago. Both had been previously married and their spouses had died and they connected. They've been living together for a year and love to travel the world together. They done some traveling to Mexico and Judy was fascinated by the October 31st celebration of the Day of the Dead - so that was the theme of their dinner party. Authentic Mexican food, a slide show played on one wall of photos she'd taken at a celebration in Mexico and good wine.
There was a bowl where you could write the names of your loved ones who had died on a piece of paper and add it. I put both dad and Chris' names in the bowl. I was glad Jean brought me to this party. Everyone was remembering someone. Judy then announced she was going to tell us about the Day of the Dead and proceeded to give us a PowerPoint lecture. Don't groan - it was actually very interesting and her photos were fantastic!
After, Jean and I walked with another Judy to her house. She is a potter and wanted to show us her latest work. She does everything - vases, bowls, plates, cups - you name it. And they are ALL gorgeous. There was one plate that needed to be fired that was a pretty blue with a constellation on it. An outline of lovers in the stars had been drawn and I told Jean I wanted that plate. It just hit me as something I had to have. She said she's getting it for me as an engagement present. I can't wait to hang it on the wall.
Got back to my room, called Chris, then fell asleep.
My last full day in Sarasota was November 6th, the day Chris died. Jean picked me up again at 930 am and we went to Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
. It was a beautiful, peaceful place to be with the most gorgeous plants and butterflies I have ever seen. I'll be posting photos this weekend.
Lunch was at the marina, overlooking the bay, then Jean took me to buy some roses. I had looked online and found that light pink roses are for sympathy. So I bought some and she drove me to a beautiful white sand beach. I walked out by myself to the water with two roses, one for dad and one for my late husband. A group of pelicans floated on the water, sandpipers chittered on the sand at the waters edge and a flock of birds (I don't know what kind) flew low over the ocean in front of me. I walked out as far as I could go, said a silent prayer for dad and my husband and tossed the roses into the waves.
It was really beautiful.
Jean took me back to my room. I called Chris and he was wonderful as I cried my eyes out. I don't know how I was ever lucky enough to find this man, but I am glad I did. He told me he was going to just hold me when I got home (and he did).
I napped, then Jean and David picked me up to go see a Neil Simon play, Laughter on the 23rd Floor
at the Golden Apple Theater, which was a dinner theatre. The play was wonderful, the food was good and it was fun being with both Jean and David.
Here are the three of us at the theatre:
The next morning, Jean took me to see a sculpture exhibit along the marina, then to the airport. I had two connections on the way home, but surprisingly, no delays and even got into Portland, Maine 15 minutes early.
Boy, was Chris happy to see me home. He was waiting in the garage and ran around the back of the car to just hold me in his arms. Bandit and Guin wriggled with happiness. It was good to be home.
Video Professor is on the fast track - the CDs are done and I get my copy to look at this week. They are paying to have me videotaped for press releases on the 27th to send out to the media, plus the big rollout is the week of December 1st. So the tutorial based on my book, Net Crimes & Misdemeanors
, will be available just in time for Christmas!
I am very excited about this project!
Life has been really good. Since Chris is a landscaper, we added up how much I'd been paying for my landscapers to do my lawn (I have about an acre), plus the spring and fall cleanups plus the snow plowing in the winter and it came out to almost $4,000. I just about fell over.
We went to Home Depot and ended up getting a Cub Cadet riding lawn mower for half price because it was reconditioned, plus a cart and bagger and a snow blower. The total was less than half what I'd been paying each year for 10 years. I'm going to save a lot of money with Chris doing the yard. He said in the spring he's redoing all my flower and plant beds. I'll have the best looking yard in York, ha ha.
He's also been doing a lot around the house - recaulking the outside of the windows, cleaning the gutters, chopping firewood, general cleanup and helped me put up a canopy shed for the Jeep so that we can store it for the winter along with the lawn equipment.
He's now working for a landscaping company out of Hampton, NH, plus a local condo complex doing yard work and snow blowing and will work on weekends when he can on restoring some cars. He is not an idle man, LOL. In the spring, he's thinking of going off on his own and trying to do his own landscaping/lawn business, so I'm going to help him come up with business cards and ads in the local papers.
Life is good. I am happy again. The dogs love Chris (which was the clincher when he met them). I sometimes have to pinch myself to make sure this isn't a dream. I really thought I could never be this happy again.