Ups and Downs

June 22, 2006

Of Flutterbys and Bedspreads The day of Michele's memorial, as P and I stood at the table holding the flowers and her pictures, a Monarch butterfly suddenly appeared from nowhere, did a lap around the arrangement and a figure-eight around the two of us. We both remarked about not having seen a Monarch in years. It felt like a sign then and still feels that way today.

In the first several weeks after her death I would come home from work only to find her side of the bed turned down. Intellectually I know that it was only Taz burrowing under the covers to sleep, but it only ever happened on Michele's side of the bed, and it had never happened before. I could just see Michele standing there egging on Taz. She was leaving me another sign that she was okay.

Just this week, for the first time in months I came home to find Michele's side of the bed turned down. My first thought was she's back. It felt good to think that I have my own angel now, and that she stops by to make sure I'm okay. Tonight, as I was leaving my favorite pizza parlor another Monarch fluttered by and disappeared, bringing a smile to my face.

I have been struggling with how to move forward in my life, and while I'm not sure of the details yet, I do feel like I am moving ahead. To me the bed being turned down and the Monarch are signs of approval from Michele. I know she'd come back and kick my ass if all I did with the rest of my life was sit around and mope, so it feels good to think that she would approve of my moving on with my life.

Oh Sh*t, Not Again The second year I worked at summer camp the permanent staff there was on a "wellness" kick. They had all read the wellness handbook and were full of excitement about eating healthier and taking proactive steps to be well instead of just merely not ill. Unfortunately they tried to alter the lifestyle of everyone at camp that summer too, largely through the menu in the dining hall. Compounding the parade of sprouts, salads, and carob bars were two fraternity row cooks from nearby Purdue University who were cooks only in the mechanical sense of mixing things together and serving them. The food that year was quite simply, awful.

One late summer evening, dinner was a particularly odious tuna salad, something I have never, ever liked, and so I passed on the main course and filled up instead on oatmeal raisin cookies. Seventeen oatmeal raisin cookies. This was my night off and so myself and two other counselors headed for the nearby mall and some real food. By the time we reached the mall parking lot I was in a bad way. I knew it was going to be a close call getting to the men's room in time. As it turned out I was all the way in the stall before I lost the race.

After twenty minutes or so waiting one of my companions finally came looking for me to see if I was okay. After explaining what had occurred I tossed him my wallet and sent him off to by me a set of underwear and some new shorts.

I haven't had an oatmeal raisin cookie since.

On the spur of the moment this evening I decided to go root around in the boxes I have in storage looking for a chain necklace Michele had given me some years ago. No sooner did I have a dozen or so boxes out of the locker and in the hallway (it's indoor storage - climate controlled) than a series of cramps hit me. I had just one large box, empty save for some large sheets of heavy packing paper, to go when the final set of cramps struck.

Fortunately, Thursday evening at the local indoor storage mart is quiet. I had the place to myself as I as I cleaned up as best I could with sheets of packing paper and some Kleenex. And the length of my oversized tee-shirt was advantageous as I hurriedly ducked out to my car to come home and shower. After donning fresh clothes I returned to the scene of the, ah, spill, with Oxy-Clean, clorox and a supply of paper towels.

Twenty-six years later and those damn raisin cookies are still after me.

Please keep your scatological jokes to yourself.

Author's profile picture

Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.