Countdown to 60

Aging on my terms - Daily musings in 500 words or less

Tag: love (page 1 of 2)

Life Changes – Part one

I didn’t intend to be in another relationship at 20, but there I was living with a man in a tiny home in Bend Oregon. I met Jeffrey in July of 1979 and by the fall of that year we were living together.

It only seemed natural to move my belongings and my cat in with his belongings and his cat. I had a kitten named Jeff when we met and it didn’t take long before my boyfriend’s name became Jeffrey instead of Jeff.

I had a gray cat named Jeff, then I met a man named Jeff Gray

Life was good in that little house at the end of a dead end street. We both worked and had friends and did all of the normal things young couples do. I was happy and what made things even better, was my best friend in the entire world lived just a few towns over.

I’ve written before that my brother Johnny was my best friend since childhood. Nothing change about that as we got older, except that we got even closer. He was always just a call away and I spent most of my days off at his place.

Johnny was in a relationship and even though he was only two years older than me, he was already a Daddy. It must have been hard for his partner LeeAnn, being around Johnny and me. We had such a close bond there were times when we inadvertently excluded those around us by getting caught up in our own conversation.

LeeAnn managed to hold her own though, and once Elizabeth was born, that baby girl was the center of our attention. It was great having my brother so close. Everything was falling into place and I was enjoying life.

My brother with his daughter

I turned 21 on May 10, 1980 and Jeffrey surprised me with a trip to Lake Tahoe to celebrate. We packed up the car and hit the road. I remember sitting in the passenger seat looking out the window watching the tall pine trees go by when all of a sudden I felt a profound sadness wash over me.

Jeffrey said I looked pale and asked if I was okay. I told him yes, but that something bad was going to happen, and there was nothing I could do about it. We didn’t speak anymore of it and continued on with our trip as we both wanted to enjoy our time together.

We arrived back home on Monday after our long weekend, and the first thing I did was call my brother to tell him about our trip. He didn’t answer, but there was no need to leave a message. I knew he would phone me back.

I was a little upset when it took him several days to call me. After all, this was my 21st birthday we were talking about, and I wanted to share it with my brother. We finally spoke the night of the 14th and unlike our usual hour-long conversations this one was short.

Johnny listened to me talk all about our trip and then just said, “I’m glad it was fun sis. Happy birthday. I gotta go.” Then he said goodbye and hung up. I remember looking at the phone after he hung up thinking, “that was weird”. Something didn’t feel right.

(To be continued…)

How I met Jeff

Moving to Oregon in the late ‘70’s turned out to be a lot of fun for me.

Disco was still popular and I would spend most nights dancing my heart out at the discotheque. There seemed to always be something going on in the city, which made it easy to find friends. And I had a great job working for a real estate developer.

Life was good.

Within months I met a woman named Judy, who was older than me and had two young boys. She sort of took me under her wing, and I instantly had a little family to have dinners and hang out with. It was nice for me to have Judy and her boys and I was happy I found her.

My friend Judy and her two boys

I lived in Bend for about a year and a half when I met someone else that would change my life.

One Friday in July, I was getting ready to go out with a new friend, my hairdresser. I enjoyed talking with her during my few visits and when she asked me out, I said sure.

Later that day, as I was home getting ready, another friend of mine dropped by. I was happy to see Richard, and surprised he brought a friend. He introduced me to Jeff and three of us chatted for a bit.

Not thinking much about it, I invited them to join us girls and was looking forward to a fun night out. We all met for dinner, but my new girlfriend was visibly unhappy that I had invited guys.

I was having a great time, but it was awkward because of her clear distain for the boys. I thought things would get better when we decided to go to a club after dinner, but they got worse. She was sure I was trying to set her up on a date, and not happy with me about it.

It didn’t take long before she decided to leave. And as she was leaving, Richard decided to catch a ride from her, leaving Jeff and I alone at the club.

We started talking and I learned that Jeff was a mental health counselor and enjoyed his job. He loved the outdoors, had backpacked through Europe with his guitar, and came from a big family.

He was very interesting and I found myself laughing at his sense of humor. It also didn’t hurt that he was handsome.

We ended up talking for hours that night. Jeff owned a little house in town and we sat outside in his back yard looking at the stars and talking about our lives.

I was surprised when he called the next day and asked if I wanted to go for a drive. And laughed when he said he wanted to take my convertible Triumph Spitfire.

I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the beginning of a lifetime relationship. I wonder if I would have done anything different had I known how it would all unfold?

Me and my Triumph in 1979                       Countdown to 60 blog, how I met Jeff

Goodbye old house

Not only did we finish our work on the house, but we also accepted an offer on it this weekend. Time to say goodbye to this old house.

While we have no desire to live in the Central Valley, it is still bitter sweet saying goodbye. This is the house where we discovered we were more than friends.

We’ve worked, laughed, sang and even danced together in this house.

I hope the people who are buying it will do the same.

We loved this old house Goodbye old house

Jump in, the water’s fine

The other day I shared a blog post called A Look Inside. I wrote about feeling off that day, and shared that I spent the day trying to understand why. I got a lot of very nice feedback on it, and several people shared some of their off moments with me too.

I like that so many people have commented and shown support. And I’m using several different platforms to share my blog, in hopes to reach people who can either relate, or just find my stories interesting.

I am also learning as I go, which is sort of the point of the blog. You know, reach 60 and be wise, healthy, happy and content. One thing I’m learning is that there is a bias towards sharing one emotion: Happiness.

Happy is a great emotion, and I’m sure for most of us it’s the favorite emotion. And I get that when you express your joy and happiness, it’s contagious. So I was tempted to put on my happy face and only share that side. Like, I better just show happy or people won’t like me.

But that’s not being honest, and I promised myself I would be genuine here. The truth is, I like all of my emotions. I honestly don’t mind feeling hurt or angry or sad.

When my mother died, I pushed my sadness down so far it’s now bubbling just under the surface. I didn’t understand as a kid that having strong emotions was a part of my life. As a woman I know better.

I’ve heard the analogy of the ocean used to describe a woman’s emotions, and I have to agree. My emotions change as quickly as the ocean changes.

I find myself riding a wave of happiness that plasters a ridiculous smile on my face, and I am in pure joy. It is thrilling and wonderful and I love it. I can also find myself in the strongest scariest current of uncertainty and wondering how I’m going to survive.

And then there are the times I’m just floating along contently, with nothing much happening besides enjoying the moment.

I like all of these moments, and wouldn’t give them up for the world. Maybe what I’m saying is I’m okay with jumping in and feeling it all. I don’t want to just float, I want to ride the wave of joy but I also have to work through the current to get there.

And then I get to do it over and over and over again.

Jump in, the water is fine

The road to Oregon – Part two

It may not seem like it, but I like to think of myself as lucky. Leaving Michigan didn’t turned out like I thought it was going to, and finding myself on the cold side of a door wasn’t exactly good fortune. But luck was still on my side as I waited for Jonathan to pick me up.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, in that moment the only thing I had to my name was a suitcase full of clothes and a few keepsakes, a couple of dollars and a phone number of a stranger I had met just hours earlier.

That stranger pulled up and opened the car door and said to hop in. It was 1978 in the Mid-West and yeah, I had hitch hiked before, but this was different. Hitch hiking always scared me, but I didn’t feel worried when I got into that car.

Luck was truly on my side because Jonathan turned out to be one of the kindest people I have known. I had a safe place to stay, food to eat, and a friendship that would last for decades. He listened to all of my stories about growing up in a large family.

One time we were sitting at a diner and after learning I was from Michigan he sang every verse of The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald to me. Right there, sitting at the bar, singing for all of us to hear. Every time I hear that song, I think of those few weeks we shared.

He was only in Springfield for a gig that soon would be up. He was moving on to another city in another state. I had to figure out where I was going next and it seemed to me my only option was to go back home to Hart.

Telling Jonathan, he sensed that I wasn’t happy about that choice. He reminded me of my stories about all my brothers and asked if they all live in Michigan. When I told him my oldest brother lived in Bend, Oregon, he encouraged me to give him a call to see if I could stay there.

Charles was getting a divorce and had custody of his girls, so he was happy to have his 18-year-old sister come help out. He sent me a Greyhound bus ticket and after saying goodbye to Jonathan and promising to always write, I was off to Oregon.

I had been across the country before with family, but traveling by Greyhound was an experience I wasn’t prepared for. Most of the people on the bus were men that seemed to stare at me too long.

It took 48 hours to arrive in Bend and I didn’t sleep one wink on that bus. I was too nervous to fall asleep. By the time I arrived I was disoriented and truly afraid I had made the wrong decision.

Stepping off the bus, I saw my brother. He always had a twinkle in his eyes and a big smile on his face. He gave me a bear hug and said, “Come on sis, there’s a shower and a warm place to sleep for you. Everything is fine now”.

And it was.

My first year in Bend, Oregon

Just the way I am

I started this blog less than a month ago. My intention was to share my story, and to be authentic along the way. I had this sense that I was racing towards 60 and still trying to figure out life. I want to reach that age feeling confident, wiser, and healthy.

So I just began.

But I’ve started things before. January 2016 I started a personal journal, again. This time, I vowed to write in it daily and keep track of my progress towards losing weight and feeling good. I took measurements and pasted photos in it. I got creative with different colored pens and drawings. I envisioned a diary stuffed full of photos and details about my life.

I not only lost weight, but I wrote in my journal daily. But somehow, neither of those things lasted.

When I look back at what I composed, I am beginning to understand why. Most of what I wrote about was what was going on around me. On the outside. I couldn’t even share with myself, in writing, what was going on inside.

I’m not sure I even knew what was going on within. I mean, I’m happy. I have a fun life. I don’t walk around sad or feeling like a victim. So what was the piece I was missing? Why do this? Why share all of these stories?

In these past few weeks, I’ve shared some of my deepest feelings about my life. And there is so much more to tell. As the posts are written, and the publish button hit, I feel a sense of empowerment. Okay, also a sense of fear.

And I bounce between those two emotions. I’m proud of myself for sharing these things, and I’m scared as hell that I did it. Last night I was filled with so much self-doubt, wondering what in the world I was doing. Am I just looking for validation from you?

This morning I got on the scale. I’ve lost 10 pounds. I feel lighter, and not just in weight. I realize I am very grateful for your validation. I am also grateful for the platform to release my fears and expose myself so that I can learn that I’m okay just the way I am.

Thank you.

Just the way I am

I am not Loretta V…

As a teenage girl, living with a single older father had its challenges. One time I got in trouble because he found a razor in the bathtub, and asked me if I was shaving my legs. I was in ninth grade.

We were living in Oregon at the time, and I hated it. I was going to a strange new school, and I had no friends. The first day of ninth grade, I met a girl in the cafeteria who asked my name. When I told her, she laughed and said her uncle had a dog named Loretta. That was also the school where I was teased for having “chicken legs” because I was so skinny. I wanted to go back home to Michigan.

My dear sister Linda is 15 years older than I am and like a second mother to me. She came to my rescue and told our father that she was moving back to Hart. And she was taking me with her. I was elated. We packed up her car and her three young boys, and headed back home.

That’s when I met Greg. He was two years older, my brother’s best friend, tall and blonde and so sweet. We hit it off immediately and before long we were dating. I was happy and busy with a new boyfriend, school and work.

Two teenagers in love

By the end of the school year, I was living on my own. My job as a waitress was enough for me to afford a small apartment in town. It was also a place for Greg and I to be together, and so we were. There was one problem with that situation though.

When Greg turned 18, it all changed. By then, Dad had moved back to Hart. One day the Sheriff stopped him in town and said they were going to bring Greg up on charges of statutory rape if my dad didn’t do something about us living together.

So being from a long line of young brides, my family suggested we get married. As a 16-year-old girl in love, I thought that was the perfect idea. I made my dress and Greg’s shirt. I picked Queen Anne’s Lace and we put them in jars of food coloring so I could have pretty flowers. And we got married.

We stayed in my little apartment and had friends over and acted like a married couple. But it was slowly falling apart as I finished school and worked, while Greg hung out.

We tried moving to a bigger city, in hopes of Greg finding a job, but he never did. I felt the weight of all of the responsibility on my shoulders and it was too much to bear.

I am not Loretta Vandenheuvel

At 18, I knew it would never work out. And so, I left. I moved to Oregon, and I didn’t look back. I filled out the necessary paperwork, and we got a divorce.

And I didn’t tell anyone for the longest time. I was ashamed, so I kept it a secret.

Until I met Jeff…but that’s a story for another time.



Weekend Adventure – 2 Adults, 0 kids, 1 bike

Hope you have a great Saturday!

How to transform yourself

Yesterday I shared the story of the day my mother died. And, if you’ve been reading any of my posts, you know I grew up on a farm. It was after my mother’s death that I realized there was a whole different world out there.

The first time I remember my Aunt Ruth, was at mom’s funeral. She was my mother’s sister and had a very different life than mom. She lived in a big house in the city and came down with her husband to be there for the service.

The moment I saw her, I was immediately in awe. She had blonde hair and wore makeup, and looked nothing like my mother. She was stylish too, in her well-fitted red dress. After the service everyone came back to our house for food and condolences. My sister and I were showing Ruth around the farm, and when she got near one of the cows she got pretty skittish. She thought the “bull” was going to charge her because she was wearing red. We giggled at that one. She was definitely not a farm woman.

When it was time for her to leave, I found out I was to go with her and Uncle Dick, back to their home in Traverse City. I was so excited to go, I almost forgot about my mom…for a second.

When we got to their place, my aunt settled me in the front parlor with a cold soda pop in my hand, and went to ‘get comfortable’. I waited there feeling a bit out of place, but that changed when the woman who came back looked just like my mom. The blonde wig was gone, the make up off, her dentures were out, and a comfortable plain frock took the place of that red dress. She looked completely different.

I knew in that moment, even as an elven year old, the power of a make-over. I was lucky enough to stay with my aunt and uncle until school started. I had my own room, played 45’s on the record player they gave me, and went out on their boat. My favorite record was Crosby, Stills and Nash’s “Our House” and I played it over and over, and my aunt didn’t seem to mind. It was a fun time and I still cherish those memories.

Back home in Hart, it took me a few years, but once I got my hands on some makeup, I was hooked. I also changed my hair. I had long straight hair, parted in the middle, just like everyone else. My sister, Linda cut it short and gave me a perm. Looking back at the pictures makes me laugh.

I think I wanted to be like my Aunt Ruth. Transform myself. And so I did.

Got to love the perms and makeup of the late '70s early '80s!


The Day the World Changed

I would like to dedicate today to August 3, 1970. This is a repost from a while back.

The Day the World Changed

My brothers, Johnny and David and I used to play Cowboys & Indians on the farm in Michigan where we grew up. It never seemed to fail that they were the cowboys and I was the Indian. I had a make shift bow and some sticks for arrows. They had toy guns and sometimes even the kind that had rolled up red paper with actual gunpowder on it that would pop when fired. My arrows didn’t really fly and I usually felt a bit overwhelmed by the cowboys and their cap guns.

One early August day we were playing on the hill that separated our small farmhouse from the main road. You could stand on that hill and look down and watch the occasional car go by or turn back towards the house and see the comings and goings of our home. Not that there were any real ‘comings’ or ‘goings’. My parents were old school farmers and we pretty much lived off the land. We raised chickens and cows and pigs and my Dad would butcher them right there on the farm for our food. I used to hate to see one of our cows walking around chewing one day, and then the next day see it hanging from this tall bar my Dad had fashioned to cure the meat. It would be hanging there, no hair or insides, just raw meat waiting to be cut up and eaten. We also had about ten acres in vegetables that we planted each year. I liked the vegetables way more than meat.

On that particular day, I was getting a bit fed up with hearing those guns pop and missing my intended goal of arrows bouncing off my brothers. I yelled that I was tired of being the Indian and I was going to go in the house and get myself a gun. But, I announced, I was still going to be an Indian, just that I would now have a gun instead of arrows.

At 11 years old I was already taller than both my older brothers but they weren’t too threatened by me. Johnny was 13 and David 12 at the time. Our mom and dad had a knack for having a new baby each year.  I don’t know if it was because they didn’t believe in birth control, or if they just wanted to have a bunch of kids.

Leaving my brothers laughing at me and turning to shoot each other, I ran to the house to find a suitable weapon of my own. We had a front door on our farmhouse, but I can’t recall ever seeing anyone use it. As I raced through the back door turning into the living room to head up the stairs, I came upon a scene that is forever burned into my memory.

My mother used to sit in her chair and crochet for hours. She made all sorts of things, always keeping busy. She wasn’t a woman that would sit idly and just relax. She had this credo of sorts that said we should always be working. If we weren’t working, then we had better be outside and out of her sight or she would be happy to find something for us to do. She was a formidable woman to say the least. As hard as she worked, she always – and I mean always – wore a dress. Isn’t that funny to imagine a farm woman wearing a dress? I mean this was 1970 for crying out loud, not 1870.

When I came into the living room I saw my mother sitting on the floor just in front of her chair, her crochet yarn and needle still in her lap. My father was kneeling beside her holding her head as it flopped over to one side, vomit coming out of her mouth. My older sister, Janet was there as well as the oldest (at home) brother, Steven. Janet was at the black wall phone in the dining room trying to dial a number on the rotary dial with shaking fingers, fear written all over her 14 year old face. I can’t remember for sure where my only younger brother was, but I know he was there. I quickly surveyed the scene and Steven took one look at me and ordered me outside.

I ran back up the hill and told the cowboys, who quickly turned back into my brothers, that our mom was in trouble. We sat together on the hill, watching the road carefully and listening intently for the sirens of the ambulance that was coming to make our mom better. It seemed like hours passed by, none of us saying a word in fear of speaking out loud the unthinkable. We just sat there, arms wrapped around our knees watching, waiting. When the ambulance finally came we raced back to the house.

We managed to get inside just as the two medics were putting our mother up onto a gurney. I watched and felt helpless. When they placed her on the rolling bed, I saw that her dress was up, showing her underwear. My mom didn’t have pretty underwear, just reliable practical ones, the kind a hard working farm woman would wear. I knew she would be mortified if anyone saw her with her dress up and her underwear showing. I wanted to go pull her dress down, but the medic closest to me showed me without saying a word, that he was worried and in a hurry, a big hurry.

They raced outside and pushed her into the back of the ambulance, both climbing in beside her. Dad jumped in with them and shouted to Steven to follow in the family car. I’m pretty sure Steven was 15 at the time and I have no idea if he had a license or not, but he did as he was told him and jumped behind the wheel in the car.

The rest of us stood there, in the driveway, and watched them speed away. I’m not sure how much time went by before we walked back in the house and tried to act like it was just another typical Sunday afternoon. When you have as many siblings as I do, you understand from a very early age that there is a pecking order to things. Janet clearly knew that she had the responsibility, as the oldest, to take care of the rest of us the best she knew how. She made us dinner, though I can’t remember eating. We were all so worried for our mother.

We had a tradition on Sunday night to sit as a family and watch “The Wonderful World of Disney”, so when seven o’clock came, she got us together in the living room (I think we all tried to sit in Mom’s chair together) to watch. Disney really is the Wonderful World, because for me, on that day, Disney took my fears away for one hour as I watched whatever show happened to be airing that night. I remember feeling like everything was going to be okay.

Five minutes later that all changed. Our father came into the house at 8:05 pm with Steven holding his arm. He didn’t look at all like our dad. He was shorter somehow, and older. He came into the living room and looked at each of us and then said, “Your Mother is dead”. I then watched my 6’2” strong, capable Dad crumble. Literally crumble to the floor. I had no idea what to do, what to say, how to feel.

I don’t think I even cried at that moment. How do you cry when you are in complete and utter shock? Tears don’t form when you are a robot or a statue. That’s how you feel when you can’t feel anything at all. Eventually I just walked up the stairs and climbed into bed, where I dreamt of my mother being on an exotic vacation somewhere.

I think that was the last day we ever played Cowboys and Indians.

Older posts

© 2017 Countdown to 60

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

%d bloggers like this: