I recently found three letters from June 2016 that I am forever grateful for and will treasure for my lifetime. They are letters I had written, not received. But as I’ve been looking back at mine and Joe’s life together, I have found many of these gems. Joe and I always looked forward to June- it meant we were heading west, to the mountains. Getting our atlas out and planning our trips was something we both loved to do.
I am so happy that June also represents life and living in my memory bank, not just death and loss.
These are letters I had written to Christie from the road. They’re a glimpse into the lives of two people madly in love with each other and life. Joe was not always “haunted,” and he was doing his best to overcome, even when dealing with traumatic memories and depression.
He had broken his heel in three places the day before we left when the ladder he was on slid out from under him while he was changing a lightbulb in the shop. The sound of the crash was awful! I was sitting on the deck writing my morning pages when it happened. I ran to the shop and Joe was out cold. It was scary! Just for a minute though, but when he came to he was in excruciating pain. We went straight to the emergency room. Joe was devastated, and so was I. We were so excited about this trip that we’d been planning for weeks. When we left the emergency room I was crying. The disappointment I couldn’t hide and was okay in feeling and sharing with Joe.
It was much worse for him, though; not only did he feel responsible, but the whole trip was mainly about fly fishing. Against the doctor’s recommendation and at no “real” surprise, he looked at me and said, “We’re going.” He was a stubborn and determined man. We drove home, and we prepared. Amanda helped me repack the car and accommodate for his brokenness. He didn’t want anyone else to know he had broken his heel-he wanted to focus on healing and didn’t want anyone’s interference or telling him he had to have surgery. He soaked his foot in all the water he was fishing and said he was thinking only of healing. And he did indeed heal.
He was never UNBREAKABLE, but he sure wanted to be.
I’m sharing the letters because I want you to have a peek into the life that Joe and I shared. These were from my heart. Sharing with you only about Joe’s death negates his whole life. I hope that I’ve done that through the pictures and stories I’ve already shared here and on FaceBook. Life with Joe was extraordinary for me, and I know his life with me was the same. We had so much fun together! Not only on vacation but daily. Rarely dull, and always something to look forward to… it was the best!
We had our moments, and we had our MOMENTS.
June 4, 2016
You cannot imagine the beauty of this place. It is spectacular! I wish so badly that you and Kenny were here to share in the experience. I’m anxious for the time when we can take a trip(s) west together. Joe is catching trout after trout after trout. We are in complete relax mode. It is easy to be in the moment, completely present, when your surroundings are as breathtaking as this; no service, completely disconnected.
We had an incredible experience this morning. We were sitting at our fire having our coffee (we’re camping right on a pristine mountain lake-ALONE- that was FROZEN just last week!) when Joe asked me what was coming towards us. “Is that a freakin MOOSE?!?!” WHAT! And OMG! YES!! It was a moose- a young bull!! I was able to grab my camera from the tent and snap some pictures of him as he danced along the edge of the lake, turning to look at me once. (And NO, I didn’t get too close- I had my zoom lens on.) Seeing a moose in the wild- not in a park- has been on my list for years! It was the highlight of my trip!
The other “highlight” was getting a private tour to the top of crazy horse mountain- for FREE- well…all I can say about that is WOW! Just WOW! I visited crazy horse when I was about 13, I think it was 1981, and I always wanted to return. But Joe had never been. His passion for the west and the Indians have always been a subject of great interest for him. He was very touched and felt a deep connection to this place. I am very thankful that he was able to experience Crazy Horse up close and in person. I think it was a very surreal, spiritual experience.
We’ve seen buffalo, elk, deer, an eagle, prairie dogs, antelope, and of course “my” moose, and we’ve only been gone a week. We just had some people tell us they left Yellowstone yesterday and saw three grizzly bears! (We won’t be camping there!) but something to look forward to possibly seeing ourselves.
From Yellowstone and the Tetons, we’ll head north to Montana. We haven’t decided on a final destination yet, but we’re considering driving all the way north to see Glacier. It seems a shame to be so close and not make the trip.
The weather has been perfect, and the bugs are non-existent; more cause for joy. We went through Buffalo, Wyoming, yesterday, and the temperature was 88. We drove 10 minutes into the mountains, and it dropped to 63! The campground we’re at now is in the Big Horn National Forest, right in the Rockies. And we have it all to ourselves! Not a soul here but us. We have no “plan” to speak of and are making our route/stops as we go.
One thing I haven’t told you is that Joe injured his foot the day before we left…pretty bad. (I’ll just leave it at that for now, and HE can tell you guys all about it in July). Anyway, it changed our plans a bit. He’s only got the use of one foot, therefore one leg. We weren’t sure (for about 5 minutes) if we were still going to make the trip. But I was able to rent him a knee caddy (I’m calling it his buggy), and he’s adapted very well. He gets everywhere that is possible. Sometimes with frustration and other times not. He got pretty angry in the shower house one night when there was a man in the accessible stall who didn’t need to be. He waited a loooong time for him to get out and finally went into the smaller stall; it was not pleasant. He gave the guy a few choice words when he left 😓, but other than that, it’s just simple frustrations that he seems to be getting used to. And though we had to deviate from our original plan (no hiking and no fly fishing), I’m so happy that he has been able to appreciate what he is doing and where he is- even with a bum foot. We’re truly having the time of our lives.
We’re in a campsite now where we had to haul everything in. We’ve tried to keep it simple- but you know us. We attempted to haul in only the necessities, but somehow it seems that everything is a necessity (why else would we bring it!), and we’ve managed to empty (or so it seems) the entire car. Oh well. The way we see it is what else have we got to do? Breaking camp and setting it back up has been part of the fun. It’s a challenge to see what you can improve on for next time, getting better and better as we go. And even though Joe is not at 100%, he was able to break the tent down and set it back up by himself- hobbling around on his buggy.
I’m the pack mule and buggy bitch. 😂 I’ve been getting plenty of exercise in those two activities-believe me! Because remember, as I said above…we’ve almost emptied the entire car (and not just once!)
I feel more deeply connected and attracted to this man… than I could have ever imagined I would. We have bonded over the first part of this year like never before. I’m not sure if it’s because Lane has moved on and we are totally focused on us, or if it’s just that we’re feeling so alive and wanting to live out our dreams. Maybe it’s a combination of the two that has woke us up from a long nap. We have developed a trust within ourselves and each other that I’ve never known before. I want this feeling, this type of relationship, for everyone I know, especially our kids.
I am so excited to be going camping with you guys over the 4th. We have waited too long to make this happen. We hope that Joe will be fairly healed by then, but know, just in case, (or let Kenny know) that camp may be a bit different this time. (And I’m sure he’ll have to hang the shower bag too!) 😓 I can’t wait to sit all weekend, catch up and talk about nothing. Whether you write me back or would rather wait till we’re together, either is fine. (But I secretly hope you’ll write me back.)
I’ve forgotten what it’s like, to write a letter; I’ve really enjoyed this. So plan on another…and possibly another. 🙂 Well, as far as letter writing can go on an iPhone. After all, I won’t be putting a stamp on this and dropping it at the post office. But I will email it as soon as I have service, and hopefully, that will be for just a minute as we travel through these mountains.
p.s. BTW…We’re bringing the canoe to camp and just so you know, you and I are going for a ride!!! Or three!!
We love you guys so much!
Sometimes I think I could live in a tent.
June 10, 2016
What a trip this has been! We left Wyoming by way of Yellowstone. We’re headed north to Glacier, after all. We camped in Teton NP for two days and toured both Teton and Yellowstone. Joe played chauffeur as I jumped from spot to spot, taking pictures. We saw no bear 🙁 but this trip ain’t over yet!
It’s really hard to believe that something so simple as camping, driving, fishing, and making pictures could make someone so happy, but it just does. Joe hasn’t fished for the last two days, so he’s itching! We’re headed to Georgetown Lake in Southern Cross, Montana, and should be there in about an hour and 1/2 (plenty of time to set up camp and get Buster on the lake!)
We’re “discussing”‘our options for our return drive. He is in no hurry to get home (and neither am I), but baby Emerson is soon to arrive…and I am truly torn. I want to be home on or about the 19th, and he is thinking more like the 22nd- at the LEAST. I know that this is the best thing for his foot and keeping him in “healing” mode. As soon as we get home, he’ll be ready to go to work, and keeping him down will be very difficult. The man does not know how to SIT. I’m torn.
Yellowstone was so beautiful. I actually cried yesterday while driving through. I was so filled with emotion and gratitude that the tears just came. Unexpected bliss.
It feels strange to say, after all my years of searching, but I’ve finally found my flow. I’m happy to report it’s a damn good feeling to have! Simplicity in EVERYTHING!! Even the mundane, underwhelming, and overwhelming daily chores and activities…I know now to keep it simple and pleasurable, and JOY will surely be present.
June 17, 2016
Here I am again, writing from Wyoming… again. Well… we did it! We made it all the way to Glacier NP! What a sight! The mountains never get dull to me. The pass through the park, which takes you to the highest point in the park, was closed. They were still plowing the road! We were pretty bummed, but more about that later.
We stayed two nights in Montana, but there was really no lake access for Joe to fish, and still very early in the season there, from what we were told. Not to mention the mosquitos were horrendous! So…we decided to change our route a bit and head back here, where the fishing has been good and “my moose” is running rampant…literally. Last night he scared the shit out of me as he came very near to our campsite and seemed quite agitated. I was ready to get under the picnic table, as little help as it would have been. He’s reappeared a couple of times today (much less irritated), and I was able to get some video. (I can’t wait for you to hear what Joe said about you when we’re all together at camp.) 😂
We’re staying here until Friday- three nights total, then headed to Colorado and then home. I’m hoping to be home Sunday, but it could be Monday. Joe wants to look for a cabin for one night there. Our tent (the small one) has seen its last trip. The zipper broke last night. We had a tarp we were able to use for our door, but it will be hitting the dumpster when we tear it down this time.
Erin’s dr. thinks it may be next week before she’s ready. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
We’ve met some really nice people along the way. Our camp host, Eugene, is super nice, and he told Joe he’d be down later to show him how to fish. 😂 It’s on now! They were having a good time egging each other on. We’ll see… 😊
Another guy Steve, from Wisconsin, is traveling with his dog and doing what we’re doing, just enjoying camp and the sites. He stopped by with a bag of ice for us he’d picked up down the mountain, knowing we needed some. Campers are the best! 😁 Joe hung my hammock too, and it’s also doubling as a swing—PURE BLISS!! I’m reading, relaxing, writing and making pictures. It’s really heavenly. Still up and down with the birds and the natural rhythm of things. I’m ready to be home just when we have set to leave, but I will miss this time on the road, too. This trip has been very special.
The sun and the clouds, as well as the wind, are pretty crazy here. I go from tank top to winter coat in a matter of seconds- literally! Shorts to a blanket and then back again.
I think when we go camping, we should bring a dbl size air mattress that you and I can float on in the lake! Wouldn’t that be fun!!!??? We have rope we can tether ourselves to a tree (I’ll hold the rope!) 😁 YES???!! I wanted to skinny dip so bad while we were here, but Joes foot has made that impossible (and the lakes were just unthawed…brrrrr…) I haven’t done that for years! What FUN!!!
Last night it was so windy we decided to just hang out in the tent for a while. It was so warm without the gusts (so strong they buckled the shower) and still so quiet. We laid there and reminisced about our years together and how it all began. Have I ever really told you “our story”? If I haven’t, remind me while we’re at camp, and I will.
As soon as we got back to civilization this morning, I had a host of messages from Erin. “Call me!” She is in labor, though they’re calling it latent labor, meaning it is very slow going. She’s dilated to 2. She is set to have her water broke Sunday morning at 9 am, her actual due date, and Father’s Day. We will be there!
We are headed to Colorado now and will for sure be home Sunday. Her dr. does not think she will go before then. I cried, of course, when I read her messages. Joe will never get the whole “need to be there,” which is frustrating to me. I want to be there for Erin more than anything. Witnessing the birth is just a bonus. We will only be cutting our trip by 1 or 2 days. And I’m ready to be home. So I used Joe’s own words last night and told him to STFU about it 😂😳! I don’t think he laughed…😏 I need a hot soak in a tub so I can scrub these feet and soften my nails. They’re pitiful!
Until next time…
What a trip that was. It wasn’t without challenges, but what is? It made us realize that we could do hard things, still have fun and that everything is indeed figureoutable. We made that trip again in July 2017, after my dad died. We needed it, and Joe got to fly fish and hike, that time. 😁
Joe didn’t want to die, he wanted to live. He loved life.
To your healing, and to mine.
xo, and peace.
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