Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘grief

Many Feels

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Time moves fast and time moves slowly even though it is always moving at the same pace. Our feelings are doing the same in the days immediately following Fred’s passing. Grief processes slowly, but comes on fast and furious in waves. Luckily, laughter comes just as fast. The Friswold family has plenty of laughs. In fact, I would say they are predominantly laughs.

Cyndie and I have been sleeping at her parent’s house –I hesitated writing that, avoiding the change to referring to it as her “mom’s house”– along with Barry and Carlos. Other immediate family have been showing up throughout each day and we have enjoyed the trials and tribulations of crying and laughing our way through the essential steps of what all families face after a death.

Hugging. If only we could hug all the precious people who have been stopping by with gracious gifts of sustenance and well-wishes, and more importantly, the shared sorrow of loss at the thought of no longer being able to hear Fred laugh again.

Curses to the coronavirus.

I truly hope we will be spared the tragedy of inadvertently experiencing a rash of COVID-19 spread among any of us in our moments of weakness when we give in to our emotions and reach out to touch each other, be it ever so briefly.

We’ve got the obituary figured out and submitted to run in Sunday’s Startribune newspaper and been in communication with the reporter who is also writing a feature remembrance.

Much energy is underway to populate a specific website we have created for Fred. See Fred Friswold Memorial.

Planning some manner of memorial service or celebration of life is proving maddeningly difficult under the current health constraints of the pandemic.

So many feelings all at the same time. Very happy-sad.

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Written by johnwhays

June 27, 2020 at 11:10 am

Incredible Person

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There are some things I find difficult to write about, even though writing my thoughts is what I am most often inclined to do. It’s been on my mind for some time that I should consider writing something to honor my father-in-law, Fred Friswold, but the task seemed too daunting. How could I do justice to such a heroic specimen of a human being? Especially when I know some of his flaws.

Well, in the end, I understand that attempting to do justice counts about as much as actually achieving it. And, his flaws are few and rather frivolous.

I’ve already written about the fact I won the jackpot in the in-law lottery. That tells much about the way I feel to have had the privilege of being granted the highest honor of becoming a member of the Friswold family.

Fred Friswold was an incredible person. Often, the first thing people think of about Fred is the robustness of his greetings and the reverberating heartiness of his laugh. It seemed an incredible injustice that his voice was taken from him in the last months of his life. However, not once did I witness him give in to self-pity or anger over the loss.

Suddenly we found ourselves needing to quiet down and look to him in order to hear what he had to say. It became an endearing thing to process the sound of his whispers. It has made the sound of his raucous pronouncements and booming guffaws all the more precious in our memories.

In the absence of my own father, who died shortly after I married Cyndie at my ripe old age of 22, it was Fred who became my reference for figuring out how to be a husband and a dad. It didn’t make things easy for me. When I struggled to navigate challenges that required repair around the house, realizing I didn’t know how to fix things the way my dad did, Cyndie would suggest we do what her dad did. Look in the Yellow Pages.

The man knew his limitations. Not that he didn’t tackle a few of his own do-it-yourself projects. He painted their house once. And, accidentally, a little of the neighbor’s house next door, too, using a sprayer. He must have liked spray painting. Late in life, he enlisted my labor to do a quick job of painting a new baseboard around their deck. Wouldn’t take long. He had all the stuff necessary for the job.

A can of spray paint. I spent 90-minutes taping up newspaper to protect the light-colored siding from the dark brown deck for the 10-minute job of painting.

One thing Fred never did was make me feel like I didn’t belong or wasn’t meeting his expectations, despite his high regard for academic achievement and career accomplishments. I didn’t receive the frequent queries seeking to hear what the 5-year plan was. Maybe a few “What did you do for your country today?” queries, but if my answer was that I rode my bike a respectable distance, he found a way to work with that.

Of course, we are absolutely heartbroken that his life has reached its end, but it pains us even more that it has happened at a time of the pandemic when we are unable to gather the throngs who also knew and loved him in order to process our shared grief.

Fred Ravndal Friswold was a truly incredible person for whom my words are insufficient to adequately describe.

He was an endearingly loud person who went out in a whisper.

We will, and do already, miss him in the extreme.

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Written by johnwhays

June 26, 2020 at 7:36 am

Luck Ends

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Our surprising run of luck with keeping our latest eight free-range chickens in the wilds of rural Wisconsin farm country ended yesterday in a very similar fashion to our first attempt a couple of years earlier. In the waning hours of daylight, when Cyndie went out to close the chicken door on the coop, there were only three hens on the roost.

A cursory survey of the surroundings turned up one body and one pile of feathers. No other clues were found.

Some predator or predators had a good meal last night. It, or they, made off with four gorgeous hens.

It was a real joy while it lasted. Unfortunately, it is not joyous at all when lives come to an end. The cycles of natural life can be harsh.

The unwelcome drama made for a pretty crummy end to an otherwise rainy, gloomy day.

And then there were three…

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Written by johnwhays

April 29, 2020 at 6:00 am

Different Sense

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I suppose this is related to the concept of “opposites attracting,” but living with someone who perceives the world differently from you has a way of complicating otherwise straightforward coexistence. Several times in the last week, Cyndie’s and my dramatically different abilities to sense smells has been made vividly obvious.

She brought a horse blanket into the house to be mended the other day. When I stepped inside after a day of work, I immediately commented, “It smells like a barn in here!”

She didn’t notice it.

Friday night, she put a pork roast in the slow cooker before going to bed, to let it simmer while we slept. The longer it cooked, the more intense was the appetite-triggering aroma that filled our home. When my slumber was interrupted by a full bladder in the wee hours of the morning, getting back to sleep amid that incredible smell, was like trying to go to sleep while someone continuously knocks on your door.

I couldn’t do it. Cyndie barely sensed the aroma.

There are other differences –or opposites– that tend to have greater significance. The way we process grief, and the intensity with which we experience it, is a particularly hefty one of late. The horses aren’t even gone yet, but the mental anguish over rehoming them started way back when the idea of doing so was first brought up.

The torment over their departure is deeper than just coming to grips with them no longer being here, it delves into the original vision that brought us to this land in the first place.

The difference in the way Cyndie and I perceive this whole development, and the varying degrees of processing our personal grief over it, can make for a difficult… life together.

It would be great for me if I could just deal with all of this my way, but then I would miss out on life lessons that are the gift of living in relationship with another person.

Cyndie and I got to where we are today, together. We intend to get to where we are going next, the very same way.

We’ll discover it together, even though she doesn’t smell half the things I do.

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Test Results

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Our veterinarian called with results of Hunter’s blood work. High levels of glucose and insulin suggest equine insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome. I have a feeling we have slowly been building to this over the last few years of under-exercising and over-feeding our horses.

We’ve had hints of the situation before and made some loose attempts to moderate things over the years, but it appears our efforts have fallen short. The prognosis now is calling for a shift to an extreme that we are struggling to reconcile.

There is a high likelihood that Hunter will need to be confined to the paddock and fed a tightly measured amount of hay that needs pre-soaking to reduce the sugar content even more. It is no way for a horse to live, as far as I’m concerned, but it may be what we have to do.

I can’t imagine what it will do to Hunter’s spirit to confine him to the paddock, surrounded by acres of lush green pasture in the summer.

Honestly, our heads are not in a good place right now to frame this with oodles of positive possibilities. In fact, this news just serves to expose how little I have moved from the cloud of grief that descended upon us on the day Legacy died.

This week the horses are spending most of their time in the barn. Well, Hunter has spent ALL of his time in the barn, and the mares get a little break outside each day while Cyndie mucks the stalls. Even this routine feels so wrong, but it is the immediate treatment required to get him beyond this situation of extremely painful hooves.

They are tolerating it well enough.

Everything here seems to be hanging in limbo. I’m wondering if we shouldn’t just let Wintervale have a break for a year, like we did with our hay-field last summer. Let things rest while giving it a chance to become re-energized for a new season of unseen possibilities after some reflection and re-planning.

We are seeking peace with all the new developments, and making time for reflection is going to help. Despite my inclination to want to immediately escape it all in order to put the challenges behind me, I am trusting in the logic of staying put to discover where this all leads.

For our own good, it is best that we not make any rash decisions in the midst of grief and uncertainty.

Now would be a really good time for me to practice some of that procrastination I’m always bragging about.

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Written by johnwhays

February 7, 2018 at 7:00 am

Just Thinking

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I tried thinking and thinking but no thinks ever came to me. Where did they go? I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter, because with an absence of thinks, comes a propensity to not care. At least, I don’t think I care, if that’s what it’s like to not think any thinks.

What I mean is, I don’t care that I can’t think of any stories to write.

The other day I found myself telling Cyndie that I felt an urge to be preparing for a new expedition. Obviously, life with animals and 20 acres is its own expedition, but I think I was longing to escape to some other remote adventure.

I would not be surprised if this were a way I am manifesting my grief. Escape.

Conveniently, today I have an opportunity to begin planning for one of my favorite annual adventures. Today, registration opens for the Tour of Minnesota biking and camping week. My adventure awaits.

It is not lost on me that one of the things that I love the most about the Tour of Minnesota is that I don’t need to do much thinking throughout the week. The route is determined and mapped in advance for us, the camping locations are established, the meals are set.

I just show up to ride my bike, and go with the flow.

No critical thinking required.

I think I can manage that.

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Written by johnwhays

February 1, 2018 at 7:00 am

What Led?

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The weeks that have followed the unexpected death of Legacy, our Arabian gray who was the herd leader of three chestnuts, have been made even more difficult by some extreme winter weather, the death of a colleague and friend whom Cyndie worked with during her years as Principal of Eden Prairie High School, and now signs of some laminitis lameness in Hunter.

Among the many contributing factors listed for laminitis, we found that hormonal imbalance caused by stress of moving a horse or the loss of a field companion spoke directly to the situation effecting our remaining three. Sadly, this recent heavy snow accumulation, followed by the dramatic thaw, has added another risk by making the uneven frozen footing in the paddocks hazardous for bruising or mechanical damage to the cellular bond between sensitive laminae and the hoof wall.

On top of these issues, this weekend Cyndie and I were smacked with the reality that her car is in need of cost prohibitive repairs. Logic indicates it is time to shop for a different vehicle for her.

Roll all these issues together and our grieving minds both came to a similar thought: has our dream of making Wintervale Ranch into a functioning business met with defeat?

Life was a heck of a lot less complicated for me when I lived in the suburbs and only had to deal with maintaining the house and our tiny lot. I hate to admit there are aspects of that which look desirable in comparison to our current situation.

Our unpredictable and decidedly inadequate combined incomes do not make shopping for a replacement vehicle as simple as it once was for us. Right now, shopping for a different car seems to be a tipping point for our analysis of this whole crazy move to the country to build a self-sustaining retreat and learning center.

What led us here in the first place?

We found ourselves revisiting the series of inspirational events that sequentially fueled our passion and groomed our decisions. From the magical trip to spend two weeks with Ian Rowcliffe in Portugal, to Cyndie’s apprenticeship in Linda Kohanov’s Eponaquest workshops, to our discovery of this gorgeous property and log home in west-central Wisconsin, the mid-life transition we embarked on seemed supernaturally ordained.

Where is that inspiration now?

Instead of the surprisingly achievable answers and solutions that have blessed us in response to all the incredible challenges that arose throughout the early years of this adventure, we are increasingly noticing a lack of income-generating response to our offerings and an increase in stressful difficulties with our animal partners.

Obviously, the most dramatic stressor being Legacy’s sudden death.

Just like all that has come before, we know there is a lesson for us in this. Even though he is gone, Legacy still has something to teach us.

At the center of it all is, love.

We grieve because we love and experienced a loss, but loving is how we got where we are today.

We believe it is possible to rediscover the love and inspiration that guided us here and we are seeking to re-attune ourselves to more of the surprisingly achievable answers and solutions that have graced our journey thus far.

What led us here is exactly the same as what will lead us to what happens next.

Please keep your seat belts fastened and your arms and hands inside at all times for the remainder of this wild ride.

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Relative Sadness

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There is an aspect of grief that I visualize as wrestling an octopus. You can be engaged in the action for an immeasurable amount of time without ever having a clue if you’ve come close to pinning his shoulders to the mat.

Where the heck are octopus shoulders, anyway?

I’d love for nothing more than to have an official slapping their hand down to declare the match complete, or at least to call time on the end of a round. The clock never runs out though, and the round goes on endlessly while grief and I just keep wrestling and wrestling.

It occurred to me yesterday that I was somewhat unconsciously avoiding going out to the barn since last Sunday when Legacy’s life ended there. It’s a struggle, because I normally find great comfort in standing among the horses, but there is currently a profound disturbance of energy here. I’m feeling little capacity toward consoling our other horses and even less confidence in my ability to contain my own sorrow while in their midst.

Between the understandable waves of tearful sadness, there remain the troughs of intangible gloom. I recognize that space well.

It defined the bulk of my adolescent and early adult life, which was shrouded by dysthymia.

At least now I am armed with much greater knowledge and understanding of the dynamics of these mental squalls, and I recognize the current grief casting a pall over our lives is completely situational. There is unending love cradling our sorrow and it is nurturing our healing and growth.

After Cyndie and I walked Delilah around the property yesterday afternoon, we all ventured to the barn to look in on the horses.

I worry they might be feeling neglected after the intense attention paid to Legacy, and then his sudden departure followed by this incredible void.

They seem to me to be in a state of shock. All we can do for each other is vibrate our energy of sorrow and loss.

I’m not crying; you’re crying.

Dezirea actually stepped away from me, as if she couldn’t handle my grief. Hunter and Cayenne tolerated my attempts to give them some loving scratches, but I didn’t get a sense that either of the three of us felt much solace out of the exchange.

Cyndie spent a little more time with Dezirea. I think Dezi seems particularly sad. I am wondering if she is feeling some stress over the possibility she will inherit the ultimate responsibility of a leadership role, being the elder mare. It could just as easily be filled by any one of them, or maybe they will devise a perfect balance of power across all three.

It’s just that the four horses that were organized into a little herd over five years ago worked out so tremendously. They were a band. An ever-shifting combination of two sets of two. It was incredibly, preciously perfect.

Beyond our ability to fully appreciate when they first arrived.

Now they’ll never be able to get the band back together again…

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Aww, here comes another slippery hold from that octopus, dagnabbit.

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Written by johnwhays

January 20, 2018 at 7:00 am