Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Tribute to My Deb

A Tribute to My Deb
Thomas Allen

    It has been a year since my Deb past away. When she died, the best part of me died with her. Deb, I miss you, need you, and love you more than ever.
    The following are some random thoughts about Deb. There is some repetition. You will notice I often contrast Deb with me: She is an angel who walks on water, and I am less than nothing.

‒ These are the words that began the only years of real happiness and joy I have ever known: "Country lady, 27, wildlife artist, seeks loving lifemate to share adventures. Marigold." Deb, why you picked me out of the 100+ who wrote you, I may never know. But I am glad that you did.

‒ Deb, I don’t know how you put up with me for 30 years. But I am glad that you did. You gave me 30 years of happiness and joy — the only years of happiness and joy that I ever had. You must have had an enormous amount of love for me to put up with me for all those years with hardly a complaint. More than once did you tell me that it was a good thing you you loved me after I did something to upset you. You are the only woman who not only could tolerate my existence for more than a few hours or weeks, you actually wanted to be with me. You wanted to be with me year after year. No other woman ever made it beyond a few weeks; most could not tolerate being around me for more than a few hours.

‒ Deb, these are some of the things that I liked about you; they are in no particular order of importance. You tolerated my existence. Moreover, most of the time you wanted to be with me or at least have me around. You came to love me so much that you could put up with me for 30 years. You accepted me mostly as I am and never really tried to change me. (Because of you, I did change some and polished my rough edges.) You were a great motivator but never nagged. For me your presence was enough to motivate me. You gave me purpose and direction. You surrendered yourself to me about as completely as a woman could. You were great in bed, in the yard, and everywhere else. You were not much of a complainer. You were easygoing, cheerful, optimistic, compassionate, understanding, loyal, and faithful. Also, you were an attractive, frugal, low-maintenance woman who had discernment and intelligence and a good deal of common sense. Not only were you a great wife, you were a great mother. You cared about me and for me. Even when I was wrong, you stood by me. Even when I embarrassed you, you stood by me although you would let me know that I had embarrassed you. (You did a better job of standing by me than I did you.) You trusted me to support you and the children.
    Although I feel as though I failed you at the end, I always tried to take care of you. I tried to free you up so that you could concentrate on the two things that you valued most: your family and art. I devoted myself to you and was loyal and faithful to you. Although I fantasied about other women, I never seriously sought out anyone else or even wanted to. I never looked for temptation (I don’t know if temptation ever really looked for me. If it did, I was not paying attention.) I only wanted you; I desiderated you. When I retired, and even before, I tried to set up our finances so that you would be taken care of financially as I expected you to out live me by many years. (As you were 7 years younger than I, you should have out lived me by at least 15 years.) I considered supporting you and taking care of you a privilege and an honor. I love you dearly. Somewhere along the way, I came to love you so much that your flaws and shortcomings not only became irrelevant, they became an essential part of you to be loved and cherished along with the rest of you. (You must have reached that point with me to live with me for 30 years.)

‒ Deb, when I had you as my copilot, I never had to concern myself with hyper drivers getting to me. As my copilot, you took care of that for me. You would be the one to get irritated at their stupidity and do the yelling, not very loud, and making the sarcastic remarks.

‒ I missed not having you as my navigator. You were not a good navigator, but you were better than no navigator.

‒ In Dune there is a place that terrorizes women, a place that they fear even to look. I am that place. Only you, Deb, ever drank the water of life and went there. I doubt anyone else will ever follow you. Deb, you are unique among womankind.

‒ I don’t recall what we were talking about, but I do remember telling you that I liked taking you places. I wanted people to see me with you. I wanted to show you off.

‒ After we came back from our trip to the mountains last April (2011), you said that you wanted to clean up the trailer so that you could work on your large paintings. So, I repacked and rearranged the things that our youngest son left behind when he went to Philadelphia to make more room and cleaned the trailer for you. Unfortunately, you never got to work on another large painting. (Except for her ACEOs and the few paintings that she did when she was part of the gallery in Wake Forest, she did nearly all her paintings in the trailer.)

‒ Once I get our youngest son’s things and inheritance out of the trailer, I want to clean it up and do some rearranging. Then I can display your gourds. My heart breaks then and now as I think about your effort and hard work to do those gourds — and almost no one wanted to buy your beautiful and often humorous gourds. I know you were also disappointed.

‒ Deb, one of the multitude of things that I liked about you was that you were quick to forgive me. Whenever I disappointed or displeased you, you quickly forgave me if you ever condemned me. Unlike nearly every other woman whom I disappointed and displeased, you never carried a grudge against me. Most others have been unforgiving and would carry the grudge to the grave with them.

‒ Deb, you are the only woman who never let me down. You were always there and always stood by me even when I was wrong. You are the only woman to value me enough to give herself up to me. I doubt that another will ever come into my life.

‒ Deb, you were a great motivator. I am amazed at how much I was able to accomplish when you were with me — especially compared to how little I accomplish without you. All you had to do to motivate me was to be there. (Another one of your many virtues was that you did not nag.)

‒ I used to tell Deb that I was glad that I met her later in life instead of earlier. By meeting her later, I appreciated her much more. After enduring the misery of the 1970s, I realized what a precious, priceless treasure I had in Deb.

‒ In my relationship with you, Deb, I certainly came out ahead. I got a high quality woman with an enormous amount of virtue and very few flaws and shortcomings. You got a highly flawed low quality man with a huge amount of shortcomings. What you saw in me, I do not know and may never know. But you saw something in me that no one ever did, ever has, or ever will. You are the only woman who ever really wanted to be with and probably will be the only one whoever does. When I consider all my flaws and shortcomings, which far, far outweigh anything positive about me, I am amazed that you gave me a second look much less stayed with me for 30 years.

‒ Several months before Deb became ill, she made a comment about dying. I told her that she would break my heart. I did not realize how severely she would break it. Her death totally shattered my heart.

‒ Deb, the love that I had for you on January 1, 1982, when I married you was nothing compared to the love that I had for you on November 3, 2011, or even today. Forgive me Deb for not treating you as good as I should have and for not doing the things for you that I should have done.

‒ I have been going through Deb's files and putting her drawings, sketches, writings, etc. in notebooks and posting some on the internet. I have rediscovered some of her dreams that she never fulfilled. She wanted to draw and published a child’s book, but never did. She did draw and print several Tempus puzzle booklets for children, but I do not recall her ever selling any. She did send it to some publishers, but was rejected. She wanted to illustrate and published her mother’s book. I found a number of drawings of seagulls, which I assume that she wanted to use some of them to illustrate her mother’s book. Also, she wanted to be a cartoonist. So far as I know, none of her cartoons were ever published although some were great. She also drew and wrote several small cartoon books, but I don't think that she ever sold any.

‒ In one folder, I found work that Deb had done for the church and school where our children went. She was a volunteer art teacher at that school for a few years until the school discontinued its art program. (I found a protest cartoon that she did about that decision.) A  year later, the school reestablished an art program and hired a teacher. It never even considered Deb for the job, which sadden her and angered me.

‒ I found sketches and pictures of the scenery that she painted for Neuse Baptist Church Christmas show. For the art work that she did for the church and school excluding the teaching, they would have to have spent thousands of dollars. Also, I found letters that I wrote to the school leaders protesting them calling my wife a liar and my daughter a homicidal slut. Then they cast my wife aside and basically drove us from the school unless we kowtowed to their dictates. They seemed to be glad that we left. There were many good people there, and the pastor was kind and compassionate (although he appears to have done nothing to resolve the conflict between the school leaders and my wife and later me and my daughter), but the leadership that established itself around the pastor, church, and school was autocratic and unyielding. In their minds, they knew everything. (At least some justice was done. The girl who was causing problems for my daughter and getting her in trouble at the school ended up in prison. Proof that a “Dr.” in front of a name or “PhD” after a name is no evidence of discernment, wisdom, or common sense as all three of the school leaders who attacked Deb and my daughter had doctoral degrees.)

‒ As I have told several people that I am one of the few people for whom the greatest artist of the last 50 years drew or painted a portage. Deb did an ink drawing of me in a Confederate uniform on a horse. She did one of the pastor of our church standing with lions. This same wonderful artist also did several self-portraits. Seeing Deb’s drawings in her files only reenforce my conclusion: She was a genius. Not only was she a highly skilled drawer and artist, she drew and painted with humor. Many of her drawings and paintings revival her humor, especially in the later years. Unfortunately, few people recognized her talents and abilities. I hope that in the years to come she will be recognized as the talented genius that she really was. The few who bought her work may have a valuable treasure in the years to come. (I have absolutely no bias for Deb's work.)

‒ I found that she made great use of the scrape paper that I brought home. Many of her drawings and writings were done on the back of that scrape paper. Needless to say, I have shed many tears as I have gone through Deb’s files.

‒ This year (2012) was the first time in two decades that I did not go to pick strawberries. Deb, you made excellent strawberry jam and strawberry shortcake. Some people may have made better jam and shortcake, but you made yours with love.

‒ Those of you who have not read Deb's blogs ought to. Here is one of her most philosophical blogs:
    If you don’t like God talk don’t read this.
    I know you can’t buy your stairway to heaven. Some people try by doing all sorts of things for their church and giving huge amounts of money. No God doesn’t want what he already owns to begin with. As an artist I was guilty of thinking that giving my artwork and art teaching away to a church would bring me closer to God and he would bless me with lots of art buyers. Big mistake because the more I gave the more the people in the church took without buying my art. God does love a cheerful giver but you need to be sure it is God you are giving too. Charity has to come from love to be cheerful. God really wants us follow his commandments, give him our love and have faith in him to take care of us. So I let go of the greedy church, I moved on to a place I could worship a loving God and give without threats from a church. Only then did I really see all the blessing God had already given me.

‒ In a few of her blogs, Deb wrote about things that she wanted to do or planned to do in the future. Now that future is forever gone. Before she died, she was thinking  of many things to paint. When in the hospital, she told me that when she got out, we could do a book together about her ordeal. I would write it, and she would illustrate it. Her failing to live to do these things is a great lost to the world.

‒ Deb, I will miss you at apple harvest time. You made life easier. When I had a big harvest, I could stack baskets of apples 3 and 4 high on the cart, and you would steady the load as I hauled it to the trailer. Now I will have to double my trips. When I ran short of jugs, you would wash some more while I continued to press. Also, I will miss your apple strudel. When we had a big harvest like that of 2010, you would make apple butter and applesauce. You processed the apples from trees that produced too few to juice.

‒ Deb, I will miss you when the grapes come in. You helped me pick and juice them. Without you helping me, it takes twice as long. When the freezers were full, you would make grape jam. Usually, I did the sticky  work of separating the pulp from the hulls. (She made several batches in 2010.)

‒ Deb, I miss you when I go Christmas shopping. I miss not having you at my side questioning just about everything that I suggest for a present and often saying no. It was somewhat irritating then as you seldom offered any suggestions, but now I miss it.

‒ In 2009, Deb made and gave me a video for Valentine's Day. It was the greatest Valentine's gift that I have ever received and one of my greatest presents. As Deb's song, “Our House” by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, says in her video, “life used to be so hard, but everything is easy because of you.” Well, Deb, you made everything easy for me. Even in the worst of times, things were easy because of you. Now they are again hard. “Our house is a very, very, very fine house.” It was an extremely fine home when you were in it. Now it has an immense void that is swallowing me up. Deb, you did “play those love songs all night long for me, just for me.” I hope that I did the same for you. “Only for you,” for you Deb. You were my “unchained melody.” Only you are the ghost instead of me. I hunger for your touch; I need your love. The only thing that remains is “two cats in the yard.” Deb, you are my soul and my inspiration. I never had much, but at least I had you. You were all that I needed to get me by. You were my reason for being. Without you, what good am I? I can’t make it without you. When I play this video, it tears me to pieces.

‒ Deb, you wanted so much for everyone to be happy and to get along with each other. I am glad that I was able to free you of financial worries so that you could concentrate on the two things you valued most: raising your family and doing your art. I enjoyed supporting you and trying to relieve you of as much worry and concern as possible. I always tried to support you in whatever you did although I often did an inadequate job.

‒ In one of her messages on Facebook, Deb commented that I was taking her to a cookout that she did not want to go to, but she was going to it because she thought I wanted to go. The main reason that I wanted to go was because I thought she wanted to go. I was taking her so that she could get out of the house and be with some of her friends for an afternoon. If I had known that she did not want to go, we would not have gone.

‒ In the early years of our marriage, Deb would help in the garden. Mostly, her help was as a sidewalk supervisor. But she did plant some seeds and help me with things that required more than one person or were much easier with two. As the kids got old enough to help, she began doing less and less. However, her presence always provided purpose and motivation. We always had an area for her to plant her flowers. In latter years, planting flowers and cutting asparagus were about all that she did in the garden other than helping me cut plastic and fold nets as these jobs require two people. Several years ago, I planted a new asparagus bed for her. The other asparagus bed had gone to weed years earlier. She also knew where the wild asparagus were growing and would keep an eye on them and harvest them. Since she liked French, I planted a French variety of garlic for her. Unfortunately, she never got to use any.

‒While cleaning out some old files, I came across a letter that I wrote a few years before I met Deb. It reminded me of what Deb saved me from and what she shielded me from for 30 years. For 30 years I actually mattered to someone. In essence, I am not a desirable person to be around. Deb saw something in me desirable and stayed with me for 30 yeas. Whatever it was, I don't know, but I am glad that she found it.

‒ Although I angered you at times, Deb, you always cared about me. Although I disappointed you at times, you never disappointed me and, more importantly you never rejected me. You were always there for me. You seemed to always find me desirable; I always found you desirable. You always made me feel loved, needed, and wanted.

‒ I was once asked what was on my bucket list. I did not answer because I cannot achieve what is on my bucket list. My bucket list was to celebrate my 50th wedding anniversary with Deb in the house that we built.

‒ When going through Deb’s things, I found her bucket list. She wanted to do some things that she never did. I did not get around to doing them for her — mostly because I did not know about them. If she had lived longer, we would have done many of them, especially if she had told me.

‒ Once the blueberry bushes started really producing, we got more blueberries than we knew what to do with. One way Deb found to use blueberries was to make blueberry pancakes. For about 20 years before she became too ill to cook, we had blueberry pancakes nearly every Sunday morning. She also made many very delicious blueberry muffins. A few times she made blueberry jam.

‒ Deb and I seemed to have spoiled each other without even trying. By the time I retired, Deb’s work load had been reduced to processing the harvest (except juicing apples and grapes and shelling the beans and peas), cooking meals, washing dishes, doing laundry, taking out the cat box when she couldn’t get the kids to do it, and planting her flowers (I prepared the bed and did the weeding for her). I tried to free her up so that she had a good deal of time for painting, reading, surfing the web, etc.

‒ When Deb’s gardenia bloomed this year (2012), it was so loaded with flowers that the flowers weighted the branches to the ground. It was as though the bush was weeping for Deb. Deb’s mother gave her that bush. Deb loved that bush and its flowers.

‒ Moving from sweat to stench, I doubt that Deb is missing the chestnuts in bloom with their unforgettable foul stench. The best use that was ever made of the chestnuts was Deb and the kids roasting them in a fire to hear them pop. If I had it to do over again. I would not plant chestnuts.

‒ Deb liked garden peas, especially fresh from the garden. She froze the excess and used them in various dishes, especially her chicken and rice, chicken and noodles, and beef and rice dishes.

‒ Deb was not an easy person to anger. That is one of the multitude of things that I liked about her. The angriest that I recall seeing her occurred at a street show in Wake Forest. She was displaying and selling her art from her art car. A woman stopped with her daughter and admired one of Deb’s paintings. As they walked away, the woman commented to her daughter that Deb was using paint-by-the-numbers kits. Deb started after that woman to give her the lecture of her life. I thought I was going to have to grab her to restrain her. But Deb cooled off before she got to the woman and returned to the car while muttering her dislike of the woman’s comment.

‒ Deb had one virtue that far, far out weighted all her flaws. Not only did she tolerate my existence, she actually wanted me around. Although I know some people did not love her, it is beyond me why anyone could not love her.

‒ Deb, I was extremely happy with you as my wife and with my life with her. Your being filled my life with joy. I had more than I ever expected or could have hoped for and more than I deserved.

‒ Deb, a major part of my problem is that I love you too damn much. When I married you, I loved you dearly and more deeply than I have ever loved anyone. I devoted myself to you and made your happiness the top priority. Your welfare was of supreme importance. All that I had was yours. All these feelings were nothing compared to what was later to come.
    Somewhere around 1995-1996 after our last major argument, something changed in me toward you — more subconsciously than consciously. You became my focus, my reason for being. Over time, you became more of me than I was of myself. I started doing more for you and reducing your choirs. I left you a few things to do so you had something to do and could feel like you were contributing. I tried to set up our finances so that at least you would be financially taken care of after I was gone.

‒ I would rather go through what I am going through now than have you go through it. I wish that I could have borne your illness for you. Nevertheless, you bore it better than I would or could have. You could endure my lost better than I can endure yours.

‒ I usually went to bed before Deb did. After I was in bed, she would come up and take her shower. I surely miss seeing her walking across the room and getting into bed after her shower.

‒ Deb, I miss not having you at my side when I go to sleep and wake up. You probably won more of the blanket battles than I did. I don’t recall seeing the blanket on the floor on my side of the bed. It did occasionally end up on the floor on your side. I have the tendency to push the blanket down when I first get into bed after getting out of a hot shower. Then when I cool off, I pull it up. When I pushed the blanket down, your shoulders were exposed and cold. We solved that problem by your using a small blanket to cover your shoulders.

‒ Deb and I used to save fan blades. She painted patterns on the blades. Then she put the blade on a shaft and attach the shaft to a pole. The wind blew; the blade turned. No longer do I need to save fan blades for her. When the wind finally destroys the two in the yard, no longer will I have the pleasure of seeing Deb’s fan blades turn in the wind.

‒ Deb and I used to save old speakers. She took the magnet out of the speaker. Then she sprayed foam over the magnet. Sometimes with a little carving and sometimes without carving, she had a figure. Next she painted the figure. At a few of her street shows, she sold these figures. Children really liked them. No longer do I need to save old speakers for her.

‒ Several years ago, I made Deb a pair of moccasins from a kit. They did not fit her. She had feet that were uncommonly wide for a woman. They were blocky. She saw the disappointment in my face when they did not fit. To make me feel better, she wore them several days anyway.

‒ Deb, you always protected me and frequently kept me from getting into trouble. By nature, I am a trusting person — often too trusting. At times I would agree to things that I should not have. If you were around, you would halt the agreement. After I thought about what you did, I knew that you were right. No longer do I have you to protect me from my folly.

‒ We had a Jonathan apple tree that died some years ago. Deb like Jonathan apples. Several years ago, I planted another one. That tree has yet borne an apple. When it does bear, Deb will not be around to enjoy any of its apples.

‒ Deb, you did make me happy; I hope I made you at least as half as happy as you made me. You did more for me than anyone, including you and me, can ever realized or ever will realize.

‒ I regret not being a better husband and a better friend. Moreover, I regret not doing more for you, Deb. You loved me more than I thought was possible (you had to have an immense amount of love for me to put up with me for 30 years). You  made my life easy and joyful. I miss serving you.

‒ Deb, I surely miss you. It is not the things that you did for me that I really miss although I do miss them. What I really miss are the intangibles that you gave me: love, devotion, caring, cheerfulness, optimism, joy, happiness, friendship, companionship, and the like. Moreover, I miss devoting myself to you, giving to you, caring for you, taking care of you, providing for you, supporting you, sharing life with you, going places with you, etc. I miss you not being in the house when I come in from doing yard work.

‒ One good thing about Deb dying before me, if it can be called good, is that she is not having to go through what I am going through. I am convinced, though, that she could handle it better than I; she was always better at such things than I.

‒ I have been told that no one dies from a broken heart. That may be true. But one can certainly die with a broken heart.

‒ Deb, the longer that you are gone from me, the more I miss you and the more I realize how much I love you and need you. You were, are, always will be, and probably have been since the beginning of time, my desideratum. When I look at your chair and you are not there. . . .

‒ I will always love you, Deb, and shall never forget you and the joy, happiness, contentment, and purpose that you brought me. As I told one person, I cannot forget the 30 happiest years of my life. Deb, I am gradually returning to “normal” — or at least what can pass for normal without you. However, I still feel as though I am going through the motions without purpose, direction, or motivation.

‒ Thanks to you, Deb, I did achieve much of what I set out to accomplish that was really important. I got a good homestead where my family could be raised. I married a fantastic woman, who loved me, devoted herself to me, and took care of me and whom I loved, devoted myself to, and took care of. We had three children (we originally wanted four, but health issues of yours caused us to stop at three); all of whom have turned out good. As a bonus, I got two grandchildren. I was fortunate enough to have a job that could support my family without scrimping although our budget was tight for about the first 15 years. I wish that I could have figured out how to have given you the kitchen that you wanted. I wish that I was a great promoter and marketer so that I could have gotten your paintings sold. Also, I wished that I had started taking you on weekly trips in 2008 instead of 2010. I regret not being able to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary together.

‒ Deb. I surely do miss you. I miss not taking showers with you. I miss you not fixing meals for me. I miss not eating with you. I miss you not being in the house when I come in from feeding the animals or doing yard work. I miss not seeing you going to the mailbox as I am also going. I miss you not being with me when I go to the post office, the hardware store, the building supply store, and the grocery store. I miss not having you at my side when I go to sleep and when I wake up. I miss you not being next to me when I watch a movie. I miss your help, your advice, your hugs and kisses, and your love. I never knew I could ever miss anyone as much as I miss you, Deb. The hardest thing that I have ever had to do is to go on without you.

‒ No one could ever have been as good of a wife for me as you were. You were the best — the very best. Deb, I had a great adventure with you. I hope you had one with me.

Copyright © 2012 by Thomas Coley Allen.

More articles on Deb.