My volunteer helpmate
This photo is from 2013. Ken is the one who takes pictures so he is seldom in them. Today I write about him.
My best friend, my spouse, was not cut out to be my secretary or to fill my unpaid staff of one person as clerical help. But as I write this opening to post a poem about him written in 2009, he is standing nearby making copies of material for a project that matters to both of us. I couldn’t do it without him. Yet I feel guilty as his unpaid assigned job keeps him from his weekly coffee with the guys, his twice monthly stamp club meetings, and even favored outside tasks like tree trimming. Meanwhile, the tree begins to tower above the roof of our mobile home. I think the giant in the Jack in the Bean Stalk story will peer down when Ken finally gets to trim that tree which is really supposed to be a bush.
What project would take precedence? Rent negotiations with the huge company that owns the land in this park with 366 mobile homes. People own their homes, or rent them from an owner, and they do not own the land where the homes sit. Every year the rent goes up and the Florida law allows a designated committee to try to get that increase dropped. We think that matters to elderly, low income people. It is a priority that eats up most of our time until we reach an agreement with our owners. I chair that committee and I am obsessive about doing the best job possible. But I could do no job without this assigned volunteer secretary. I not only need his help, I need his encouragement, his hugs, his assuring me we will get this done on time as the deadline looms like a monster in a scary movie.
So today I share a poem about a special man. This poem appears in my published book, Seasons. I meant to sell it but do a poor job of marketing so copies sit in a tote, at least for now. Here’s my poem on Ken.
Reflections on Ken, My Spouse
Written in April 2009
I start to listen for the sound of your return even before you leave on errands-- to the grocery store, the pharmacy-- on a short or long walk, or to chat with our neighbors to refill your socialization tank.
“Back in a jif,” you say sometimes. I think of you spreading peanut butter
and jam on the English Muffin each morning.
“I won’t be long,” you say, pausing to ask
if I need something before you go, like a glass of your special sun tea (cold
in my favorite thermos glass), or a quick kiss.
I settle into the solitude. I write, fingers moving over the keyboard
or seize time to call or email a friend. Sometimes I open my Bible and run my fingertips
gently over the words of the living God and ponder truth, slipping into conversational prayer.
Eventually I sense your absence more acutely even though you may have called informing me
of your progress, a train conductor calling station stops.
I listen for the sound of tires, the slam of the car door, your steps, the jangle of Montana bear bells as the door opens.
No bear. It’s you. “I’m home I call, “Hi,” while my heart foolishly races a little—so silly at my age.
I love the sound of you at home, the way you come
into my office and plop on the couch, a welcome visitor, my best friend.
We keep it casual,
After all, we are senior citizens now.
But silently I pray a verse from Robert Browning,
“Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be.” “Lord God, let us experience very old age together, Let us hold hands and share the best that is yet to be. Let us use our time for your glory. Thank you for Ken. I pray we trust you God, as we age together That we will not be afraid.
In Jesus name, Amen.”