Another Post

No surprise. Awake at three again. Thrashing around in bed, trying to empty the tangled fishing line, treble hooks, plastic bags, soda cans, and soggy empty cigarette packs from my brain. I just wanted to get comfortable so I could sleep. After giving it all the time I was willing to give, I gave up. I played a few games of Words with Friends, tried to find some unusual and appealing recipes for sardines and grits, and contemplated making an early breakfast. That still has not happened, but I may go the sardines and grits route a little later.

I don’t think I’ve made sardines and grits since we moved to Hot Springs Village. It’s an easy dish to make and I like it quite a lot, at least my version of the dish. I just cook some grits on the stovetop, put them in a bowl with hot sauce, ground black pepper, and smashed canned sardines, mix it all up, and heat the concoction just enough to warm the mixture nicely. I was hoping to find something simple with a little more pop to it, perhaps with habanero peppers for heat and some vinegar and sugar for some surprising zip. I didn’t look hard enough or long enough.

Though my wife liked sardicado sandwiches (consisting of a paste of sardines, avocados, ground black pepper, and lemon juice spread between two pieces of toasted black bread), she was not terribly fond, otherwise, of sardines. I convinced her to try smoked herring and before long she liked it as much as I do, but sardines were another story. When I first tried to get her to take a bite of a sardicado sandwich, she thought I was attempting to either play a trick or poison her. But she rapidly came around. She anxiously awaited the availability of inexpensive avocadoes every year so we could have sardicado sandwiches for lunch. Thinking about that this morning is simultaneously painful and comforting.


I still have done nothing about selling the Camry. All I need to do is to get it as clean as a whistle and talk to McCann’s (thanks for the tip, Colleen) about selling it on consignment. But even that little task is easy for me to put off and, so, I have. But it’s on my agenda for the upcoming week, along with a bunch of other odds and ends. The weather forecast, at this point, calls for rain and showers toward the end of the week, so I am apt to do my “outdoor” errands early in the week. Inside the house, I plan to move the borrowed twin bed to the side and try to get the massive, heavy, overwhelming beast of a queen-sized bed frame back up so I can attempt to put the Sleep-Number box springs and mattress on it. Then, I’ll be able to give the guest room bed, where I’ve been sleeping, a rest. Pun intended. My next-door neighbors have offered to help with the bed. It’s easily a four-person job, so when I’m ready to give the task a try, I may seek at least one additional set of strong arms and shoulders.


Men—and of course I include myself—can be vain, stupid, undisciplined, and lazy. My wife tried for years to get me to regularly use lotion on my skin. I would acquiesce for a while, but I always slipped back into my habit of letting my skin do without lotion. I now understand her point. My skin dries out incredibly fast now. It gets chalky and scaly and otherwise unpleasantly brittle and inflexible. A little like leather left out in the sun; maybe not quite that bad, but it’s heading in that direction. Aside from my sloth and other indefensible reasons for not using skin cream or lotion, I was always in too much of a hurry. “If I don’t let it sit there on my skin for a long time, it makes it hard to pull on a t-shirt because it ‘catches’ on the moist skin.” My excuse was that it takes too much time. What an idiot.  Now, every time I wash my face or shower, the skin on my face and neck dry into skin deserts almost immediately. If I don’t use something to moisten the skin, which too often I still do not, my skin looks and feels like dry paper that’s been sanded just enough to raise the fibers. Let my wisdom-gained-too-late be a lesson.


I am only just beginning to read a book entitled It’s OK that You’re Not Okay: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture that Doesn’t Understand, by Megan Devine. My long-time Facebook friend and blogger, Bev, recommended it to me. I’m finding it both illuminating and comforting, with a little hopefulness and hopelessness on my part thrown in. So far, I especially appreciate the author’s concise statements and her insistence that grief is different for every person. Thanks to my sister-in-law thumbing through the book and calling my attention to something near the back, I read the Appendix entitled “How to Help a Grieving Friend. ” I found it especially especially insightful. A printable version of the appendix can be found at this URL:, in case anyone is interested.


Yesterday afternoon, I glanced at a photo hanging in front of my computer screen. It is of several members of my family. My wife is in the photo. I almost called out to her to come look at it. I’ve spoken to her many times, half expecting an answer. I’ve apologized for things I’ve said or ways I’ve behaved, hoping to hear her respond, saying it was okay, don’t worry about it, it was nothing. But it must have been something, because it weighs heavily on my mind. Whatever it was, it was thoughtless, inconsiderate, and on the cusp of cruelty, if not well beyond it. I think all these thoughts are telling me one thing: I want to make sure she knew before she died that I loved her beyond measure. But I can never be sure of that. Never. It always will be an unanswered question. Of course I hope and believe she knew, but I can never be one hundred percent certain. And that pain is impossible to erase or excise or scrape away. That aspect of grief is almost intolerable.


The story is too long for my fingers to tell, so I’ll get to the point: a couple in the market to buy a mountain view home came to take a look at my house yesterday. They loved it. They know I am not prepared to sell right away, but they want me to keep in touch with them and, especially, to let them know when I’m ready to sell. Nothing may come of it, whenever the time comes, but it was good to hear how interested they were.


One year ago I wrote something of which I am proud, though I’m not quite sure why:

What is fiction? It is truth clothed in costumes. It is the view from the other side of the mirror. It is the tragic/comic outcome of unrestrained authenticity. It is reality disguised to protect the writer from judgment or institutionalization or both.

I believe I wrote truth when I wrote those words. And now, I will leave these words to go engage with the requirements of January 16, 2021. Never forget, whether you read this or not, I love you.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to Another Post

  1. Bev says:

    Don’t rush yourself to get things done, like selling the car, unless there is a reason you have to do it quickly. If you’re not really up to the task of getting it ready to sell, why not see if there are any detailers in your area. Some will come and do the clean-up right at your place. And I hope you don’t rush to sell your place. Take plenty of time to think about that before you come to a decision. Good to hear that you’re reading Megan’s book. I think at least some of it will be helpful to you. And, yes, I’d forgotten about the advice to those who are supporting a grieving person — that’s very useful info.

  2. Pat Newcomb says:

    You are strong and brave to keep pressing on and boldly sharing the raw emotions of this leg of the journey. Carry on.

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