One year ago today, June 7, 2010, my wife of 19 years passed away. In that time, my life changed dramatically. I lost my wife and best friend. My son lost his mother. We lost a wonderful person. Jo Ellen was a happy soul who made friends easier than anyone I have ever known. People would gravitate to her no matter where we were. We’d go to an amusement park and whilst my son and I rode the rides, which she didn’t care much for, Jo Ellen would sit on a bench and watch. Inevitably, someone would strike up a conversation with her. Because her father taught at a local high school, and was well known, she would often end up talking to someone who either knew her father or was taught by him. She would get so excited whenever this happened. She, like her father, was very personable and I often ended up talking to someone who knew her, her father or her brother, who also is a teacher.
Jo Ellen’s smile and her laugh, especially her laugh, was infectious. She would start laughing and, no matter what your mood was, you would end up laughing too. And she had a sense of humor to match the laugh. Fortunately for me, my son has inherited both his mother and his grandfather’s sense of humor. And when he gets to laughing, it is like she is here as well.
Through out the 19 years we were married, the one thing I could always count on was her positive attitude and that sense of humor. We, like other couples, had a few bumps along the way, but we always got through them and her sense of humor certainly went a long way to seeing us through those times. Even when she made me mad, inevitably, I would get over it because she would say something that would make me laugh, even though she was often aiming that humor squarely at me. (And, most of the time, she was probably in the right—but don’t tell anyone.)
As a mom, she became a different person. She was much more protective, less daring and her senses suddenly got very keen…especially her hearing. “Turn it down” was something I heard. A lot. She had that mommy hearing, you know. We could be downstairs, watching a movie and, suddenly, the sound would go away. “Shhh! Hear that?” “No, no I don’t’” I would proclaim. Then, a fraction of a second later, either the sounds of a child wanting something or the pitter patter of little feet. She always could hear the things I couldn’t. And she took great pleasure in pointing out that I was wrong and the sounds. Which would, at first, irritate me, but, inevitably, that, too, made her laugh and, in turn, I would as well.
I have lots of fond memories of Jo Ellen, some I’ve shared already, some I will share in future posts and some that we will keep to ourselves. Even in the last couple of years of her life, when her quality of life was not very good, she still managed to find things to laugh about. For example, our last vacation to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina was one in which she could not do much. Her ability to walk was, by then, drastically curtailed and she spent a great deal of time in the condo. However, the few times she went with us to do something, we had a great time. She would find something funny no matter what. Like the woman in the condo office who swore a lot to our son’s innocence in certain subjects. That last vacation, while difficult for her, will be among my more treasured memories simply because she did manage to laugh while being in tremendous pain all of the time. Those times, when she was laughing, were more fun than anything else we did while on vacation. Better than the amusement park, the mini golf outings, the beach…all of that. Those few times, when she was laughing, were the best. And those are the times I will cherish. From our first date-which was a disaster-to the last time we could talk (which she still managed a joke, something about the mismatched clothes I had on, I think) I will cherish the smiles, the jokes, the laughter.
Jo Ellen, I miss you.