As most of you know, I lost my husband Tim on January 5 of this year. When you share a life with someone with ongoing medical issues, you try to mentally prepare yourself for the time when you’ll eventually lose them. But even so, there’s no way to know the vastness of the loss until you experience it.
Tim and I had been together for 42 years. He was my soulmate, my best friend and my life partner. I feel very grateful for the time we had together, growing up on the Old Mission Peninsula and raising our own kids here.
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The first few months after he passed are kind of a blur. I kept the wood stove going and curled up on the couch with the cat Tim sent me the day after he passed. Charley (she’s a girl, but named after Tim’s middle name, Charles) and I watched the Hallmark Channel and tried to make sense of our new normal. Me without Tim, and her adjusting to life indoors after living the first months of her life in the wilds of Lighthouse Park. Read all about Charley’s shenanigans here.
On his last day, Tim suggested I go visit our daughter out in Los Angeles on his birthday. While I wasn’t quite ready to make that trip on Feb. 28 (a leap-year baby, Tim would have been 70 this year), I worked up my courage and flew out there in April. The last time I’d been on a plane was 42 years ago, and it turns out I really love to fly. Read Part 1 of my West Coast Adventure here. I still have to write about the rest of it, including a life-changing trip to Yosemite, and what happened when we spread some of Tim’s ashes in the Pacific Ocean.
When I came home, life continued on, but I found myself tossed about by the unpredictable winds of grief. Some days, I felt half-way normal, and other days, I couldn’t get off the couch. I found myself getting up later and later, and sort of frittering the day away, unable to accomplish the most menial of tasks.
So I made the decision to sign up for 6 a.m. workout classes through Yen Yoga and Fitness, at their new studio located at the Delamar in Traverse City (the old Holiday Inn). If you know me, you know I’m a night owl, so this was a radical change for me. It forced me to get up at 5 a.m., get dressed, get in my car and drive to class in the wee hours of the morning. None of it was particularly easy, but it got me out of bed and into the day. Mission accomplished.
The class is a combo of core work, cardio and strength training, so it’s more like boot camp than gentle stretches (i.e. not an easy class!). But the habit of getting up and getting to class has gotten a little easier over time. It also helps me build stamina to hike all those national parks (I decided that would be my travel goal – to visit all the national parks). After hiking Yosemite with Marissa, I realized I needed to step up my game. More on this later.
So all of that happened, and I felt like I was getting into a regular routine of life. Then, I scheduled Tim’s memorial for July 10 at Bowers Harbor Park. After talking to other new widows, I knew that the memorial and the time following it would be hard. I just didn’t realize it would be *that hard. It put me right back to January 5, the day I lost Tim.
And so I began again, working through fresh grief as if no time had passed. I find that getting out of the house helps, so I spend a lot of time hiking – both on the OMP and in neighboring counties – driving around, or doing stuff in town. Thank you to the friends who’ve called me to go for a hike or do other stuff. I so appreciate it. Also, it keeps me from being that sad friend who crashes events and invites herself over. When you’re grieving, sometimes it’s hard to reach out to other people. Ok, let’s call it like it is and switch that “sometimes” to “always.”
Sundays are especially hard. I think because that’s the day people are gathering with their family and doing fun things. I try not to look at Facebook so much these days, but especially on Sundays when happy faces are shining back at me from kayaks and bikes and trails. And good for you, I say! It’s a weird thing to be both happy that you’re all having fun and also sad that I don’t have my fun-partner anymore.
Also, it’s very odd to say “I” instead of “we” when I’m talking with people. That will take some getting used to. But I think the main thing is just trying to roll with whatever each day brings, whether it’s sadness, gratefulness for many years together, or whatever other emotion I’m feeling. And if you, too, are grieving someone, know that we’re all in this together and you can reach out to me anytime.
All this is to say, if you feel like going for a hike or a drive or dinner or coffee, feel free to text me (231-590-4715), and we’ll go do something together! I’m very blessed to have my friends and family and this community as a support system, whether you’re reaching out to do stuff with me or just quietly sending good wishes my way. It’s all important.
Anyway, I’m still working through the grief from Tim’s memorial, but I just try to take each day as it comes. Some days, I just need to chill out with Charley and watch the Hallmark Channel. Other days, I’m out doing stuff or hammering away on Gazette stories. I just got back from five days in the U.P. with my brothers and their families, so that was a great time away. We did so much stuff! I’ll write about it anon.
Thank you to everyone who came to Tim’s memorial in July, and a big thanks to my dear friend, Marge Long, for helping to organize it and bringing food, including her mom’s sloppy joes. We had an Old Mission Peninsula School lunch theme going. In fact, here’s Tim’s third grade class with Mrs. Van Vorst, circa 1960-1961. Tim is in the fourth row from the top, on the far left. Look at that expression – you just know that devious things are coming in the years ahead.
And thank you to all the memorial attendees for listening through Jim Hendrix’s wild version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” that he played at Woodstock. Tim used to play it every July 4, and I know he swooped into Bowers Harbor Park when we turned that on.
Tim’s Memorial at Bowers Harbor Park
Below is what I wrote for Tim’s memorial, which I asked Marge to read for me (thank you!). And of course, I had to get a picture of all of us. I think we did pretty well, even though I was missing my managing editor who always organized people for photos. If you click on the photo, it should open into a bigger photo.
I first laid eyes on Tim at Lardie’s Grocery in Old Mission in the summer of 1979. I knew the minute I saw him that my life would be forever changed, that we would end up together, despite the fact that I was engaged to someone else at the time.
At first glance, Tim and I couldn’t have been more different. I was the good girl with the long red hair that played her violin at Ogdensburg Methodist Church on Sunday. He was the rebel boy with the blonde hair, blue eyes and magnificent smile. He was the boy that parents tried to keep their daughters away from.
Although he’d quit drinking and taken up yoga a few years before we met, he was still the ring-leader of the Peninsula gang. Wherever he was, that’s where the party was.
But one thing we always shared was a love for the Old Mission Peninsula, following in the footsteps of many generations of both of our families. Tim and I were born here, grew up here, and raised our own kids here – something both of us always wanted.
It’s hard to sum up Tim’s life in a few paragraphs, but here are a few highlights – the ones I can legally mention anyway.
• Breaking into the Old Mission Schoolhouse next to Lardie’s Grocery when he was just four years old.
• Being a guard (with a gun) at the Mexican Drive-In at Bowers Harbor when he was just 12 years old.
• Hanging out with Jack Jamieson and riding his horse, Babe, around their farm.
• Living with Joe Curths in Omena.
• Jumping off the buoy in West Bay when it was much taller than it is now – cheered on by all his friends, of course.
• Working at Far Out Farms in the summer and spending the winters in the Virgin Islands.
• Hanging out at Haserot Beach with the gang – or at our secret beach around Old Mission Point.
• Living at Sun-Ra, the “tent city” that he and friends put together on the shores of the old Boursaw farm. (So famous that one time when he was at a concert in Detroit, he overheard someone talking about it.)
• Organizing the Peninsula Redeyes, the local softball team that practiced at Bowers Harbor Park on Sunday afternoons and played other teams around the area.
• Dressing up as “The Sheik” for Deb Hart’s Halloween party (he loved Big Time Wrestling).
• Managing to evade the cops at the infamous Bowers Harbor Fracus on Memorial Day 1975. Some of you here did not fare so well that day. (When Marge read this, there was an audible groan from the back of the group.)
• Being the last person to run the Mapleton Garage before it was turned into the Peninsula Grill.
• Playing guitar with best friend Mark Kelly and forming a band with me as a rock violinist.
• Cutting wood around the Peninsula and hauling it home for our wood stove in the winter.
• Later in life, taking care of my mom, playing guitar for her, and watching the Lawrence Welk show together.
You can read more about a lot of this in “Tim’s World” here on Old Mission Gazette. And you can also buy a Redeyes t-shirt in our online store, OMPstore.com – he would want me to plug the store, since I’m so bad about promoting it.
Tim and I fell head over heels in love, and in the winter of 1979, he invited me to spend a couple of weeks with him in the Virgin Islands, camping on St. Thomas, Tortola and St. John. I was 19 at the time, and I’m sure my parents wondered what the heck I was doing. I’ve always been one to follow my heart, and this was no different. I knew it was meant to be – and everything worked out fine, Mom and Dad.
Here’s Tim at some old ruins on St. John in the Virgin Islands. I mean, come on.
The following summer, we moved in together at the Wunsch Farm condos, where we hung out with the Wunsch cows, played Blue Cheer and Leonard Cohen on his record player, and where he played his guitar for me on warm summer nights.
That fall, he moved with me to Ann Arbor, where I was studying music at the University of Michigan. He decided to take some music classes at Washtenaw Community College and, of course, ended up being the teacher’s pet.
But he got sick while we were there – the first of many medical challenges we would face over the years. The doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him, so we came home and I went to NMC while Tim began buying and selling British sports cars, turning a lifelong love of cars into a business. We traveled far and wide scouting out cars and bringing lots of them home – mostly Jaguars. Tim restored and sold them, often to buyers in Europe. We loaded them onto a truck headed for the East Coast, where they were put onto a ship to go across the ocean.
Here are just a few of the hundreds of cars that Tim resurrected over the years. We ran ads in local newspapers around Michigan, and spent many happy hours on the road heading off to parts unknown to look at cars and sometimes a few motorcycles.
By the 1990s, we’d somehow by the grace of God managed to buy Ed and Jo Brown’s property on Bluff Road (Marge’s parents). Jo was our cook at Old Mission Peninsula School; Ed was Tim’s bus driver. We like to say that we were just two Old Mission farm kids, running straight at life with no money, no plan, and absolutely no idea what we were doing. Somehow, it all worked out.
The Browns agreed to let us buy the land on a land contract. While we were making payments, we had no money to live elsewhere, so we lived on our land – first in the small pup tent we used in the Virgin Islands, then in his uncle’s camper on the back of a pickup truck.
Finally, we’d saved up enough to start building a house, with help from our friend Jon Andrus and Tim’s dad, Tug. We started with the basement, where we lived until we could afford to build the first floor and move up there. It was a few years before we moved into the second floor, and by this time, we’d gotten married and added two kids to the family – Will and Marissa.
Every year on our wedding anniversary, we’d drive down to the Old Mission Congregational Church where we were married on Dec. 31, 1993, and take a picture of all of us.
Here’s the first one we took, on Dec. 31, 1994 (with Will, who was born nine months after we got married); followed by the last one we took, on Dec. 31, 2020, with all four of us. Sometime when I’m more emotionally stable (when does that happen?), I will gather all 27 photos into a video.
The early 2000s began a 20-year span of Tim’s medical issues, starting with a liver transplant in 2003, a botched aneurysm repair around 2009, and in 2017, three back-to-back emergency aneurysm repairs at U of M Hospital. Each time, Tim’s doctors were astonished that he survived. By the third surgery, we’d gotten to know the ICU staff on a first-name basis. “You again?” they’d say when we showed up there.
But we somehow got through it all with a lot of love and prayers and support from our community near and far. For that, we are forever grateful. Again, you can read about all of this in “Jane’s World” on Old Mission Gazette.
My friend Griff (aka Mike Griffin) says, “There are friends… and then there’s Tim.” What he means by that is it didn’t matter if you saw him yesterday or 40 years ago. His friendship remained strong and loyal through space and time.
In his later years, Tim was happy just to spend time with our kids or drive around the Peninsula scouting out stories for Old Mission Gazette. We savored every single day, all of the big and small moments of our amazing life together. Sitting on the couch while the kids joked around in the kitchen, Tim would look at me and say, “I love this, Janie.”
I loved it, too, Tim. Thank you for 42 years of love and laughs. I’ll take it from here until we see each other again.