Posted by: donrhymer | December 21, 2013

And another one…

I’ve been meaning to post a few letters, but have been a little busy getting ready for Christmas.  A little shopping, a little decorating, and LOTS of baking.  That’s been my coping mechanism this year – I may gain twenty pounds by January 1!

Here’s a letter from 2002.  Hope you’re enjoying  them.

– Kate

           SORRY

There’s no Rhymer Christmas letter this year.  As many of you know I usually get one of the kids to write the letter, but negotiations with Carrie broke down over the foreign distribution rights.  However, minutes before we went to press, I was able to rip a few pages out of our family diary so hopefully this will bring you up to date.

January 6th – Construction on the new education annex and Rhymer mediaplex finally complete.  Don makes agreement with Molly that if he continues to pretentiously call it a “mediaplex” he will be forced to drive a ten penny nail through his right thigh.

March 1st – Carrie breaks finger in suspicious “bounce house” incident.  Forced to compensate, she learns to write with her left hand and apply eye shadow with her toes.   Or at least that’s what it looks like to us.

April 12th – Despite a joint resolution from both Houses, Molly finally gives up on the eight year “bang” experiment.  Tearful press conference ends as bangs are hermetically sealed and sent to the Smithsonian.  Traveling exhibition plans are scrapped when bangs are inadvertently knitted into a sweater.

June 31st – Realizing June has only 30 days, all Rhymer accomplishments on this day including cold fusion, the cure for the common cold and the cancellation of all television shows involving Emeril are invalidated.

October 9th – During a crucial water polo match, Andrew is suddenly drug to the bottom of the pool by the weight of his hair.  Play continues after a team of NASA engineers develop proper counter measures.

October 20 – Carrie brokers peace in the Middle East, but again that phony Jimmy Carter takes all the credit.

November 1st – “Santa Clause 2” opens.  Don gets writing credit along with three fourths of the lunch crowd at Jerry’s Deli.  Receives his share of the bonus money, but immediately loses it in the cushions of the new couch in the mediaplex.

Thanksgiving  – Rhymer family extravaganza to New York City!  Published reports to the contrary, we were NOT asked to leave.  But as Andrew discovered, the Broadway cast of “Oklahoma!” does not consider it helpful when you jump on stage and join in on “The Farmer and the Cowman”.

December 8 – Kate contemplates starting a new business with Kathy Gallagher.  Initial excitement wanes when full ramifications of sweatshop laws are examined.

Again, our apologies, and finger’s crossed, we’ll be back in the Christmas letter business next year.  We hope the coming days bring your family much excitement and joy.  May the Lord bless you and your family in 2003!

                                 The Rhymers

Posted by: donrhymer | December 15, 2013

More Christmas Letters…

Here’s Don’s Christmas letter from 2001 – one of my favorites.  Enjoy.  – Kate

Hello Friends,

As most of you know, I always try to get a different member of the family to write the annual Christmas letter.  Having run out of family, I decided to ask someone who really knows us to step in.  Someone who could give you the real story, no punches pulled, about what’s been going on in our lives?  There was really only one way to go… our mailman Dave.  (He prefers Postal Carrier, but I like the way Mailman Dave sounds.)  Anyway, here is his letter, and Merry Christmas!   –  Don

Greetings from the U.S. Postal Service!

When Don asked me to write this letter the first thing I asked was… How much you paying Chubby?  After we agreed on a price, (he’s a pushover by the way) I thought, “It’s about time somebody rolled over on these people!”  You can tell a lot about a family just by delivering their mail and these guys are no exception.

By the way, I’m not quite sure what Rhymer does for a living other than:  it has something to do with show business, he’s around the house all day and he never seems to wear pants.  (Which is frankly a matter I’m taking up with the Postal Union.)

The wife Kate is always passing me in her new Tahoe with a big smile, a wave and a Pepsi from Taco Bell.  This was a big year for her.  As a lot of you know she and her friend Kathy Gallagher participated in the Avon Three Day Breast Cancer Walk.  Sixty miles from Santa Barbara to Malibu.  (As a Letter Carrier I sympathized.)  She raised over six thousand dollars for breast cancer research and acquired an attractive case of bunions in the process.  She appears to truly love her children and husband.  If this is true, I would like to get her to spend some time with my wife who frankly, won’t have anything to do with me.  (She claims it’s the uniform, but let’s face it… even with the knee hi socks… I rock!)

Their oldest son, Andrew, is how a high school sophomore and had another great year of water polo.  He seems to be on the mailing lists of Young Life and several different church youth groups so that must keep him pretty busy. His landmark achievement of the year was earning his learner’s permit.  Driving and young men can be a lethal combination on a mailbox so at my urging Don has had his reinforced with concrete.  There were a few letters addressed to Andrew that appeared to be doused in some sort of perfume, but again, I don’t like to pry no matter how much his dad offers to pay me.

Molly is in eighth grade and has temporarily switched from dance to competitive cheerleading.  “Cheer Spirit”, “Cheer, Cheer, Cheer”, “Jr. Cheer”.  I had no idea there were that many cheerleading magazines on the market, but trust me, she gets them all.  Her squad finished fifth in their first competition and third in their second.  They’re hoping for a spot in the regional meet in Las Vegas so I have my fingers crossed.  And now a word on party invitations…  Again, I have talked to Don repeatedly and informed him I cannot go through them all and conveniently “lose” the ones that may include boys.

For Carrie’s tenth birthday she got a puppy!  A tenacious little mutt she named “Mona”.  The two of them are inseparable.  She was in another community theater play this year, “The Jungle Book”.  (Frankly, I thought she was the best one, but I’m biased.)  She was also cast in a nationally syndicated children’s radio drama called “The Pond”.  (Go to:  lifeatthepond.com for where it might be playing near you.)  I know this because she keeps getting all these paychecks for this gig and for doing local radio ads.  (From what I can tell she’s apparently the number two earner in the Rhymer family.)

Oh, and for the last two months they’ve had me dodging construction vehicles.  Seems they’re doing some work on their house.  Something about enclosing a porch or something, ask them for details.  Other than that, all I can say is that their dogs bark way too much, Don has a serious Amazon.com addiction, and WHAT’S WITH THE CATALOGS!  These Rhymers get five a day.  Go to the mall once in a while, will ya!!

All and all a good mail year for the Rhymers.  The load was heavy and sometimes overwhelmed the confines of their Model 12 Aluminum Upright Mailbox, but all families feel that way sometimes.  As with most people they fear that cell phones and email addresses are making letter writing a lost art.  They pledge to try harder in 2002 and they hope you will join them in making that commitment.  Happy Holidays and I look forward to passing on your letters to the Rhymer family in 2002 and please… use zip codes and write legibly.  Your government thanks you.  God bless you and your families.

DAVE THE MAILMAN

Posted by: donrhymer | December 13, 2013

There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays

Starting sometime around 1998 Don began writing our annual family Christmas letter.  It was his attempt at a light-hearted parody of some of the holiday letters we would receive.  Some years he would make it sound like one of the kids had written it, but Don was always the author.  He would use the opportunity to give a family update, with his signature humor.  And he always managed to make fun of himself.

This seems like a perfect time to share some of his previous letters.  In re-reading them, I find myself laughing and enjoying hearing his voice again, often sarcastic and snarky.  People would sometimes tell him that his was their favorite letter every year.  One Christmas he decided not to send a letter, and the response was swift and furious.  One friend left us notebooks and pens on our front porch in case Don had just simply run out of writing materials.

This first letter is from 1999, from Molly’s perspective.

Like I’ve said before, Don’s words were one of his greatest gifts.  I miss his humor, but I also miss the heart that he could convey.  I’ll post a few letters between now and Christmas – every few days.  I hope you enjoy hearing his voice once more.

– Kate

                                     “Happy Holidays”     (Christmas, 1999)

It’s that time of year again.  Time for Christmas letters!!!  Some of you remember that Carrie wrote our family’s Christmas letter last year, so I asked if I could do it this year.  I told Dad I wanted to write a new and different Christmas letter, so I decided to turn this one into a GAME!  Ready to play….

                         “WHO WANTS TO BE A… MILLIONAIRE!!”

Actually Dad watches it, but that’s just because it makes him feel smarter than Regis Philbin which I keep telling him does not seem all that hard.  If you can answer all the questions correctly then you… well, you’ve been spending far too much time with us and probably need to get out more.  Ready?

This Rhymer family member ate an entire box of mint chocolates and then proceeded to throw up on Mom’s white berber carpet eight times?

  • a)  Dad
  • b)  Bagel (our beagle)
  • c)  Carrie
  • d)  Mom after seeing our report cards… well, I’m sorry but we were very busy!

(Is that your FINAL ANSWER!)

Mom and Kathy Gallagher had their 40th birthday party…

  • a)  on a boat
  • b)  in a horse-drawn carriage
  • c)  at Delancey’s Pub to take advantage of their 99 cent spicy buffalo wings
  • d)  they’re not forty – and don’t you dare say they are, OK??

(How are you doing so far?  Two for two?)

Dad signed a deal to write what sequel?

  • a)  Porky’s III
  • b)  The Santa Clause II
  • c)  Rocky 12
  • d)  Saving Private Ryan – From his Overbearing and Understandably Clingy Mother

(I don’t get this last one, but dad thought it would be really funny and he’s supposed to know what’s funny even though personally I think most of his stuff could use a little work.)

Andrew took up what new sport this year?

  • a)  curling
  • b)  blackjack
  • c)  golf
  • d)  looking at girls on MTV and saying… “Wow!”

(It’s funny but for some reason Andrew’s interest in girls seems to be in direct proportion to his growing addiction to hair gel.)

Carrie was in not one, but two school plays.  Afterwards, people were heard to exclaim…

  • a)  “I’ve never seen an onion played with such energy.”
  • b)  “Kudos – more fun than recess!”
  • c)  “Carrie Rhymer IS Lady McBeth… only shorter.”
  • d)  “Make up your bed right now young lady.  I don’t care what your manager said!”

And finally… for ONE MILLION DOLLARS!!!

Molly – that’s me – spends most of her waking hours…

  • a)  worrying about her bangs
  • b)  curling her bangs
  • c)  praying to God to heal her fractured bangs
  • d)  remarking how particularly good her bangs look today

If you said all of the above…  YOU WIN!!!  Hope you enjoyed my game and I think I should close by saying we all think God was particularly good to us this year.  Mom and Dad kiss all the time, which is very annoying and quite frankly embarrassing for people their age.  Andrew is a great big bother and even though Carrie uses my skin care products WITHOUT EVEN ASKING ME…  I still love her.  I have to go now… it’s a very bad bang day, a lot of long hours and heartache ahead.  May God give your family joy and peace this Christmas.

The Rhymers – Don, Kate, Andrew, Molly and Carrie

Posted by: donrhymer | November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving

So.  Here we are.  I’m not sure how it’s possible that a whole year has passed.  It still seems incomprehensible to me that it’s already been a year, and at the same time it’s only been a year.

Thanksgiving Day, November 28, will mark the first anniversary of Don’s death.  Thanksgiving was his favorite holiday because it’s all about family and friends and food – his three favorite things.  (OK, maybe we could throw baseball in there…)  We will be celebrating this year the way we always have – with a house full of people, chaos in the kitchen, all the fixings, football on TV, a jigsaw puzzle on the coffee table, stories around the fire pit in the backyard.  I’m not at all sure how we’ll make it through the day – but somehow we will.  There will be laughs and memories and tears.  And Don will be right here with us.

I don’t have to look too far to see what there is to be thankful for this year.  Patrick Gallagher is home from Afghanistan, after being deployed for seven months.  Andrew and Scarlett are settling in to jobs and life on the west coast.  Molly has a new boyfriend who I think the world of (and I think Don would approve), and Carrie has moved out with some friends to a cute little house about fifteen minutes away.  Don would be so very proud of all of them.

Yes, Thanksgiving is around the corner.  In some ways it seems like yesterday, and in some ways it feels like forever ago.  Forever since Don sat in this chair that I’m sitting in right now as I type this.  Forever since he made me a cup of coffee in the morning.  Can it possibly be a year ago that we were cooking dinner together, or taking the dog for a walk?  Forever since he scribbled “focus on the good” on a yellow note pad in the hospital.  A year ago life was forever fractured.

But somehow it just feels right that this first anniversary of his death is on the day that we stop to give thanks – because there is so much about his life to be grateful for.  Don had an ability to see things in life that many of us could not.  He was an observer.  Words were his gift to us, and he shared them in so many forms – Christmas letters, scripts, emails, movies, postcards, blog posts.  And don’t forget he could text faster than a fourteen year old girl.  He had no patience for stories that were too long or jokes that weren’t funny.   He was always the fun captain, and he shared his creativity and humor in so many ways.  His strength, both physically and emotionally, as we went through his often unbearable cancer journey was remarkable.  He was a loyal friend in the truest form.  His relationship with our kids was unique to each one of them, and he shared his wisdom with them that I miss every single day.  Life with him was fun – because he truly enjoyed it.   I’m grateful that for thirty years I was able to share this extraordinary adventure of life with him.

A friend told me many months ago that someday I would be able to see that the bitter and the sweet in life can co-exist.  I’m not sure I believed that a year ago, but I’m getting a glimpse of it these days.  Through this maze of grief I am beginning to see that there is so much to be thankful for amidst the unbearable sadness of Don not being here with us.  My friends and family have stood with me and stayed with me this year when I could barely get out of bed in the morning.  You have prayed for us and prayed with us.  You have continued to send postcards and notes and emails.  I’m grateful for this therapeutic space to share my thoughts.  All of this has meant the world to me.  As Don said in one of his scripts, “God inhabits the bitter and the sweet”.  How very true.

Don’s “band of brothers” will be getting together this evening at our local steakhouse to toast and remember him, and I’ll stop by and have a drink with them.  It will get loud and rowdy and most likely a little out of control.  (Last time a cell phone was thrown into the fireplace.)   These men fiercely loved my husband.  Talk about gratitude.

Two years ago Don wrote a blog post about Thanksgiving and I’ll share the link here.  We will be reading it around our table this year, and I encourage you to share it on Thanksgiving if you’d like.  Have a gin and tonic in his honor.  Give your family an extra hug.  Don taught us that relationships are what life is about, even the hard ones. Listen to each other.  Laugh.  Appreciate the many blessings you have that you may not even be aware of.  Realize that each one of us, and every day we have together, is a gift from God.

Be grateful.

Here’s to you, Donald.   Happy Thanks Giving.

– Kate

https://radiatedon.com/2011/11/28/thanksgiving/

Posted by: donrhymer | October 17, 2013

The Shallow End

I love swimming pools.   When my sister and I were young we spent most of our summer days at our local pool – on the swim team, hanging out with friends (slathered with baby oil for sunscreen, of course), and later teaching swimming lessons and as life guards.  Gail would get “brown as a berry” as my mom would say, and I would get horribly sunburned.

At the end of August the kids and I went to Maine, where Scarlett’s father has a beautiful home.  His kind offer for us to spend a week relaxing was just what we all needed.  It was lovely, and so nice to have time with just the family.  Moving slowly. Kayaks and jigsaw puzzles and tide pools.  Seeing Scarlett’s world.  New memories. Not to mention the lobster!!

In September, some of Don’s screenwriter friends (thanks Beth, Craig, Michael and Brian) hosted a staged reading of one of Don’s scripts that has not been produced.  What a gift that evening was, as we listened to actors read words that were so clearly Don’s voice.  Carrie and Scarlett both were able to read parts, and I’m so grateful for that experience.  I had a chance to reconnect with several people Don had worked with in the past, as well as meet many of his screenwriter friends for the first time.  I felt his presence that evening more acutely than I have in a long time.  As his sister Kelly said the next morning, “He’s everywhere, and he’s nowhere”.  So very true.

In the past few weeks I’ve gone to Vegas for a girls’ weekend to see Elton John in concert.  I traveled to Sedona for a few days to meet a new friend who is also grieving the loss of her husband.  We met through this blog, and she has been my “grief group” for the past few months.  We laughed and cried as we shared stories of our common journeys.   And I’ve been excited to watch the Dodgers make it through the first round of the playoffs – Don would be so happy!

At the same time, I feel as if I am trying to walk in the shallow end of a pool.  I’m in slow motion, plodding through the pool, while everyone else is moving forward.  I can feel the resistance of the water while I’m watching everyone around me swimming, waving at me, splashing.  I’m having a hard time getting moving, getting any traction in life.

But I’m not in the deep end and I’m not in over my head.  I’m not drowning.  I don’t feel paralyzed or stuck.  I’m moving, but I’m moving slowly, keeping my head up.  I am breathing.  I sent my friend Craig an email saying that the reading of Don’s script was bittersweet.  He responded, “Kate, at least it’s not bitterbitter”.  While we agreed that’s not really a word, as a concept it rings very true to me.  Life is not bitterbitter.  There is much that is sweet.  And I have to trust that, with my head above water, I’ll be able to recognize and acknowledge what is certain, what is true.  What was important to Don.  What is God’s grace.   I’ll be able to hold onto the wall and focus on the good.

– Kate

Posted by: donrhymer | August 18, 2013

Every Day is a Winding Road

When the kids were young, Don would drive them to school and they would sing this song on the way down the hill.

“Every day is a winding road, I get a little bit closer.

Every day is a faded sign, I get a little bit closer to feeling fine.

…Jump in let’s go.  Lay back, enjoy the show.”

I never knew if he sang it as a little life lesson, or just because it was a fun song to sing. I suspect the latter.  But he knew how to jump in and enjoy the show.

Me, I love maps.  I like to look at where I’m starting and see where I’m going.  I enjoy the perspective that a map gives me.  I can see the big picture, and figure out how long it should take me to reach my destination.  I’m not much of a journey person.  To me the joy is more in the “there” than in the “getting there”.

In mid-July Carrie and I went back east for a whirlwind trip to see family and friends.   We started with Don’s sister Kelly, and much of their extended family.  After 30 years, they are my family too, and it was nice to connect with all of them.  We then drove to Charleston, SC to visit my stepmother Madge.  We stayed at the resort where our family had vacationed for the past two summers.  So many emotions and fun memories.

After a week Carrie and I headed in different directions:  she was off to Montauk to visit her roommate, and I went to Richmond, then Annapolis to visit friends from college who have known Don and me since the very beginning.  So much history.  So many stories.  A few days later I headed home, physically rested, but emotionally spent.

What I didn’t realize in the two weeks I was gone was that I was beginning to move from the “shock” stage of grief, to the “reality” phase.  Another step along the journey.

There is a little less fogginess and fuzziness these days.  I don’t feel as forgetful.  But with that little bit of clarity comes an immense sadness.  An emotional exhaustion.  This is real.  This is life.  This is my life.

This journey is fraught with roadblocks and detours.  I miss having two pairs of eyes to view the world.  Someone else to help read the map.  I miss having two sets of ears to listen to thoughts, opinions, conversations.  Having a sounding board for ideas.  Forks in the road?   I desperately miss another “yes” or “no” for making decisions.

I’m at our beach house for a few days.  I don’t know for how long.  I just felt the need to pull away a bit to think and pray and feel.  About what, I’m not sure.  I left La Canada the other day to come to the beach, and at the last minute I grabbed a stack of DVD’s that had been in our bedroom TV cabinet for years.

When I came down here I had so many questions.  Should I be looking forward?  Or am I supposed to look back?  Am I avoiding life by pulling away? Or accepting and embracing the pain?   Who does God want me to be in this grief?  I still don’t know.

But for the past three days I’ve been watching and listening to old family movies, the stack of DVD’s I grabbed as I went out the door.  In them our kids are babies, learning to walk and talk.  Then they are kids who are singing and telling stories.  Playing soccer and baseball.  Dancing in recitals.  All of a sudden they are teenagers.  There are birthdays, holidays, vacations.  Family and friends.  Some things I remember so clearly, and others I would swear I wasn’t there except for I can hear my voice behind the camera.

I can go back in time – Don is young and healthy.  He’s cracking jokes.  Playing basketball.  Carving the turkey.  Coaching Andrew’s baseball team.  Holding the back of Molly’s bike seat as she learns to ride.  He’s even dressed up like a bellhop for Carrie’s hotel birthday party.  He’s so involved in every part of life.  Such a good dad.

For now I’ve decided that looking back feels right.  I’ve laughed and cried as I’ve watched my family grow up before my eyes on my computer screen.  I’ve sent little clips of the videos from my phone to my kids and we’ve laughed together.

I’m on a journey no one would choose.  I have no idea what the destination is, and no clue how to get there.  There is no map this time.  Every day is a winding road.

But I can see that there was, and is, much to be grateful for.  Sometimes on the road the rearview mirror gives you the best perspective.

– Kate

Posted by: donrhymer | June 26, 2013

I See the Moon

When I was a little girl, my mom taught me a song about the moon.  It was always comforting to me because it described the moon as something we all have in common; it seemed to make the world a smaller, less scary place.

“I see the moon, the moon sees me.

The moon sees somebody I want to see.

God bless the moon, and God bless me.

And God bless the somebody I want to see.”

I taught the song to our kids and the Gallagher kids when they were very young.  We affectionally call it “The Moon Song”, and it has comforted the kids many times over the years.

There was a full moon on the night before Don died.  I don’t remember much about that morning.  I don’t even remember who drove me home from the hospital.  Andrew?  Maybe Molly?  But I do remember coming home about 5:30 in the morning, and looking out the window of the car.  The moon was low and full and beautiful in the late November sky.  And I remember thinking to myself, “We will never look at the moon the same way again.”

The full moon has definitely taken on new meaning.  We went to the Griffith Observatory to see it a few months after Don died.   Molly has a framed poster of the phases of the moon hanging in her room.   A t-shirt with the full moon is Carrie’s new favorite.  And I suspect that one or more of my kids will have a small full moon tattoo one of these days.

So this past Saturday night was a big deal in the Rhymer house.  When the full moon is closest to the earth in it’s elliptical orbit, it’s called a “supermoon”.  It was described as the biggest, fullest and brightest moon of 2013.  In fact, I read that the moon was 16,000 miles closer than usual.  Sweet Molly sent me a text that read  “P.S. The supermoon is when the moon is closest to the earth.  Papa will be close!!”  That made me smile and cry at the same time.

There’s another “moon song” that has taken up residence in my heart.  This one, “I’ll Be Seeing You”, is comforting for a different reason.  Billie Holiday describes what I can’t even begin to put into words:  the number of times every day that I “see” Don, or am reminded of a memory; a laugh we’ve shared.  A restaurant we’ve been to.  A story about the kids.  A text from a friend telling me how much they miss him.

“I’ll be seeing you in all the old familiar places

That this heart of mine embraces, all day through.

In that small café, the park across the way,

The children’s carousel, the chestnut trees, the wishing well.

I’ll be seeing you in every lovely summer’s day.

In everything that’s light and gay, I’ll always think of you that way.

I’ll find you in the morning sun, and when the night is new.

I’ll be looking at the moon, but I’ll be seeing you.”

God bless the somebody I want to see.  I’ll be looking at the moon, Donald.  But I’ll always see you.

Kate

Posted by: donrhymer | May 19, 2013

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

photo-41

Right outside our front door a beautiful, vibrant shrub has begun it’s summer bloom.  The flowers start out a deep purple, fade to lavender, and then turn white just before they die away.  It’s called “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”.  Don was the gardener at our house, and he planted three of these shrubs about ten years ago.  He loved it when they would bloom, a sign that summer was just around the corner.

I walk past these plants every day, but have never really thought much about the name.  Now it seems ironic, almost mocking, that there’s a reminder just outside my door – I don’t get to have tomorrow with Don.  We got to have yesterday, and up until six months ago, we got to have today.  But we don’t have tomorrow.

Yesterday, in some respects, is a blink.  We would have celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary this Tuesday.  Thirty years ago we said our vows in Alexandria, Virginia – for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health – we’ve seen them all.  How is it possible that three decades have passed?  We generally marked our anniversary rather simply – we might go out to dinner or to a movie.  We’ve actually spent many anniversaries at Dodger games.  For the big ones we splurged and did something fun – on our 20th we went to Bora Bora, and for our 25th, we celebrated in Napa.  We dreamed of going to Italy for our 30th.  But no matter how we celebrated, we always recognized the significance of each passing year together.  For months now I’ve been stumped with how I want to spend this special evening.  After all, an anniversary is usually shared by the couple, not necessarily with kids or friends.  How do I even begin to signify the importance of this day?  It’s not a celebration, because the man I love isn’t here to share it with me.  It slowly dawned on me that on Tuesday, I’d like to go to our local steakhouse, a favorite of Don’s. Dave and Kathy, and maybe our kids, will join me.  I feel the need to mark it somehow.  Thirty years is significant, and I’d like to have steak, baked potatoes, and gin and tonics all around.  Don would like that.  And of course coconut cream pie…

Today, actually, is teeming with life.  Andrew and his girlfriend Scarlett decided a few months ago to move from New York to Los Angeles.  They are busy and working and adjusting to life on this coast.  (I’m sensing a mini-migration to California of some of their friends from college as well, which makes them happy.)  Molly has been climbing the ladder at the clothing store where she works and is so good at what she does.  I wouldn’t be surprised if some day she makes the move to New York.  She is delightful to have around, and is always introducing us to some new crazy-healthy food or juice.  At her Emerson College graduation ceremony, Carrie was very thoughtful about how she wanted to honor her dad, and make sure he was included in her day.  She wore navy blue Van’s tennis shoes, a Don Rhymer fashion staple.  She painted her fingernails Dodger blue.  And she and a few of her friends decorated their caps with “Focus on the Good”.  I burst into tears when I saw what they had done.  She’ll be home in a week or so, and I’m excited to see what the world holds for her.

The only way I could be more grateful for all of this life is if Don were here to share it with us.

Which brings me to tomorrow.  I now have an understanding of the saying “one day at a time” like never before.  If I let my brain go too far into the future, I can’t even begin to fathom it.  It’s been six months.  I can’t imagine one year, or six years, or twenty years.   That just doesn’t compute.  I feel like my answer to almost every question these days is “I don’t know”.  I don’t know what to do for vacation.  I don’t know when to clean out his closet.  Some days, I don’t know how to get up in the morning.  But I have a friend who tells me, “You know what you need to know”.  Vague, yes.  But oddly comforting as well.  I know what I need to know.  That’s actually all any of us have.  I don’t need to know anything else.  Tomorrow will take care of itself.

Don, at his core, was an uncomplicated man.  He loved his friends, he loved his kids, and he loved me.  And I know he wouldn’t want us to worry about tomorrow.  So I will try, every time I see the shrub outside my door, to remember that yesterday, life was vibrant.  Today, life is vibrant.  And tomorrow – with God’s grace – life will somehow be vibrant as well.

– Kate

Posted by: donrhymer | April 19, 2013

On Belay

When Carrie was a little girl she was invited to go camping with a friend’s family.  She was intrigued; this was something new and different.  She asked me, “Mommy, do we have a camping dad?” I thought about it for a minute and replied, “No honey, we have a room service dad”.  That pretty much summed up the way Don liked to vacation.  Nice hotels, nice pools, nice bars.  A hotel without room service?  That was camping.  A hotel without a bar?  Like being left alone in the wilderness.

On the other hand, I grew up camping.  My family had a trailer, and that’s how we spent most of our vacations.  We would pull out the Woodall’s Campground Guide and plan out our trip.  In college I joined the Outdoor Adventure Club, and spent many weekends backpacking, hiking, and cross country skiing.  I’ve even done my fair share of spelunking (crawling in and out of caves).  When our girls were younger I was their Girl Scout leader, and I loved teaching them about the outdoors. I once took 40 girls on an overnight backpack trip.

One day last week I woke up feeling an almost physical need to see the houses and neighborhoods that we have lived in since we moved to California.  As hard as it is, I have been learning to trust myself when I get this feeling and just go for it.  Don and I moved to Toluca Lake from the Washington D.C. area and lived there for two years.   We then moved to Burbank where we spent the next seven years.

For three hours on Wednesday I drove around the streets and neighborhoods where we lived.  The memories came flooding back.  Don walking the kids to preschool with Bagel the Beagle.  The places where the kids took gymnastics and swimming lessons; neighborhood markets.  Sunday afternoons watching Don play baseball, and parks where the kids had played.  Homes of old friends.  I felt the urgency of remembering – of making sure I don’t forget any of it.  I came home and was completely done for the day.

Kathy had texted me several times that afternoon, but I was driving and couldn’t text back.  And I didn’t feel like talking.  She was worried about me; I hadn’t let her know where I was or what I was doing.  However, that evening she asked me about my day, and as I described my experience I compared it to rock climbing.  I thought back to a climbing term I’d heard years ago.

Belay.  “The process of securing and safeguarding a climber by using rope to hold the climber’s weight if he falls.”  The climber says “on belay” to let the person holding the rope at the top (the belayer) know that he needs support.  And then the belayer responds “belay on” to let the climber know that he is secure; that he is safe; that it’s ok to climb.

I tried rappelling in college, and it scared the crap out of me.  I did it one time.  I don’t know what I was thinking – I’m scared to death of heights.  We did some climbing at Seneca Rocks and Reddish Knob.  The mountains of West Virginia and Virginia are beautiful – from the ground.

I’m beginning to realize that when I feel like I’m sliding down the side of the cliff, down a hole, I need to communicate with someone at the top.  To either let them know that I’m ok; that I can climb out on my own.  Or to let them know that I’m already at the bottom, and have no idea how to get out.

That’s what the climber’s rope is for.  And that’s what community is all about.

Belay on.

P.S.  Don would be waiting at the top for me with a gin martini – up, with a twist…

– Kate

Posted by: donrhymer | April 6, 2013

The Happiest Place on Earth

Dodger Stadium.

Don was a huge baseball fan.  He played as a kid.  He played as an adult.  During college, and when we lived in the Washington, DC area, he was a Baltimore Orioles fan.  About 20 years ago, I gave him a Christmas gift – a “once in a lifetime” week at Orioles Fantasy Camp in Florida, where he and his friend JG would get to play 2 games a day against former pros.  Little did I know that “once in a lifetime” would turn into them attending 9 years in a row!  By that time, we had moved to Los Angeles, and he had already begun to transfer his loyalties to our local Boys in Blue.

We’ve had season tickets to Dodger Stadium for probably the past 18 years (I’ve lost track).  But not just any season tickets.  The last 8 – 9 years or so, Don purchased tickets in the Dugout Club, the premier seats in the stadium.  From our seats right behind the Dodger on-deck circle, you could tell how many at-bats Matt Kemp had by counting the wads of discarded pink bubble gum behind home plate.  You could feel the breeze from Andre Ethier’s practice swings.  Right next to the owner’s box, we have seen countless kids, baseballs in hand, approach Tommy Lasorda for an autograph.

I’m (almost) as big a Dodger fan as Don was.  (I once sent Nomar Garciaparra a new sweatband because, from my vantage point in our seats, his looked tattered and worn out.)  I probably went with Don to 25 of our 40 games last season.  Don often shared his games and his passion with his other favorite Dodger fans:  Dave, Brian, Michael, and Ron.

The thought of baseball season without Don is unfathomable to me.    Monday was Opening Day, and Kershaw not only hit his first career home run, but threw a shutout as well.   Don would’ve smiled.  I have decided not to purchase the same seats this year, but I’ve had friends offer me a few of their tickets to the Dugout Club this season.  I thought I’d be ready to go by maybe the end of April.  That seemed far enough away to feel comfortable.

However, our friend Bob called on Monday night with the kind offer of two tickets for Tuesday’s game against the Giants.  I told him I’d let him know.  I really wasn’t sure if I was ready to be at the stadium yet, to sit so close to where Don and I had shared so many summer evenings and Dodger Dogs.  I called my friend Angela, an avid Dodger fan, and she was available to go.  I decided to take the tickets, because then I wouldn’t really have time to think about it.

We arrived at the Dugout Club and were greeted by Rich the bartender with a hug and free drinks.  (He and Betty were Don’s personal favorites.)  We toasted Don with our gin and tonics.  After eating salad, salmon, pasta, roasted turkey (yes, the food is a huge perk in the Dugout Club), and of course Dodger Dogs, we found our seats, sandwiched between Rob Reiner and one of the owners of the Giants.

It was a beautiful evening.  We were amazed by the new hi-definition scoreboards. (Angela and I were even on Dodger Vision for a few seconds.)  We chatted with the people around us, and ate cookies that looked like baseballs.  During the Seventh Inning Stretch, we swayed and sang “Take Me Out To The Ballgame”.   It really was nice to be there where everything felt so familiar.

Our weekly trips to Dodger Stadium in the summer were such a big part of life for Don and me.  We would wear our Dodger shirts when the air was warm; our Dodger jackets when the air was cool; and sit under our Dodger blankets when the evenings turned cold.  We’d watch people trickle into the owner’s box.  We’d share a bag of peanuts.   We would talk about which player was on a streak and who was in a slump.

During the past three summers when Don was going through either chemo, radiation, or both, Dodger Stadium truly became one of the places where he felt happiest.  For a few hours he could forget about everything else.  The discomfort and pain would subside for a bit, or at least that’s what he’d tell me.

I’d like to be able to say that it’s a happy place for me.  I’m hoping it will be.  Right now it’s bittersweet to be there.  But I know it would make him happy that I’m still going; that I’m still cheering on our Boys in Blue.

– Kate

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