Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Thank You to Everyone!

I just wanted to thank everyone who's stuck out the journey with Jon and Trish-it's been a long haul, but hopefully a good one! I've enjoyed writing the story, but the comments have been such a welcome reward! There were many times I might have quit writing if not for your encouragement and support. This story would not have been possible without that as well as the contributions so many have made along the way. I want to thank all the folks who've assisted with detailed information on places and names in countries I've never visited (the Aussies and Kiwis) and the German folks who rekindled my memories of their beautiful country. I'm also grateful for the support and advice on those chapters that dealt with the time changes and I'll be forever in debt to Heike for the wiener schnitzel recipe! (I make it often) I'm especially grateful to those folks who shared their interest in Wicca with me and I learned early on that it wasn't appealing to a number of folks. I miss my friend, Sunstreaked, and her witty and valuable comments along the way and I hope she'll be back online with us soon. I'm grateful to Alice for agreeing to be my model for the catsitter character despite her allergies to the little beasts! And Bayaderra, for enlightening me to David's charms as well as those of Jon and Richie! I'm of course grateful to Jon and the Jovi boys for providing the initial motivation to start writing and I marvel at the tremendous talent they share with us still. I also want to thank my friends and my boyfriend who have served as sounding boards and technical advisors for various pieces in the story and especially those, including my cats, who have inspired parts of some of the characters. But most of all, I want to thank my tireless and dedicated editor, Carla, who has been there for most of the journey (from the day that we met) and has selflessly combed every chapter for any grammatical error or typo-you'll notice the grammar and spelling improved quite a bit in the later 2/3 of this story. Carla, thank you so much for being both editor and advisor and for telling me when I wasn't making any sense, LOL! Thanks to you, I can rest assured that the points I wanted to make actually came through in the story, but mostly thank you for being my friend. Your loyalty and encouragement has meant more than you know! And if there are any typos in this last post, don't blame Carla-she didn't get to see this part yet! Lastly, I wanted to acknowledge the host of other talented Fan Fic writers who inspire us with their tales-there are so many, but I especially wanted to mention Jilliane K who wrote what I still consider to be the cadillac of Fan Fic-The Layover. I credit her with my introduction to the genre and for a model of quality I will always envy. For anyone thinking of writing their own Fan Fic, I strongly encourage you to give it a go and follow your muse which we all have. I've learned a lot and grown in many ways thanks to trusting the inner wisdom that comes from following, rather than leading, my muse!
Blessed Be,


My Dearest Love,

On the day that you left, I looked out the window at the garden, so barren and lifeless without you, and all I could do was cry. I didn’t think I could even stay in our house any longer once you were gone. I saw you everywhere, Trish, and it was both a comfort and a curse. Why, why did you leave before me? I’d ask over and over.

I knew it wasn’t your plan, baby, but I was angry. Angry that you were gone and I was still here. I knew what I promised and I’ve kept my word, but I still wish you hadn’t asked me to stay. Baby, I still miss you so much.

Little Richie and Jovi followed me for days and they wouldn’t let me out of their sight. They didn’t understand and they kept scratching at every closed door in the house until I would open it. They thought you were lost and I kept on hoping we’d find you too.

Richie kept his eye on me and trust me when I tell you, he took his oath very seriously. He was like a mother hen, but I guess I needed it. I was glad he was there-at least most of the time. It was his idea to add my parts to “the book” as you called it. He hoped that maybe I’d start writing again if I just started by writing to you, but it felt like the music died the day that you left. You’d known me better than I’d known myself, I discovered, so there was little I needed to add. And you were right, by the way-you were my mirror all those years. The problem was that I lost my reflection once you were gone. For months, I was nothing more than a ghost without you, Trish.

I stayed with Richie in California for a month because I just couldn’t accept that you were gone. I couldn’t bear to be here without you and I almost sold our house, but I’m glad that I didn’t. It’s good to be home now and surrounded with the things that remind me of you. I found myself again when I came home and I’ve even been hearing a song in my head lately.

I’ve decided to publish your book, baby. While I’ve always been pretty private, ours was a story that needed telling and you told it beautifully. I really believe it will give others hope in their bleakest moments, just the way you did for me. There’s a miracle waiting out there for everyone and I’m glad I was fortunate enough to have found mine. Have I told you how much I miss you?

I remember the day of your funeral. It’s hard for me to type out that word even now because I still wish you weren’t gone. I won’t even say that other four letter word and maybe I just never will. I couldn’t bring myself to scatter your ashes like you had asked and I hope you’ll forgive me because I just wasn’t ready to part with them then. Now it’s Springtime and the garden’s blooming like crazy. I wish I could walk with you through the garden just once more like we used to do, but Richie and Jim were both here today and I knew it was time. You’re part of the earth now, baby, and every flower reminds me of you.

You still haunt my dreams, Trish, but it’s the greatest solace I have and it gets me through. I hear your voice and I look in your eyes and I smell your perfume and I feel alive. I touch your hair and I feel your warm breath on my skin and I know you’re near. Can you feel my arms wrapped around you? Can you taste my lips when I kiss you? I know you can, baby. I feel you. I can deal with the days because I know you’ll come to me in the night. When the moon is full, I know you’re here with me. I know you’re waiting and that gives me strength. Until then, we have our dreams…

I love you forever,


The Sauna Part 313

By mid-afternoon, there was no doubt that the pain had returned and Jon gave me another injection. With the help of the drug I was able to enjoy the “party” and visit with our friends later that evening. What I wished for when I blew out the candles probably wouldn’t seem like much of a cliff hanger, but in truth I wished for the Goddess to take me before things could get any worse. The last thing I wanted was for Jon’s head to be full of images much worse than he’d already seen.

I realized my wish hadn’t been granted when I woke the next morning and opened my eyes. Nope, I’m still here. Jon was sleeping soundly beside me and I listened to the steady sound of his breathing, unlike my own which was shallow and rasping. Be good to him, Goddess, he’s such a wonderful man. He doesn’t deserve this. Please don’t make him suffer. Jon’s eyes fluttered open and he shook himself awake, annoyed that he’d fallen asleep.

“Morning, baby. What can I get you?” he began his routine.

“Nothing, love” I wheezed, placing my finger to my lips for a kiss and then gently touching Jon’s face.

Everyone was leaving this morning, although they had all offered to stay. Jon had declined all manner of help that was offered and he appeared anxious for everyone to be gone. He knew there wasn’t much time and he was reluctant to share me with anyone else in the final hours.

Tico and Eva left first and said their goodbyes. I reached up to hug Eva, but she leaned down and planted a kiss on my forehead instead. Tico must have told her it was too painful to squeeze me. I was truly blessed to have such wonderful friends.

“I’m gonna miss you so much” Eva whispered through her tears and I squeezed her hand and nodded in agreement.

“Goodbye, my dear friend.” I said, “Eva, you helped me find my way in Jon’s world and I’ll always be grateful. When I needed a friend, you were there and you’ve been there ever since! I’ll miss you too.”

Eva lowered her head to allow me to kiss her before stepping aside for Tico to approach.

“Trish, it’s been my pleasure and my honor to call you my friend. I know we’ll meet again soon, but rest easy in the arms of the angels ’till then” Tico said, kissing my hand with genuine reverence as the tears rolled down my face.

Next it was Cherie and Jim who came to bid their farewell.

“Trish, you’ve been the sister I never had. I couldn’t have wished for a better one. It won’t be the same without you” she cried.

“Cher, you’ve been with me the longest, through good times and bad. Please don’t dwell on the bad times when there are so many wonderful things to remember. Just dwell on those, okay?” I begged.

“Oh, Trish, I’ll try” she cried harder, fleeing the room in distress and leaving Jim to say his goodbye to me privately.

“Jim…” I said softly and he came and sat on the bed.

“Trish, I know I’m supposed to be a writer and all, but I just can’t find the words…” he struggled as the tears rolled down his face. “I’ve always loved you, honey, and I always will” he said finally, recalling the term of endearment he’d used when we’d been together.

My heart was breaking beyond all imagining and I searched for the words I wanted to say. It was Jim, not my ex-husband, who’d been the other love of my life.

“Jim, my dear, wonderful friend…it won’t be forever. We’ve got lifetimes ahead of us still. Know that I’ve always loved you and remember, we’ll meet again” I managed to say before a fit of coughing made it too difficult to speak.

“Hush, my sweetheart, there’s nothing more you need to say” he assured me and he kissed me goodbye for the final time.

Jon and Richie were in the corner and there seemed to be some on-going disagreement as Carla came to my side. She explained that Richie wanted to stay while Jon wanted him to go and that’s why they were arguing.

“Trish, you’re Richie’s best friend and he wants to be here with you and I understand that. He has my support if you want him to stay, but just tell him what you want him to do. It needs to be up to you” she smiled wisely and I nodded.

“Tell him to come here and, thank you, Carla. I know you’ll take care of him” I said, my voice hoarser now with emotion and she nodded.

Richie came and sat down beside me and took my hand between his big paws. I could feel the warmth and the strength that emanated from him like a ray of sun against my cool flesh. I shivered and he pulled the blanket up tighter around me.

“Richie, I want you to go home with Carla” I began and he shook his head “no”.

“Richie, listen, please. It won’t be that much longer now and I want to spend what time I have left with Jon. He needs time alone with me, Richie, and I need time with him. Will you do this for us?” I asked.

“Of course, Trish, if that’s what you want” he relented finally. “Are you sure you don’t want me to stay?” he asked, just to be sure.

“I love that you would, but no. Jon and I need each other right now” and he bowed his head in silent understanding.

“Richie…” I whispered and he leaned closer.

“Yeah, babe, I’m here” he said in a strained voice.

“Take care of Jon when I’m gone” I rasped.

“I promise” he replied solemnly.

“And Richie? Take care of you. You’re my best friend and I love you more than anyone else in the world next to Jon. I need to know that you’ll be okay too” I prompted.

“I will” he said, his voice choking as he spoke.

“Look at me, Richie. Promise?” I demanded.

“Promise, Trish. Remember, you’re always right here” he smiled, pointing again to his heart.

“Here too” I smiled back, pointing to my own.

Richie and Carla took their leave then, but I knew Richie would be checking in on Jon and he’d be here for him once I was gone. Jon would not be alone and I could rest now as I was exhausted. But before Richie left, he took Jon aside and spoke his concern to his friend. It was one of the hardest things he ever had to do.

“Jon, you’re my brother and I’ll be here when you need me. Promise me that you’ll call me right away. I’m not leaving here until you do” Richie said firmly.

“I will, man, I will. I just can’t think about that right now, okay?” Jon said as he ran his fingers through his hair and kept nervously looking back over at me.

“Listen, Jon. One more thing, okay? When she tells you she’s ready, don’t hold her back. She’s hanging on just for you now and when she can’t hold on any longer, you gotta let her go, man. Don’t let her suffer, okay?” Richie said in a trembling voice.

“Jesus, Goddess, I don’t know if I can do that” Jon swallowed hard.

“You gotta, man. If you love her-and I know you do-you gotta do what’s right. Be strong, Jon. Be strong for Trish ’cause she needs you to be strong for her” Richie said finally and then he was gone.

I’d fallen into a fitful slumber and Jon called the doctor to ask how often I could have the morphine.The doctor told him I could have it as often as I wanted, but no more than a certain maximum dose per day. Jon hung up the phone and walked to my bedside and filled the syringe. It would be ready when I woke up and he sat down to wait.

Minutes turned to hours and the night came, bringing with it a soft, falling snow. Jon stood at the window and looked out. The moon was riding high in the sky and he turned his face towards the shimmering light and silently begged.

“Not tonight. Please, Lady, not tonight. Just give me tonight” he pleaded with all his heart.

Jon’s wish was granted and I opened my eyes just before midnight and called him to come to me. He crawled into the bed and helped me sit up, letting me rest my head on his shoulder. I had another two shots of morphine, and one final miracle as the pain receded for the final time and I was able to speak.

Jon and I talked and we took turns, remembering so many things from our past. We both vividly recalled that day in the sauna when our lives changed forever and we gave thanks for the many blessings we’d been given. Jon got the scrapbook I’d made him and we looked through it together. I’d added to it as time had gone on and along with the photos from the Handfasting there were pictures from the garden and our houses and our various trips…California, Sedona, Scotland, Germany, New Zealand…they were all there. There were very few photos of either of us alone as our life had been spent mostly shared.

Morning broke and the sun filtered in through the windows as we lay together in bed, Jon stroking my hair as I ran my fingers across the silver fur on his chest for the last time. We’d said all we needed to say and I knew deep inside that now it was time to just say farewell. Jon knew it too, but it was harder for him. Once I was gone, he’d still be here and that’s the part he most feared.

“Jon, I think it’s time. I’m ready to take my leave from this world. We’ll meet again in the Summerland, but until then you need to go on. Your time hasn’t come and you mustn’t hasten your journey. Promise me, love” and he nodded his understanding.

“There’s no need to rush, baby, because I’d wait an eternity to be in your arms once again. Someday soon we’ll walk again in the garden” I said with a sense of peace born of certainty.

“Trish, please don’t go, not yet. Please…” he began with tears welling up in his eyes.

“Ssshhhhh, my love, peace. Do this for me Jon, let me go and just sing to me for the last time” I whispered softly.

Jon swallowed hard and remembered Richie’s parting words and he willed himself to be still. He began humming softly as I looked into his eyes one final time before the light started to fade from my sight. I closed my eyes and traveled through time, back to the Summerland, where I would wait for Jon to join me again. I smiled once more as I passed into forever and I heard his voice softly singing.

I’ll be there till the stars don’t shine
Till the heavens burst and the words don’t rhyme
And I know when I die you’ll be on my mind
And I’ll love you always


Monday, July 27, 2009

The Sauna Part 312

Tico and Eva arrived later that evening and everyone except Jon was gathered in the living room discussing the situation. Jon was in his usual place by my side and I was resting quite comfortably thanks to the miracle of the morphine. My breathing had become somewhat more shallow, he noted, but I looked more peaceful than I had in a few days. Jovi sat on his lap and he stroked the cat’s silky fur while little Richie purred quietly in my ear as I slept.

“I just don’t understand how this all happened so fast” Eva protested as Jim and Cherie tried to catch them up.

“I don’t really understand it either, but I’m glad you’re both here. We got here a week ago and Trish wasn’t good, but she wasn’t nearly this bad” Jim explained.

“That’s why Jon’s such a basket case right now too. No one thought it would happen this fast. I shouldn’t have yelled at him. He’s in shock and he’s sick with grief” Richie said with regret.

“Of course he is! Who wouldn’t be in his shoes?” Tico added, taking Eva’s hand in his lap. “But it sounds like he just wasn’t thinking right either, bro. You had to do something. You couldn’t let her suffer like that.”

“Jon isn’t sleeping and he’s barely eating. He won’t leave her side. It’s no wonder he can’t process what’s happening” Cherie added.

Carla had made a pot of tea and brought it out with some snacks, but no one had much of an appetite. She poured herself and Richie a cup and offered it to the rest, but there weren’t any takers. It was hard to know what to do or what to say as she hadn’t known me nearly as well as her husband or the others had. She was here to support Richie and the others as best she could.

“No thanks, darlin’” Tico declined. “but I could use a drink. No offense, man” he announced, nodding towards Richie.

“None taken. If I was still drinkin’, I’d be joining you” he smiled sadly.

“I’ll join you” Jim said heavily and the wine proved more popular than the tea.

The evening turned into night and eventually everyone went to bed. The morphine had completely knocked me out and I slept soundly through the night. With no coughing to keep waking Jon up, he too fell asleep in the bed and we both dreamed of happier times.


“Happy birthday, baby!” Jon grinned as he watched me open my eyes, feeling somewhat encouraged after the first peaceful night we’d had in some time.

“Morning, my love” I smiled as he leaned over to kiss me gently.

“Tico and Eva made it in last night, but they didn’t want to wake you and I wouldn’t let them anyway” he smirked proudly. “Should I go and get them? I know they’re anxious to see you.”

“Not just quite yet. Stay with me, Jon” I replied, enjoying the feel of his warm body next to mine.

It felt good to be without pain and I didn’t want to risk moving and breaking the spell. I wanted to savor this time alone and I wished in a way that it would last forever. I closed my eyes and said a silent prayer to the Goddess for granting me this final gift on my birthday.

Eventually we heard sounds of activity coming from the kitchen and Jon’s stomach growled. I actually laughed as it reminded me of what hadn’t changed.

“So, are you gonna make me some French toast? It is my birthday after all” I teased, my voice sounding a bit hoarse, but with only a small cough that followed.

Jon sprang up in bed, anxious to fulfill my every wish. It wasn’t often that I’d asked for food and I usually ate only a little and then only to appease him and make sure he ate something too.

“Be back in a flash. I smell coffee and you can bet Richie made it” he grinned before dashing off.

Goddess, but it was good to see Jon smile again. I’d seen precious little of his real smile these days and way too much of the forced smile he wore to disguise his worry and sadness. It was going to be a good day.

“Jon, we didn’t mean to wake you” Cherie said apologetically. “I hope we didn’t wake Trish” she added, looking a bit anxious.

“S’okay, we were up and Trish wants my French toast! But I need to get her some coffee first” he said, sounding chipper.

“I’ll take it in to her, bro. You’d better get cooking-never keep a lady waiting” Richie offered and surprisingly Jon agreed.

He and Jim exchanged looks, but they weren’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth. If Jon could look cheerful, so could they. Richie poured my coffee and brought it in with a smile.

“Morning there, darlin’. Happy birthday! How ya feeling today?” he asked in his best cheerful voice.

“Not so bad” I replied hoarsely in a voice that might have sounded husky in another context.

“Jon’s making some breakfast. Are you sure you feel up to THAT?” he needled me, just like old times, and at Jon’s expense.

“Hey, I’m dying anyway. How much harm can it do?” I giggled, before getting serious for a moment. “Richie, I’m gonna miss you so much.”

“I’m gonna miss you too, Trish. You have no idea how much you mean to me. Sometimes I keep thinking this is all just a bad dream.”

“I know Richie, I know” I coughed. “You’re the best friend I’ve ever had.”

“You’ll be in here, always” he gestured to his heart. “So, are you ready for Tico and Eva? They’re dying, uhm, anxious to see you” he winced, mentally kicking himself for making such a slip.

“S’okay Richie. If I can quip, so can you” I assured him. “Send in the team” I beamed brightly.

Jon had finished making the first batch of French toast and Carla had offered to take over making the rest. Jon gratefully abdicated his chef’s apron and the rest of the crew barreled into our bedroom. Eva immediately hugged me and I closed my eyes to hold back the wave of pain that I didn’t want her to see, but Tico caught it and gently pulled her aside.

“Happy birthday, querida” he smiled, lifting my hand to his lips.

“Tico, Eva, it’s so good to see you! I can’t believe you’re all here! Where’s Carla?” I wondered, as I hadn’t seen her yet since she and Richie arrived.

“She’ll be along shortly. She took over the stove-with Jon’s permission, of course” Richie nudged him.

“But I made these myself, darlin’. Just like you like ’em” he said proudly, offering me the plate.

“Come over here and share them with me” I commanded and Jon obeyed.

You’re good, doll. That’s one way to get Jon to eat, Richie winked.

Carla finally joined us once everyone had a plate and I thanked her for taking over the kitchen duty for the lot of us. She was such a wonderful woman and I was so glad that Richie had finally found someone who deserved him. I felt a momentary pang of envy as I watched all the couples, knowing that they all had something I didn’t. Time. It was such a precious commodity I had realized. The pain had begun to slowly creep back and I thought I could hear the clock ticking.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Sauna Part 311

Cherie and Jim arrived first and I was excited to see them. My sister had wanted to come, but she couldn’t leave her husband and he was too ill to travel. I was thankful we’d made it to Florida for Thanksgiving before I was too sick myself. I knew I wouldn’t see her again and I’d said goodbye at that time. There were only a few others left that I needed to see and they’d all be here soon enough.

My birthday was still one week away, but Cherie and Jim wanted to help get the house ready and relieve Jon where they could. When it came to my care, Jon was possessive and he’d refused all discussion of hiring aids. Cherie resigned herself to cleaning the house and Jim ran the errands so Jon didn’t have to. He hovered over me most of the time and I began to chafe under such close supervision.

“Why don’t you go out with Jim for a bit, love? It’ll do you good to get some fresh air” I would prod.

“I’m right where I wanna be, babe” was the consistent reply.

We were all eating dinner one night when an idea finally struck me. I wanted to sort through some photos and old papers I had stored in the attic and if I insisted, Jon would comply. He’d have to go up there and root around in the boxes and cart them all down and it would take him some time. I voiced my desire and he grumbled and protested, but he finally relented and did as I asked.

“Trish, is there anything you’d like us to do? How can we help?” Jim asked after Jon disappeared.

“Get Jon to leave me alone!” I said with a laugh, followed by a dry, hacking cough. “Seriously, I’m really worried about him. I don’t know when he sleeps.”

“I’ve tried to get him to come to the store and Cherie has offered to stay with you at night, but Trish, he won’t budge” Jim replied helplessly.

“I know, I know. I sleep most of the time now, but when I wake up, there he is. He’s always watching me and he looks horrible. He isn’t sleeping hardly at all and I sleep enough for the two of us!” I said as I started to cry which brought on more coughing and a little bit of blood.

“Trish, he’s afraid. He’s afraid if he leaves that you won’t wake up” Cherie said softly.

I stared at her numbly as the words began to sink in. He thought he was keeping me alive by his very presence and in some ways it seemed almost true. There’d been times over the past month when I wanted to die; when the pain got so bad that I couldn’t stand it and I prayed for it to be over. But Jon sat there beside me, holding my hand or holding the basin so I could throw up and he silently begged me to stay. I’d look in his eyes and I’d see the terror behind them and I’d feel guilty. How could I leave him?

Richie and Carla came in the following day and Jim filled them in on the way home from the airport. Richie was concerned, but he wasn’t prepared for how haggard and drawn Jon looked when he saw him. He’d been barely eating and he’d lost too much weight and it showed.

“Jesus, Jon, you like hell” Richie said, taking a sharp breath.

“I’m okay, bro. No need to worry about me” Jon replied unconvincingly.

“Where’s Trish? I wanna see her” Richie demanded.

Jon led him to our bedroom which had become my nearly permanent residence. I smiled weakly when I saw him and he immediately came to my side. I tried to sit up to hug him, but the coughing prevented me and Jon swooped in between us and patted my back as I tried to clear my lungs. Richie looked at Jim and he shook his head while Cherie tried hard to hide her tears. Things seemed to have worsened in the week they were here.

“I need to see Richie alone” I finally croaked, but Jon didn’t think I meant for him to leave too.

“Please, Jon, don’t make me …” I coughed again and Jon turned away with tears in his eyes.

“I’m here, babe” Richie said, taking my hand.

“Richie, there isn’t much time” I rasped, struggling for breath.

“Trish, I didn’t know it was this bad” Richie said, his voice shaking.

I knew he had never expected to find me like this and I was sorry he had so little warning. The doctors had told me I had a bit longer and I’d assumed they were right. I hadn’t anticipated this either, but in a way I was glad. I’d had almost no symptoms for such a long time and I ignored what I noticed until I found the lump. By then it was too far gone and that I regretted. But I didn’t regret that the cancer was moving so quickly now. I wasn’t good at being ill and this was pushing me beyond what little patience I had for being dependent. Jon and I were both suffering and I was the cause.

“Please Richie, take care of Jon. I’m ready to go. I’ve been ready for days, but Jon won’t let go. I need to know…” I paused as the pain shot through my body like a hot knife.

“Trish, it’s okay. Don’t try to talk. Should I get Jon?” Richie asked in alarm but I shook my head.

“It’s nothing new” I assured him as I spat out some blood in a kleenex. “Will you promise to take care of Jon? I need to know that you’ll be here to look after him” I managed to say before the coughing began yet again.

“Trish, of course. What else can I do?” Richie said as his eyes clouded with tears.

“Get me my laptop” I pointed to the shelf and Richie reached over and brought it to me.

I caught my breath while it booted up and I knew that I needed to make my words count. I didn’t have many left as it was becoming too hard to speak for very long. I typed out instructions for Richie on how to access my journal and he watched as I showed him what I had written.

“When I am gone” I whispered, pointing at the computer and he nodded.

“What else, Trish? What else can I do?” he asked, feeling helpless.

“Tell Jon it’s time for the morphine” I smiled.

Richie was visibly shaken when he left our bedroom and he gripped Jon’s arm in the hallway to stop him before he rushed in.

“She said to tell you it’s time for the morphine” he explained in a voice choked with emotion.

Jon startled and looked at Richie with haunted eyes, shaking his head as if to clear it.

“No, she didn’t mean it. The pain will pass, it always does” he replied, unwilling to accept that I’d gotten that bad.

I’d been refusing the morphine for the past week as I knew it would make my mind cloudy. I wanted to stay lucid for as long as I could, but now I was ready. Richie was here and I’d said mostly what I needed to say and I was relieved. Tico and Eva would be here tonight and tomorrow was my birthday. I still had enough time to write my last chapter.

Richie’s temper flared and he shook Jon by the shoulders. How dare he deny me some relief from the pain?

“You stubborn bastard! Give her the morphine, for God’s sake! She’s asking now!” Richie screamed and I heard it.

Jim heard it too and he knew where it was and he pushed Jon out of the way as he rushed into the room. He filled the syringe, his hands shaking, as he pulled back the plunger. Jon tackled him and he dropped the syringe, but it was probably a good thing at that point. Jim had no clue what dose to give and he just might have killed me right then and there.

“Trish, are you sure?” Jon asked me, as he filled another syringe with the correct dosage.

“Yeah baby, I’m sorry. Please…” I answered, knowing how hard this was for him as he knew what it meant.

“Here, baby, here” he said soothingly as he injected the drug. “You need to rest. Tomorrow’s a big day” he cooed.

I smiled and reached for his hand. “Thank you” I said as I closed my eyes and waited for the drug to begin easing the pain.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Sauna Part 310

We went together to see the oncologist and I then understood what the follow up appointment was for. It wasn’t for me, not really, I thought. It was so the doctor could explain to my family what was wrong and what to expect. Jon sat patiently in his chair, holding my hand, and listening attentively. When the doctor had finished, Jon nodded his head and then asked when we could begin treatment. The doctor looked at him and then glanced over at me as if to ask whether he’d made himself clear. I stared at my hands and Jon asked again with growing impatience.

“Perhaps I didn’t explain the situation thoroughly enough. Mr. Bongiovi, your wife’s cancer has widely metasticized and isn’t treatable at this point. We’re here to discuss what she’s going to need in the future as the disease becomes worse. I know she seems relatively healthy right now, but this type of sarcoma is very aggressive and the lump that you found was not the primary source. It will only progress…” he tried again.

“Not if you just simply remove it” Jon interrupted.

“Jon, it won’t do any good. It’s already spread and the lump is only a secondary symptom. Please, listen to what Dr.Vasquez is saying” I tried to persuade him, but Jon was having none of it.

“If you aren’t gonna treat her, then we’ll find someone who will!” he exploded, rising to his feet and pulling me with him.

“Mr. Bongiovi, please, treatment has no real chance of success here and she’ll only suffer more from it. Your wife really needs your support” the oncologist tried again.

“And she’ll have it! I’m gonna be there every step of the way and we’ll find a doctor who won’t just give up, dammit!” Jon insisted as he dragged me out of the office along with him.

“Jon! Stop it! You’re embarrassing me! The doctor was only trying to explain the reality of the situation” I protested, but Jon wasn’t listening.

He was outraged that the doctor wouldn’t even discuss options or even try some form of treatment. His reaction was almost understandable in one sense as I didn’t have many symptoms, at least none that he saw. My breast was just a bit tender and he was infinitely gentle when he touched me, so I wasn’t really experiencing any pain. What I noticed, but Jon didn’t, was that I was having some difficulty breathing at times and I was beginning to feel tired more quickly. I had also been losing weight.

“C’mon, Trish, I’m booking us a flight to the Mayo Clinic. I’ll bet they won’t tell us there’s nothing they can do” he said adamantly.

“Jon, it’ll be Thanksgiving soon and I wanted to go see my sister. She’s expecting us to come for the holiday and I need to tell her goodbye” I argued.

“We’ll go to the Clinic on the way down, babe. Trust me, you’ll see” he persisted and I relented. Maybe the doctors there could convince him.


Jon had moved Heaven and Hell to get me an appointment at the Mayo Clinic on the day before Thanksgiving, but the prognosis was just the same. When he began voicing plans to look into clinics in Europe, I put my foot down.

“For the sake of the Goddess, please stop it! Enough! It is what it is, Jon. I’m going to die, with or without your permission!” I said harshly. “Baby, I need you to be here for me and to accept this. I’ve made my peace and I need you to make peace with this too. Jon, I can’t do this without you. Can you be there for me?” I said a little more softly.

Something broke loose inside Jon at that moment and he fell apart. He wept uncontrollably and I instinctively reached out and pulled him against me, holding him close while his body shook with the force of his sobs. I’d never seen him so out of control and there wasn’t anything I wouldn’t have done if I thought it might ease his pain. If he wanted me to have chemo, or radiation, or surgery, I would have agreed. But he didn’t ask it. The one thing he asked me was the one thing I couldn’t do.

“Baby, don’t leave me!” he wailed over and over. “I can’t go on if you’re gone” he pleaded.

“Jon, it’s okay, I’m right here. Baby, I’m here” I said over and over, knowing it wasn’t enough.

When he finally stopped shaking and raised his eyes to meet mine, I knew he’d come back from the dark place he had gone. The brilliant blue eyes that looked out at me from above the rosy cheeks stained with tears were those of my husband and not those of a child. He raised my hands to his lips and spoke in a steady, calm voice.

“Trish, Goddess, forgive me. I know I’ve abandoned you when you needed me the most and I’ve been so selfish. I’m so scared of losing you that I’ve pushed you away instead of holding you close and being the one you could lean on. But I swear to you, baby, it won’t be like that any more. You call the shots and I’ll follow. Whatever you want, whatever you need, I’ll be right here” he said with the faintest ghost of a smile.

It was my turn to fall apart now. I needed him so desperately to be strong so that I didn’t have to be. Now that he was, I let myself go and I felt all the feelings I’d kept locked deep inside. I’d barely cried since the day I had learned of my diagnosis and then when I did, it wasn’t for my sake. I cried for Jon. I couldn’t let myself feel my own fear or feel my own grief until I knew Jon could handle it. Now that he’d turned the corner, my levee burst open and he was awash in the flood of my tears.

“I’m here, baby, I’m here. Let it go. Let the rain come” he whispered softly, cradling me to him just as he had when I’d grieved for my cats and then later, my parents. Now it was time to grieve for myself.


During December, my condition deteriorated quite rapidly and Jon was amazing. He rarely left my side and no matter how often I seemed to doze off, when I woke up he was always there smiling. I remember one day in particular when the pain wasn’t so bad and I’d found the strength to get up and wash a few dishes while I waited for my tea to brew.

“Darlin’, don’t worry about that. I’ll take care of it later” he offered.

Jon didn’t want me to waste any energy on the mundane and yet there were times when I craved it. There was something almost sacred about doing the dishes as it represented a piece of my life that felt normal. It reassured me that I was still here and for a moment or two, there was something in my life I could manage.

“I want to Jon, really. But you can help me” I smiled and he joined me at the sink and we finished the dishes.

That small accomplishment felt like an enormous success, but it had effectively drained all my energy and I sat down heavily at the kitchen table with a satisfied sigh. Jon brought me my tea and I sipped it gratefully. I was still able to taste it and the warm liquid was soothing on my sore throat.

There was no question these days that I was sick. I had my good days on occasion, but mostly they were bad. I slept as often as I could since it helped ease the pain and when that didn’t work, I had medication. Hydrocodone had become my best friend since there was no reason to worry about addiction at this point. Hey, at least I wasn’t on morphine, I rationalized to myself.

My sixty-sixth birthday was approaching next month and Jim and Cherie were coming to celebrate. Richie and Carla would be there too and even Tico and Eva were flying in for a few days. I was glad Jon would have some support as he barely saw anyone and rarely left the house anymore. We needed our friends.

Jon helped me move to the couch in the living room where I could sit in front of the fire. When I wasn’t sweating, I was cold and I shivered visibly from the chill. I reached for the blanket that was draped on the couch and Jon covered me with it before he sat down beside me. Little Richie and Jovi were my constant companions and they took their spot on my lap.

“Jon, we need to talk, love” I began, but he shushed me.

I’d been trying for weeks now to get him to talk about final decisions and practical matters, but he just wasn’t ready. I took a sip of my tea and peered at his face over the rim of my cup. The lines had become deeper and his hair was quite gray, but he was as handsome as ever and for a fleeting moment I felt the stirrings of desire. It was a rather cruel thing, really, as making love had become too painful these days and it was too hard to breathe.

“There’ll be plenty of time for that conversation, babe” he assured me, but I knew better.

“Would you bring me my laptop?” I asked and he nodded, shaking his head.

I’d begun keeping a journal ever since Jon and I first met that day in the sauna. I don’t know why I started it; maybe to remind myself it was all real or to remember it all when it ended. Over the years I’d kept it up and while I didn’t write every day, I wrote fairly often. It had become a good way to process my feelings and it had become a chronicle of our lives together.

Jon didn’t know about the journal, or rather the book, as I liked to think of it now. It was the one secret I kept and the only thing that was private. These days I’d written a lot as my mind drifted over the past twenty plus years. It was comforting now to remember it all; even the struggles, as they reflected the love that we felt for each other. When I was gone, it would be there for Jon, to help him remember and know how much I loved him. I guess you could say that this was my verbal scrapbook of my life with Jon and I was getting ready to write the final chapter.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Sauna Part 309

Our visit with Richie and Carla and Cherie and Jim had been good for our souls and we launched off on the final leg of our journey refreshed and renewed. The breeze off the ocean carried the scent of the sea and the warm sun shone on my face as we left California, heading North up the coast. We headed east near San Francisco where we left Cherie and Jim and crossed over to Reno and from there we drove through the Nevada desert and made our way towards Salt Lake City. Utah was nearly as varied and beautiful as Colorado and we lingered for days at a time in the mountains and national forests.

We’d started to grow accustomed to sleeping under the stars, except when it rained and we weathered the storms we encountered in hotels and roadside motels. We ran into a spell of nasty weather near Altamont and began to get restless after two days in the motel. When the storm cleared, we were back on the road and we veered North to check out the mountains and lakes just over the border and into Wyoming. We’d traveled all over the world during Jon’s years with the band, but it was this trip through our own country that brought us closest to nature.

It was the middle of August and we knew we needed to start heading home. I was missing my cats after another month on the road, but we savored our last night in the Rocky Mountains before heading southward to Colorado Springs. Jon built a campfire and I skewered the meat and vegetables we’d bought on our last stop. Even simple shish kabobs tasted exceptional when cooked over an open fire. I was glad we’d purchased a few basic camping supplies early on in our trip.

We washed up in the stream that ran alongside our campsite and filled up the coffee pot with crystal clear water. Our meal was nothing fancy, but it was filling and satisfying and we even managed a dessert of s’mores. We’d eaten in some of the finest restaurants in New York City and abroad, and we’d been catered to by famous chefs far and wide, but our tastes had grown simpler as we grew older. Even our appetites weren’t what they used to be, but the fresh air and exercise from setting up camp made us feel young for a time and we ate with renewed gusto.

Mornings were rougher, when we woke stiff and sore with nothing but sleeping bags to shield us from uneven ground. Once we got moving, our aches and pains seemed to fade into memory as we rode through the hills and valleys awash with the rays of the sun. We arrived back in Pagosa just after Labor Day and the grounds showed the signs of their neglect. We busied ourselves with harvesting herbs and weeding the garden which had become our haven over the years.

Cherie and Jim took the train out to see us and I was glad to be reunited with Jovi and little Richie who they’d kept while we were away. Jim seemed more content than I’d seen him as Cherie had finally gone for a ride and realized she liked it. They’d ridden most every day since the first time and it had a strangely calming effect on Cherie’s otherwise anxious nature and I could see Jim had benefited too. Time continued to march on and we lived our lives in relative peace and comfort, away from the press who had dogged so much of Jon’s career.


The Summers went quicker and quicker in the succeeding years and in fact the seasons seemed to be changing faster and faster. Time was slipping away from us at an ever increasing pace and I no longer resisted seeing myself as the Crone. It was in the Fall of my sixty fifth year when I discovered the lump and I knew.

I didn’t tell Jon right away, as I wasn’t sure yet myself. I waited anxiously for the results of the mammogram, but deep in my heart, I already knew. Cancer. No single word in the whole English language had quite the same impact as the word cancer. I’d had a few weeks to prepare for the news, but I sat there in shock as the doctor told me the results.

“There’s no need for a biopsy…” I remember him saying before my brain had turned off. How was I going to tell Jon? I recall thinking as I numbly nodded my head without hearing another word the doctor had spoken. He scheduled me for a follow-up appointment with an oncologist and I remember wondering what was the point? I had terminal cancer. What more did I need to know?

The autumn leaves were bursting with color as I walked to my car, more brilliant than ever against the endless blue sky that hovered above me. The October sun was losing it’s warmth and already there was a slight chill in the air. I’d always loved Autumn, with its vibrant hues and the heady aroma of woodsmoke rising up from the chimneys. Jon would have started a fire to warm up the house and I’d mull some cider for us when I got home.

My thoughts drifted back to the first Halloween we had shared back in Buffalo. I smiled, remembering Pumpkinville, as I drove home in a fog. I made a mental note to myself that we needed to go and get pumpkins and I still needed to call and get more wood delivered before the snow came. The first fallen leaves crackled and crunched under my boots as I made my way up the driveway towards the house. Soon it would be Samhain, when the souls of the dead roamed the earth. By next year I’d be among them.

The next couple of weeks before Samhain flew by like crows headed South for the winter. I needed some time to collect my thoughts, make some decisions and make peace with my fate. I still had plenty of time. We carved the pumpkins and took long walks in the woods and I prepared the herbs that had been drying since late Summer. Life seemed so normal and I relished every mundane task as though they were special.

We’d celebrated Samhain tonight and I still hadn’t found a way to tell Jon. I’d rehearsed what I wanted to say, but I couldn’t seem to find the right time. I convinced myself that I’d sense the right moment, but when was the right time to deliver such news? Was it Jon or myself I was protecting from the truth? I finally ran out of excuses later that night while we were lying in bed. We had just finished making love and Jon pulled me close to kiss me goodnight.

“Baby, what’s this? It feels like a lump” he observed, gently fondling my breast.

I turned away, unable to look at his face and say what I needed to say. The words just stuck in my throat. The tears rolled down my cheek as I gathered my nerve.

“Trish? Trish, what is it? Look at me!” Jon said in a voice suddenly filled with alarm as he turned me to face him.

One look in my eyes told him all I’d been unable to say. The words I’d rehearsed hung in the air, unspoken, as he searched my face and he knew. I took a deep breath and forced myself to look into his eyes.

“Jon, I have cancer” I said in a steady voice which sounded surprisingly calm.

“No” he insisted despite what he knew deep inside. “Trish, it might just be a cyst. All lumps aren’t cancer. I knew a woman once, years ago…” he began as denial set in.

“Jon, I’ve seen the doctor already. There’s no question it’s cancer” I countered, anticipating what he’d say next. “I’ve known for a couple of weeks.”

He was silent for a moment, absorbing the impact of what I’d just said. His mind was reeling, but he did what men do in situations like this. He searched for an answer. There was treatment available and money was no object. He could fix this.

“What’s the treatment? What do we need to do? We’ll see a specialist. We can beat this, baby” he rallied.

I shook my head sadly, and my heart broke as I watched the confusion wash over him. I’d had time to digest this and consider the options, but for Jon it wasn’t so clear. He’d faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles over his life and there wasn’t a problem he couldn’t solve. He wouldn’t accept it. He couldn’t accept it. There was an answer. There had to be an answer, he told himself.

“What are you saying? I don’t understand” he demanded, panic making his voice sound more shrill than he meant.

“Jon, my love, it’s too late and it isn’t that type of cancer. It’s already spread and there isn’t much they can do. I’m dying. It won’t be tomorrow or even this year, but I won’t see another Samhain, that much I know ” I explained.

“No, Trish, no! They might be wrong! Doctors can be wrong and they don’t know everything. We’ll get another opinion. We’ll look into other forms of treatment, research even…” he persisted but I held up my hand.

“No. What time I have left, I’m not going to spend it with doctors and hospitals. I’m not taking drugs that will just make me sicker…” I protested but Jon couldn’t hear me.

“You can’t give up! I won’t give up! I won’t let you give up! Trish, baby, please! Tell me you’ll fight!” he pleaded with me desperately.

This wasn’t how I’d hoped the conversation would go, but it was what I’d expected. Jon wasn’t used to being told “no” and now wasn’t the time to try and teach him. The anguish and terror I saw in his eyes hurt me more than any pain I could imagine and I just didn’t have the heart to refuse him. If anyone could find a way to cheat death, it was Jon.

“Okay, Jon, we’ll fight” I agreed with just a little more hope than I’d had.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Sauna Part 308

We finally got out of the house by ten thirty as it took a bit longer getting the cats settled down and packing up their supplies. We were blessed with another beautiful, sunny California day and I was glad for Jon and Jim as there was nothing more miserable than riding the bike in the rain. We turned up the radio and Cherie sang along while I mouthed the words. No matter how many times Jon had tried coaching me over the years, I still couldn’t sing a note and I was hopelessly tone deaf. That hadn’t changed.

We made a brief stop for lunch and got fresh water for the kittens before resuming our journey. They were good little travelers and slept most of the way. I was curious whether Cherie had ever heard from Dave after she moved away, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to bring up a sore subject. But Cherie mentioned it herself when she told me what she’d heard.

Apparently Dave had hung himself several years ago after his second wife had finally pressed charges for spousal abuse. Cherie kept in touch with many of her old friends back in Buffalo and one of them had told her that they’d seen his arrest in the paper. He’d gone to jail, she had heard later, and another friend had seen his obituary in the newspaper and had asked around until she had found out what happened. Cherie recounted the story with uncharacteristic calm and I was glad to see that she’d taken the news pretty well. It had served to validate that she had done the right thing when she left him and she was able to finally accept that it was really never her fault.

“I used to wonder, you know, after I heard he’d remarried, whether someone else had been able to please him or make him happier than I could. I didn’t dwell on it, but I always wondered. When I heard the news, I finally let go any lingering doubts and I don’t blame myself anymore. It was, well, sort of a relief in a way-to know there was nothing I could have done differently” she finished.

“I’m glad for your sake that it helped put any doubts to rest once and for all. I admit, I was curious, but I was almost afraid to ask. I didn’t want to stir up any bad memories” I explained.

“I’m okay, really. It was a shock at first, but the more I thought about it, that’s where I landed. I’m also glad in a way that he’s gone. I had nightmares for years that he’d find me and drag me away with him, but they finally stopped once I knew he was dead. I guess I never really felt completely safe until then” she added.

“And you and Jim? Things are good? No regrets?” I asked as I just needed to know.

“I love Jim with all my heart, Trish. I can’t believe how lucky I am sometimes. He’s really wonderful and he takes good care of me. And you and Jon? You two still act like newlyweds half the time” she laughed.

“Cher, I’ve been blessed beyond measure. Some days I wake up and pinch myself when I see him there, sleeping beside me. I couldn’t be happier” I smiled.

We pulled in to Richie’s driveway at five o’clock, an hour after a rather frantic phone call from Jon. They’d all expected us to arrive sooner, but I assurred him we’d be there within the hour and I was as good as my word. I grinned when I saw the bikes in the driveway, parked side by side.

“Baby! You made it!” Jon beamed with delight.

We’d only been apart for a day, but after so many years without separation it seemed like an eternity. Richie was standing behind him, waiting patiently for his hug and a kiss, and grinning with pleasure.

“Trish!” he cried when Jon finally released me.

“Richie! Gods, how I missed you!” I responded and he caught me up in a hug that raised me straight off the ground.

“Now stop trying to make time with my lady” Jon warned, but he was still smiling.

“And how’s my little Richard doing? Think he’s ready to meet his new brother?” I joked.

“Only one way to find out” Richie replied as he led me up the steps toward the house with Jovi squirming wildly in my arms.

I gave him his freedom as soon as we were inside and he puffed up like a balloon when he caught sight of little Richie. We all had to laugh at the confrontation as little Richie sniffed him disinterestedly before rubbing up against my leg. I reached down and scooped him up in my arms.

“Momma’s here, sweetheart” I purred in his neck and I was rewarded with a “meow” and a head bump in greeting.

Carla emerged from the kitchen, followed by the enticing aroma of homemade spaghetti sauce and garlic bread warming in the oven. Between her talents and Richie’s, it was a wonder they weren’t both as huge as houses, but she was trim and attractive as always.

“Carla! It’s so good to see you! Something smells wonderful!” I said as I hugged her.

“Are you hungry? I can get everything ready in about fifteen minutes” she offered.

“No, no-no rush. We stopped for lunch” I assured her.

“Hey, speak for yourself! I’ve been drooling since we got here at one” Jon chided.

“Always the drama, this one” she sighed, gesturing towards Jon and we all laughed.

Cherie was chasing after Gracie, her kitten, who was racing around like a mad thing after being confined in the car for most of the day. Jim was chasing after Cherie and Jovi appeared to be a bit deflated that he’d failed to strike fear into Richie and was sulking in a corner, pretending to clean himself while both Richies looked on with amusement.

“The circus has arrived” I said, summing up the situation.


After dinner we retired onto the deck where Richie and Carla had had a new hot tub installed. We’d changed into our suits and climbed into the bubbling warm water. The old stories flowed as freely as the wine we were drinking and we reminisced about the days on the road. Jim recalled some of his first impressions of Jon and Richie. We all laughed hysterically now about the time when Jon had flown home from Europe to surprise me and mistook Jim and Cherie for me and Jim.

“Yeah, well, speaking of first impressions…the very first time I met you, you were the biggest dick I’d ever seen!” Jon said, reminding Jim of the first Halloween party.

“Oh my God, I’d almost forgotten about that! That was the best costume ever!” Cherie giggled and Jim actually blushed.

And so on it went, as we recalled the glory days from the past. Carla enjoyed hearing the stories, having come into the fold a bit later, although it was no surprise to her that Richie had been a wild one.

“D’ya think David and Elena still go back to New Zealand every year to go flying?” Richie wondered after he’d finished the tale of our Kiwi adventures.

“It wouldn’t surprise me. I know they still go visit there every year to see Elena’s family” I shared.

“Has anybody heard from Tico lately?” Jim asked, having not kept in touch over the last several years.

“Teek spends his time golfing for the most part and working in his studio, but he and Eva just bought a new boat and he was thinking about taking up fishing” Jon supplied.

“They’re doing well, then?” Jim followed up.

“Yep. Tico still complains that Eva gives him no peace, but we all know he loves it” I grinned.

“Hugh had a heart attack last year, but he’s doing better now after the bypass” Richie contributed and we all quieted down as we nodded.

Hugh had been the first one to develop more serious health problems. While we were all glad he was doing well now, it reminded us of our own advancing years and the likelihood that it wouldn’t be long before we began to experience similar problems. But for the moment, we were all relatively healthy and we didn’t dwell on the fact. “Que sera, sera” as Tico (and Doris Day) would have said.

It was heading towards two o’clock in the morning when I started to yawn. As much fun as we were all having, it had been a long day and the wine and the hot tub had taken their toll and I could barely keep my eyes open. Jon noticed and smiled, yawning himself, as he stood up and took my hand.

“I think that’s our cue. Some hard partying rock stars we are, eh?” he teased Carla.

“Trust me, I’m right behind you, but you’re all welcome to stay up” she said graciously to Jim and Cherie who were still lounging in the hot tub.

Jim finished his wine and nodded his thanks, but he was ready for bed too and took Cherie’s hand. We gathered our respective feline companions and made our way up the stairs. It felt good to climb into bed and snuggle into Jon’s waiting arms. There was a brief scuffle over sleeping arrangements as little Richie asserted his authority, but Jovi backed down and curled up over my pillow and we all settled in for the night.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Sauna Part 307

The beach house was spacious and airy and set high on a cliff, looking out over the ocean. It was decorated in traditional Southwestern colors with a casual flair and the whole place was illuminated with light from the huge windows facing the ocean. But what caught my attention first was Cherie standing there grinning and holding two precious kittens in her arms.

“Oh my Goddess! Look at these little darlings!” I cooed as she handed me one of the tiny furballs.

“We just found them on our doorstep last weekend, Trish! Aren’t they adorable? This one’s my little grey girl, but this orange boy is yours if you want him!” Cherie giggled.

Jon looked at Jim with alarm, avoiding my gaze altogether. He knew what was coming already and he knew from experience thatit was already a done deal. There was nothing he could say to convince me that we didn’t need another cat, let alone a kitten, and he knew my weakness for orange boys-as did Cherie. Jim just stared at the floor and apologized.

“And I thought you were my friend” Jon said under his breath and Jim smirked.

“Baby, little Richie could really use a friend you know” I began and Jon rolled his eyes.

“Thanks, man, I’m gonna get you for this” Jon said with mock menace and Jim snorted as he already knew the kitten was going home with us somehow.

“Trish, how do you plan to take him home on the bike? In the saddlebags?” Jon said in a futile attempt to dissuade me.

“Well of course not! Jim and Cherie will just have to come out and visit when we get home and they can bring him along then” I said, having solved the problem rather simply.

“What are you going to call him, Trish?” Cherie interjected, dismissing any further protests from Jon.

“I think we should name him James” Jon suggested, glaring at Jim.

“How about Jovi?” I grinned, smirking at Jon.

“Who ever said women were the weaker sex never met my wife” Jon shrugged helplessly as he ruffled the fur on the little cat’s head and he started to purr.

“See, he likes the name and he already likes you” I said with a convincing smile.

“Alright, alright, I guess you can keep him” Jon replied as if there’d ever been any doubt. “This means you two will have to come out and stay with us for a bit” he added, eyeing Jim.

“No problem, buddy. A Colorado vacation in exchange for a kitten? Sounds like a good deal for me” Jim laughed.

We moved out onto the terrace to relax before dinner and Jim brought out a pitcher of Margaritas while Cherie prepared a few things in the kitchen. I laid down on a chaise lounge with my new charge while Jon walked about on the deck, stretching his legs. Jovi was soon fast asleep on my chest and I wasn’t too far behind him. I closed my eyes and drifted off, feeling the warmth of the sun on my face.

“So, how’s it been on the road again? You guys have been gone almost a month now, right?” Jim asked.

“It’s been amazing to be really honest. It’s like seeing the country with fresh eyes, man. You feel like a part of it, not just an observer. I notice everything, you know? Like the changes in temperature when you ride through a patch of shade or climb high in the hills. And you smell everything. We could smell the pine trees when we rode through the woods and I could even smell the ocean as we got closer. It’s like nothing else you could ever imagine” Jon sighed.

“I would give my eye teeth to do what you’re doing. Honestly, I really would” Jim said wistfully.

“Why don’t you come with us, man? Seriously. We’re heading down to Richie’s when we leave here. You’d only be gone for a day. It could be like old times” Jon persuaded.

“Shit, Cherie would be beside herself. She freaks out whenever I’m gone for more than an hour or two as it is” Jim said sadly, shaking his head.

“But this would be different. You wouldn’t be all alone-you’d be with us. Cherie would know you were safe” Jon continued.

“You’re a bad influence, man. You’re gonna get me in trouble” Jim said, scratching his chin as he considered the opportunity.

“Consider it payback for that” Jon teased, jerking his head toward where Jovi and I lay napping.

“Look, let me think about it while you’re here, but don’t say anything to Cherie. Let me talk to her first, okay?” Jim pleaded, pursing his lips.

“You got it, bro” Jon grinned, knowing he’d planted the seed.

“Is everyone hungry?” Cherie asked as she joined us out on the deck. “Dinner’s ready.”

As Jon and I lay in bed, with Jovi snuggled in right between us, Jon shared his idea to invite Jim to join us. I was doubtful that Cherie would let him go, but I also knew that Jim’s patience went only so far with her anxiety. If this was something he really wanted to do, and it sounded like he did, he’d do it, with or without Cherie’s approval.

“You know, I’ve got an idea, though. What if you and Jim rode the bikes up to Richie’s and Cherie and I could come up the next day or the following one in the car. It would give me and Cherie some time alone together and we could bring the cats with us. Cherie wouldn’t feel so left out and she might be more agreeable to the whole notion. She could even follow Jim home when we leave Richie’s” I suggested.

“That might just work. I’ll pitch it to Jim in the morning and see what he thinks” Jon agreed as he rolled over to kiss me, gently moving the sleeping kitten.

I rolled over closer and snuggled into Jon’s arms, but we were both a little too tired and a little too sore to do more than cuddle. I fell sound asleep, lulled off to dreamland by the sound of Jon’s snoring blending in with the steady rhythm of purrs from a contented little furball asleep on my pillow.


We spent the next several days at Cherie and Jim’s, walking along the beach, skinny dipping in the ocean and hanging out at the house while we all slowly chipped away at Cherie’s resistance. She finally relented, having realized it wasn’t fair to deprive Jim of the opportunity to do something he’d always dreamed about too. Richie was thrilled when we called to tell him the news.

“It’ll be like old times” he’d said, echoing Jon and Jim’s thoughts.

The guys took off after breakfast and Cherie and I had a day of shopping and spa treatments planned and we were anxious to get going ourselves. It had been several years since I’d been to Tienda Ho and there was a store right there in San Francisco and shopping there was almost as orgasmic as sex, at least for me. The new summer colors had just arrived and we had a heyday, mixing and matching skirts, tops, scarves and belts until we’d exhausted the possibilities. Cherie had two large shopping bags by the time we were done, and me, well, they were shipping my collection in two separate boxes. It was time for the spa.

The shopping spree had managed to keep Cherie distracted for most of the day, but now that we were relaxing in the sauna after an invigorating massage, she started to fret.

“I should call Jim. We haven’t heard from them all day. Do you think something happened?” she asked anxiously.

“Cher, they’re fine. Jon or Jim would have called if anything went wrong. Just relax and enjoy being pampered” I cajoled, letting the warmth of the sauna soothe my sore muscles.

“I’m gonna call him” she announced as she reached for her cell phone.

“If they’re on the road, they won’t hear the phone. Please, just relax. Jon will call as soon as they stop for dinner. Speaking of which, I’m getting hungry. Where should we eat?” I asked, changing the subject.

“I know a great seafood place not far from here-it’s one of my favorites” she said brightly and we gathered our things and headed off for a quick shower.

We’d just ordered dinner when Cherie’s phone rang and I could see her breathe a sigh of relief when she heard Jim’s voice on the other end. My phone rang too and I winked at Cherie before answering the call.

“Hi babe. So did you buy out the store?” Jon’s voice teased on the other end.

“I tried my best, but there were still a few things left when we were through” I teased back and he groaned. “How far did you guys ride?” I wondered.

“Far enough, darlin’, far enough. Jim’s pretty tough for an old man” he chuckled, giving Jim a nudge and a nod.

“So I assume we should head out tomorrow then? It’ll take us about six hours or so” I replied.

“Yeah, that would be good. We took the long way and went up the coast and took a few detours-the scenery is great, but you’ll get here quicker if you take I-5 instead. We’re gonna check out a few places yet, but we should make it to Richie’s by noon tomorrow” he advised.

“Okay, we’ll start out early, if I can get Cherie up at a decent hour, that is. I’ll shoot for mid-afternoon. I miss you, love” I said finally.

“I miss you too, Trish. See ya tomorrow, but drive careful. I love you” he said, sounding tired.

“I love you too, Jon. Get some rest” I encouraged as I hung up the phone.

We finished our dinner and headed back to the beach house. Cherie jabbered all the way home and I began to miss the companionable silence that Jon and I were able to share. Cherie had realized, though, how important this trip was to Jim and she was resolved to allow him more space and she was even thinking of letting him take her out on the bike. But only for a short ride, she clarified. At least that was progress.

I was exhausted when we got home and we both agreed to turn in early so we could get an early start in the morning. Although for Cherie, early meant ten o’clock in the morning. That was okay, though. We’d still make it to Richie’s before evening. I yawned and stretched out in the bed which felt altogether too large without Jon to share it. It was the first time we’d slept apart in several years and I had no intention of making it a habit. Jovi curled up and I snuggled against him for comfort. His warm furry body was soothing and eventually I fell asleep.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Sauna Part 306 (2021)

I remember the year that Jon decided to stop touring. It was just after he turned sixty when he decided enough was enough. He and Richie, along with Dave, had continued to do limited tours for a few years after Tico and Hugh had retired but it just wasn’t the same. Jon had lost heart playing with substitute musicians and the chemistry just wasn’t there anymore, especially without Tico. The last studio album had been several years ago and according to both Jon and Richie, “it just wasn’t fun anymore”. No matter how fast we ran, time still managed to catch up.

That Summer, to fill the void left by touring, Jon and I decided to do something we’d never done. We had always talked about taking a “road trip” on the bike through the Southwest and that time was now. My sister thought we were crazy, but then she was in her seventies by that time. My father would have just shook his head, but he was no longer there to laugh at our antics. He’d passed away some years ago and my mother was long gone as well. Somehow I knew, if my dad was watching, he’d be smiling. He always thought I was a bit wild, but I also thought that was one of the things he admired most. This one’s for you, Dad, I thought to myself as I remembered his dream of doing the same thing in a Winnebago. He never did get the chance.

It was early June and the sun was high in the sky. Our saddle bags were packed and we were ready to go. Little Richie was staying with Big Richie while we were gone; we’d flown him out to California earlier in the week. My sweet baby, Eddie, had finally passed on at the ripe old age of twenty-one and I still missed him dearly. Someday I’d see him again and we’d be reunited.

“Ready to ride?” Jon called as I locked up the house.

“Ready, baby” I smiled as I strapped on my helmet.

We rode that first day for several hours. Over the years we had had the bike customized as the stock Harley seats weren’t all that comfortable, especially on old bones. The new seats were comfortable, but still, after several hours, we began to lose feeling in our asses.

“Jon, let’s stop for a bit” I yelled over the sound of the engine.

Jon pulled over at the next diner that we saw and parked the bike. I swung my leg over to dismount and realized I was rather stiff. Getting older really sucked. Jon steadied the bike to allow me to get off before he dismounted as well.

“Whatsa matter, babe? Are you having second thoughts?” he grinned.

“Not on your life, husband. You?” I challenged defiantly.

“Nope, not me” he smirked back, secretly relieved that I’d suggested we stop.

We strolled into the place and sat down in a booth. My ass was relieved to feel plenty of cushioning beneath it, even if only for a brief while. The diner was nothing special; it was like the hundreds of others just like it that peppered the loneliest stretches throughout the Southwest. What was special, though, was the fact that we were treated like regular customers instead of celebrities. One thing that had changed over time as Jon stepped away from the limelight was the fact that we were now infrequently recognized. Perhaps age had its priveleges after all.

“Beautiful day for a ride. You folks gonna want menus?” the waitress asked.

“Just coffee for me” I said, looking at Jon.

“Bring me a menu, if you don’t mind. A snack wouldn’t hurt” he grinned, flashing his still brilliant smile.

The waitress smiled back and I noticed a bounce in her step that hadn’t been there before when she first approached the table and I shook my head. Damn, he’s still got it, that bastard! I smiled as I realized some things never changed.

I watched Jon as he studied the menu, squinting in order to read the small print. He refused to wear reading glasses despite the fact that he needed them and I had to laugh. I wasn’t the only one with vanity issues. There were definitely more wrinkles too, but his face was as handsome as ever and he still had his hair. He reminded me so much of his father at that age.

“Need some help there?” I teased, reaching in my pocket for my reading glasses.

“Nope, I’m fine” he lied, setting the menu aside. Every diner has hamburgers and fries, he thought smugly.

The waitress returned with our coffee and Jon placed his order and she nodded. I gazed out the window, observing the position of the sun. It was lower on the horizon, but we still had at least four to five more hours of riding time before it began to get cold.

“We should make it to Sedona by nightfall” I observed, studying the map I’d pulled out with my reading glasses.

“That’s what I’m shooting for” Jon agreed.

We had no real plans after Sedona other than to follow our whims and see where the road took us. For once in our lives, we had no schedule and no time tables to consider or fret over. For all intensive purposes, we were retired and we could stop wherever we wanted for as long as we wanted and whenever we wanted. The freedom we felt was like a breath of fresh air and we both felt more relaxed than we’d ever been. The only thing we needed to consider was the weather and so far it looked pretty cooperative.

“I love you, Jon” I said suddenly and he looked up from his hamburger.

“I love you too, baby, but where did that come from?” he asked, quirking his eyebrows.

“I don’t know, really. It’s just sometimes I look at you and I’m so overwhelmed with how much I love you. I’m so glad you’re my husband, love. It’s hard to remember what life was like before I met you. I’m just so grateful for the time we’ve had together” I answered honestly.

“Trish, baby, we aren’t really that old. We’ve still got many wonderful years to spend together, but I understand. We’ve been blessed more than most” he observed.

Jon finished his burger and we walked back to the bike and climbed on. I wrapped my arms around him and hugged him as hard as I could through the leathers. He reached for my hand and squeezed it tightly, revving the engine.

“Ready?” he asked.

“Ready” I confirmed.

We spent a few days in Sedona, relaxing and making love as the mood hit us. We then headed South in the direction of Tucson. We ended up detouring through the Coronado National Forest and we even spent a night camping under the stars. We rode through deserts and mesas, forests and valleys and took turns staying at luxury hotels when our bodies craved a little pampering and camping out in the open when we felt the need for adventure. We spent days in some places and only hours in others and we saw the country in a way that can only be experienced from the seat of a bike.

We’d been gone almost a month when Jim called on the cell phone to see where we were. We’d intended to reach San Francisco where he and Cherie were living a bit sooner, but we’d lost track of time.

“We’re not that far away, actually. We’re in Las Vegas, just resting our butts for a few days” Jon laughed.

“Well, Cherie’s anxious to see Trish and it’s gorgeous here at the moment. Think you might see your way clear to heading over our way?” Jim prodded.

“Sounds like a plan, man. We should be there in a couple of days” Jon reassured him.

Jim and Cherie had moved to San Francisco a few years ago and purchased a home on the beach. Jim had become very successful after his book on the band was published and he’d had no shortage of offers for work after that. He’d written a few other articles on bands and the music scene, but he followed his heart and had begun writing screenplays. After a few mildly successful ones, he hit it big with a movie that brought in several million at the box office. He wasn’t writing much anymore beyond a few documentaries he’d been involved with as a consultant and Cherie had closed her private practice several years ago before they moved to San Francisco.

By the end of the week, we were in California and we had half a day of riding before we reached Cherie and Jim’s. I called to give them a head’s up and heard Cherie’s excited voice on the other end of the phone.

“Trish, that’s great! You’ll be here for dinner! And I’ve got a surprise I know you’re just gonna love!” she squealed.

“We should be there by six, kiddo” I assured her, smiling as I hung up the phone. Cherie was still the kid in the group despite the fact that she was in her late fifties. She was still younger than the rest of us!

We arrived just after six and Jim met us in the driveway.

“So, you two really did it. Dayum! I wish I could get Cherie to just go for a ride” he said enviously.

Cherie had had a bad experience on a motorcycle with her first boyfriend and she’d never forgotten it. Jim still rode his bike fairly often, but Cherie had never been convinced it was safe and she still worried when he was gone for more than an hour or two. We followed Jim into the house where Cherie was waiting.

“Surprise!” she yelled as we walked into the house.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Sauna Part 305

Jon and I became grandparents about a year after Richie and Carla. Stephanie had taken over my duties in managing the Fan Club and in addition to her successful career as a model, she was too busy to consider settling down and having a family just yet. It was Jesse who gave us our first grandchild.

Jesse and his girlfriend had been living together for several years when they called to tell us the news. Only Jesse had followed in his father’s footsteps and abandoned the religion he’d been raised with as he grew older. He and his girlfriend were both avid pagans and they belonged to a coven where they were both very active.

We were lounging around in the gazebo after harvesting herbs for a midsummer feast and the air was heavy with the scent of a coming storm. We heard the phone ring and quickly gathered our things and rushed towards the house, but only in time to hear the message Jesse left on the answering machine.

“Dad, Trish, it’s Jess. Wanna come to a Wiccaning around Beltaine next year?” followed by Jesse’s deep laugh and a giggle in the background.

Jon and I dropped the basket of herbs we’d been holding and stared at each other, dumfounded. Jon hit the playback and we listened again to make sure we’d actually heard the message correctly. As the shock began to wear off and we digested the news, Jon grabbed the phone and dialed Jesse’s number.

“Gods, I’m gonna be a grampa!” Jon said with a smile.

I was happy for Jesse, but for myself, well, I wasn’t so sure about moving into the role of Crone quite this soon. I had a vision of some withered old woman with great wisdom and knowledge and that just wasn’t me. The kids had never called me Mom-I was simply Trish-and I was pretty content with that arrangement. What if this new little babe started calling me Gramma? Nine months didn’t seem like enough time to get used to that idea.

“Hey Dad” I heard Jesse chuckle over the phone.

“Sounds like I won’t be the only one with that title much longer” Jon chirped excitedly.

“Yeah, I’m still getting used to that one myself. Think you can get used to hearing yourself being called Grampa?” Jesse teased.

“You better believe it! I can’t wait to tell Richie he ain’t the only one anymore!” Jon replied.

Jesse and Jon chatted back and forth and it wasn’t long before Jon realized I’d grown rather quiet. Usually I’d be champing at the bit to get my turn on the phone, but in truth I wasn’t sure what to say. I was trying to shake off the image I had about being a grandma. Jon handed over the phone and watched me expectantly, trying to gauge my reaction.

“Congratulations, Jess! It’s wonderful news and of course we’ll be there for both of you! Have you told your mom yet?” I asked, wondering how Dot was taking the news.

“Nope, Mom’s the next phone call actually. Not sure how she’s gonna like being invited to a Wiccaning versus a Christening” he admitted.

“I have no doubt she’ll be happy for both of you. She got through the Handfasting last year, so I’m sure she wouldn’t miss this event either” I said reassuringly.

I remembered the ceremony that Jon and I had attended and how awfully uncomfortable Dot and John had appeared. Jesse and Winnie had opted for a clothed ceremony since they’d invited a number of non-pagan family, but despite this concession, Dot was much stiffer than usual and I sensed her discomfort. She knew how Jesse felt and she accepted his choice of worship, but it was a whole other matter when she was confronted with it head on.

“No, I know she’ll come. I’m just not expecting much enthusiasm from her on that one. How about you, Trish? Will you do the ritual for us?” Jesse asked.

I felt a mixture of panic and pride, but mostly I was touched by the honor he was offering. I’d never conducted a Wiccaning before and I’d need to do some research, but I had plenty of time to prepare. Jesse was acknowledging my place as a Crone and I wasn’t quite ready to step into that role. It was a request I couldn’t refuse, but it confirmed what I’d already been thinking. I’d become a withered old woman in the eyes of Jon’s son. Was that how Jon saw me as well? I wondered.

“Of course, Jesse, if you’re certain that’s what you want. I am honored” I said with a gulp.

“Trish, we would be honored. It’s because of you that Dad found meaning again in his life and I probably would never have realized the importance of spirituality in my own life if it wasn’t for that. I’ve never told you how grateful I am that you introduced us to Wicca” he replied.

I had tears in my eyes and I began to choke up as I handed the phone back to Jon. He thanked his son for the honor he’d given us and slipped his arm around my waist as he hung up the phone.

“Baby, what is it? You weren’t expecting this?” Jon inquired, somewhat perplexed.

“Am I an old Crone?” I blurted out to Jon’s shock and amazement.

“A Crone? Baby, is that what’s the matter? You think you’re an old Crone?” Jon asked incredulously, unable to hide his surprise.

“I’m not even sixty! I don’t wanna be a Crone! Not yet!” I cried in despair.

“Trish, baby, c’mere. That’s not how it is” he said a little more gently, concealing his amusement as he hugged me tightly against him.

Some things were just harder on women, Jon thought to himself with a smile. He never once saw this coming as he’d never viewed me as “old”. In fact, Jon’s image of the Crone wasn’t much different than mine and so it was hard to imagine how I could possibly see myself in that way. But as he started to think more about it, he began to understand a little bit better. The Crone was the third aspect of the Goddess, the wise woman who guided the young and shared her knowledge with those who sought the wisdom of the Old Ways. In that sense, the role actually fit. It was a sign of Jesse’s respect, not a response to my age. The problem was the word “old”.

“You’re not old, babe, just…” he began but I cut him off.

“Don’t you dare say it! You’re making fun of me!” I protested.

“I was going to say wise, darlin’. You’re just wiser than the rest of us. That’s all it means” he said soothingly.

I looked at him sharply, but there was no hint of mockery, no trace of sarcasm. If he’d been teasing before, he was serious now. He knew I was genuinely distressed and his goal was to reassure me, not add to my angst. Damn, if Trish is a Crone, then that makes me the Dying Holly King, he thought soberly. Hell, I’m not ready for that either!

Just as the Goddess has three faces, so does the God. We recognize the Goddess in each of her aspects: Maiden, Mother and Crone and she is always present in one of her incarnations, representing the stages in the lives of women. The God cycles with the seasons and begins as the Child in the Spring and later becomes the consort to the Goddess, the Stag King. As Winter arrives, he is transformed into the Holly King who then dies, only to be reborn once again as the Child when light returns to the earth.

“Jon, we are getting older” I reflected.

“Yeah, but we’re not ready to just fade away. The final Winter will come for us Trish, but not before many more Summers have passed. If you’re a Crone, then you’re the damned hottest one…” he began resolutely but I hugged him and kissed him before he could finish.

“Am I still your Stag King?” he whispered into my ear and I nodded vehemently.

“Then you’re still my Queen” he whispered as he scooped me up in his arms and carried me up to the bedroom to prove it.


The Wiccaning itself went very smoothly. We’d had nine months to get used to the idea and by the time our grandson was born, Jon and I had accepted our roles as grandparents. Someday I’d feel like a Crone, but that time was still a way off and we weren’t in a hurry to get there. Dot and John seemed better prepared this time as well and they seemed more at ease once the formal ritual was over.

“What you said, Trish, during the ceremony-it was beautiful. Really” Dot said as she passed me a honey cake and I poured her a glass of the mead we had brewed for the occasion.

“Thank you, Dot. I’m so glad you were both here. I wish Carol and John Sr. could have been here with us too” I replied.

Carol had passed away in the Fall after a stroke took her life unexpectedly. Jon’s dad was bereft and never fully recovered and he’d left us in the Spring to follow his wife. Jon had been devastated and despite all that had happened, I felt the loss too. Carol had surprised everyone when she became sober and Jon and she had reconciled for just over a decade when the tragedy struck. I was glad he’d had his mom back for a while, even if it meant that he grieved the loss that much harder when the time came. I had wished she could have been there that day.

Matt was the only other family member not in attendance. Jon and he never spoke again and out of deference to his father, Jesse did not invite him. We’d heard from Jon’s parents that Matt had been married and later divorced, but the kids didn’t keep in contact with their uncle as Matt never attempted to make amends for what he’d tried to do to their father. It left a hole in Jon’s heart, but he refused to make the first move and I respected his decision and I actually agreed with it. I never wanted to see Jon hurt that badly again.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Sauna Part 304 (12 years later, 2019)

The years had marched on and time had been good to us. Jon and I were as close as two people could possibly be and we’d managed to negotiate the rocky shoals of independence without destroying the bond that kept us connected. The passion we’d shared in the beginning burned brightly still and the flame of desire never left us; it just became a less frequent visitor as we grew older.

Floyd, Opie and Zeke were gone now, but we’d been blessed with our newest addition, Richard the cat, for several years. My sweet little Edward had become an old man and he seemed to enjoy his seniority. There were times when he asserted his position in our household and poor little Richie had no choice but to give ground, but mostly Eddie had become a generous old codger who no longer needed to entirely hog all the attention. Today, however, was not one of those times and Richie was licking his wounds on the floor while Eddie claimed his rightful place on the bed between us.

“He’s still a spoiled brat, you know” Jon baited me, turning towards me in the bed.

“And you’re still just jealous because he always gets what he wants” I replied with a smirk.

“I got what I wanted this morning” he replied with a gleam in his eye.

“I think we both did” I bantered back.

“Touché” Jon laughed, stretching before he sat up.

“French toast?” I asked, making puppy dog eyes.

“Yes, mistress” Jon mocked indulgently.

That was another thing that had changed over the years. Jon had actually learned to cook. Now, mind you, he hadn’t reached the level of gourmet chef-that was Richie’s domain-but he’d learned how to make some pretty passable dishes and French toast was one of his specialties. Jon threw on his robe and padded down to the kitchen, little Richie following in his wake.

“C’mon, lil’ buddy, Daddy will get your breakfast too” Jon cooed to the cat who mewed gratefully back.

It was a glorious day and the sun was shining high in the sky, brilliant against the back drop of azure blue we still saw only in Colorado. We’d sold the house back in Buffalo and we’d kept the place in New Jersey although we rarely used it. Jon had become quite the homebody over the years and he still didn’t care much for hotels after so many years of touring. It was good to have a place of our own when we decided to visit New Jersey and we did fly back fairly often to see the kids.

Stephanie had grown into a beautiful young woman and she’d begun a career in modeling, so she stayed close to the city. Jesse lived in New York in a loft where he had plenty of space to work on his painting and he’d begun to develop a bit of a following after his first successful gallery show. Jakey, who now insisted we call him Jake, was a senior in high school and Romeo was a sophomore. Romeo’s name fit him well, too, as he’d grown into a younger version of Jon and had become quite the heartthrob. He’d even started a band.

Jon still toured occasionally, but nothing like he had done in his heyday. Tico and Hugh had rebelled on the last extended tour and Jon had relented, realizing he too was growing tired of feeling so driven himself. When he got restless these days, he found other things to capture his interest and he and Richie still did a number of spotlight performances all by themselves. That was enough.

And Richie. Richie was enjoying one of the best periods in his life now. It had taken a few years, but once he’d become comfortable with himself again, he’d found the love of his life. His soulmate for real. I’d never seen Richie happier than he was now. It all happened a year or so after the ‘Lost Highway’ tour.

Richie met Carla in Rehab where they were both working on maintaining their sobriety. Richie had spent a year toying with trying to control his drinking before finally realizing it really was all-or-nothing when it came to his nemesis, alcohol. After a particularly public misadventure where his drinking and driving had jeopardized Ava, Richie sobered up and realized things needed to change. He hadn’t touched a drop since.

Carla had checked into Rehab on the same day as Richie and they bonded at first out of sheer misery. Carla was just a bit older than Richie, but she was still quite a knock-out with gorgeous blonde hair and a vivacious personality that years of adversity hadn’t dampened. I secretly suspected that she bore some connection to Dick Clark, or at least shared his genes; Carla could have easily passed for being just over forty rather than her fifty-something years. When Richie became quiet and morose, Carla could bring him out of his shell.

Despite all the warnings not to hook up when first reaching sobriety, Carla and Richie were good for each other. They started off merely as buddies, supporting each other in their mutual struggles with the bottle. Jon’s mother actually had become Richie’s sponsor and that went a long way to healing the breech between Jon and his Mom. Both Jon and I had initially been a bit leery of Richie’s blossoming relationship with Carla, but it was Carol who encouraged him to follow his heart. She knew from experience how much it mattered to have a partner who loved you.

Carla was such a departure from Richie’s previous girlfriends and that in itself was a refreshing improvement. She had none of the narcissism we’d come to expect and she stayed in the background when the flash bulbs went off. Carla’s “career” had been raising her children and she’d done a remarkable job considering she’d had little help. Richie found himself welcomed into the fold and it helped take the place of the family he’d always wanted. Carla’s children were older than Ava, but they showered her with attention and took her under their wing. Richie’s home was no longer a quiet, somber abode; it was filled with noise and activity and that suited him well.

Ava had just graduated from high school when Richie became a grandfather for the first time. Carla’s eldest daughter, Maria, and her husband had their first baby and one would have thought the babe had a fan club as the whole clan waited expectantly at the hospital. Richie couldn’t have been more excited if it had been his own child and Ava finally had the chance to play “big sister” herself. It was almost a competition between Grampa and Aunt Ava as far as who got to babysit the golden haired little angel who they appropriately named Angela.

I remember Richie and Carla’s wedding as if it was yesterday. Jon and I had flown out for the week and we ended up staying with Cherie and Jim. Richie’s enormous house was packed to the rafters with family and Richie couldn’t wipe the smile off his face if he’d been told we were under nuclear attack. His joy was infectious and I remember feeling for the first time that he was really okay.

The wedding itself was held on the beach and we were all in attendance when Richie and Carla exchanged their vows. It was a simplified Catholic ceremony, as they had both found their faith in the religion with which they were raised, and while it was very different from Jon’s faith and mine, it was still very spiritual and I cried the whole time. Jon was Richie’s best man, of course, and Carla’s eldest daughter was her Maid of Honor, but she’d asked me to be one of her bridesmaids and I was honored.

“Trish” Richie said, smiling softly after the ceremony.

“Oh Richie…I’m so happy for you” I bawled into his chest.

He patted my back and held me close as he spoke.

“Trish, you don’t have to worry about me any longer. I never thought this day would come, but I finally feel the love I’d witnessed for so long between you and Jon. I never thought it was possible to feel like I do…” he said in a trembling voice.

I looked up at his face and saw the sprinkling of tears that were threatening to fall, but his eyes were full of the love that he’d found. Gone from his face was that haunted look I’d come to recognize over the years and I saw no trace of the emptiness that had left wrinkles of sadness in his otherwise perfect features. Somehow now, they looked like they belonged; a living testament to the pain he’d endured for so long. But that was the past, and Richie was reborn as the man he had always been meant to be.

“Richie, you deserve nothing less. I know Jon and I were skeptical at first, but any doubts that we had were erased some time ago. Carla is a remarkable woman and we’re glad that you found one another” I said honestly.

“Your blessing means the world to me, you know. No one else, besides Carla, knows me like you and Jon. I’m so grateful to have you both here to share in this day” Richie replied as he wiped the tears from my cheek. “So let’s celebrate!” he said with a laugh as the shadows of the past disappeared from his face.

And celebrate we did! It was a fabulous party and we played on the beach for the rest of the day. There was volleyball and swimming for the kids and younger adults and food aplenty for us older folk. As the sun receded beyond the horizon, bonfires were lit and the guys gathered round to sing and play together in a medley of tunes. It was almost a catalog of hits as they strummed their way through the decades of music they’d all shared together. The final song was a beautiful one that Richie had just written for Carla and he sang to her in a voice pure and sweet. I’ll never forget the words that he spoke:

When I was lost, you searched 'till you found me,
When I was deaf, you spoke 'till I heard you.
When I was trapped, you released the chains that had bound me,
I’m no stranger any longer, not since you loved me.

The evening moved into nighttime and the band that was actually hired for the wedding took over the entertainment. Jon and I danced barefoot under the stars and it was a magikal time. The countenance of the Goddess shone down upon us and all was right with the world.