Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘Jeff Wilson (1963-2011)

Sold a SF Story to “How Beer Saved the World” Anthology…and it’s Out

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Folks, a few months ago I got the delightful news that my science fiction short story “On the Making of Veffen” had sold to editor Phyllis Irene Radford’s HOW BEER SAVED THE WORLD anthology.  But, as per usual in this business, I couldn’t mention it until the anthology was officially either “on the schedule” at Sky Warrior Book Publishing with a definite release date, or when it was listed at Amazon.  (UPDATE: It’s also listed at Smashwords, if you’d prefer to buy it there.  Several overseas friends have already written to me and let me know that the first link, to Amazon, is “United States only,” so I really hope the Smashwords link will work for anyone who wishes to buy the anthology but does not live in the U.S.)

How Beer Saved the WorldAs of April 27, HOW BEER SAVED THE WORLD has been available at Amazon as an e-book.  Which is why I’m now free to discuss my story and the whole idea behind this fourteen-story anthology.  Containing stories by Ms. Radford, Brenda Clough, Nancy Jane Moore, and many others, it’s described over at Book View Cafe as:

Here’s a book that takes issue with the popular image of beer as the drink of sports-watching couch potatoes: How Beer Saved the World, an anthology of quirky short stories celebrating beer. Edited by Book View Cafe’s Phyllis Irene Radford, and including stories by BVC members Brenda Clough and Nancy Jane Moore, this is a collection of 14 different takes on positive outcomes brought on by beer.

Beer goes back to the early days of the human race. As it says in the introduction, “Fermented grains have been a mainstay of the human diet almost as long as we have been human.” So pour yourself a cold one and sit down with these stories.

Or, if you’d rather see the official press release put out by Maggie Bonham of Sky Warrior Books, here you go:

And on the Eighth Day God Created Beer.

Beer is what separates humans from animals… unless you have too much.
Seriously, anthropologists, archeologists, and sociologists seem to think that when humans first emerged on earth as human, they possessed fire, language, a sense of spirituality, and beer.
Within these pages are quirky, silly, and downright strange stories sure to delight and entertain the ardent beer lover by authors such as Brenda Clough, Irene Radford, Mark J. Ferrari, Shannon Page, Nancy Jane Moore, Frog and Esther Jones, G. David Nordley, and many more!

(Obviously, as a lesser-known author, I’m among the “many more” here.)

My story, “On the Making of Veffen,” concerns Terran Ambassador Betsy Carroll and her N’Ferran friend, the N’Ferran Scholar (and Fearless One), Asayana.  (Or as I call him, Scholar Asa for short.)  Asa is avian, but he loves veffen — every N’Ferran drinks veffen every day, including the infants — and he and Betsy have bonded over the years due to their mutual love of fermented beverages (among other things).  This story starts out with the two of them drinking a tall glass of veffen in the local tavern — veffen, of course, was described in the story as “…akin to a rich Irish stout, even though it had a taste all its own that was rich, nutty and bitter as all dark beer, yet with a hint of entrancing sweetness.”  (Do I know my beer, or what?)

Anyway, this meeting is bittersweet, because it’s the last time Betsy sees the elderly Asa alive.  Yet Asa’s disappearance and eventual death are mysterious.  So the questions aren’t so much as “whodunnit?” as “why did they do it?” as it’s obvious that the N’Ferrans as a whole want to keep something quiet — and that secret has a great deal to do with veffen.

Now, as the anthology is very upfront that beer saves the world, you can assume that what Asa does — which I refuse to spoil (go buy the book already in e-book format; it’s a steal at $4.99, truly) — is of vital importance, and that it, too, has a great deal to do with the nature of veffen.  And that it will, indeed, save his world of N’Ferra.**

The other authors here have stories that range from satirical to serious, from the ridiculous to the sublime.  All feature some form of beer.  And in some way, shape or form, beer saves the world.  Which is why it’s a truly different and special anthology, one that should be of interest to beer drinkers everywhere — most especially in my home state of Wisconsin, home of beer, cheese, and brats.

In my opinion, HOW BEER SAVED THE WORLD has a story to please every palate.  So if my story doesn’t interest you — though I really hope it does — go check out the anthology anyway, because something else probably will.

———–

** A lengthy aside:  “On the Making of Veffen” was written in memory of my late best friend, writer Jefferson A. Wilson (1963-2011).  Jeff never managed to get a story published, but he kept trying, and his work had worth and value.  Unfortunately, his life was cut short before he could completely deliver on his promise.

As my story is about  unusual best friends and the enduring nature of friendship as much as anything else, I couldn’t help but think of Jeff.   But I couldn’t figure out how to dedicate the story officially to Jeff as the words refused to come.

Still, I dedicated this story to Jeff inside my head and heart, which is far more important.

Without knowing my friend Jeff, I doubt I would’ve written a story remotely close to this one.  And I have to admit that the reason my N’Ferrans are avian is because Jeff liked sauroids nearly as much as dragons (God/dess, did Jeff love dragons), and yet Jeff never wrote a story about avians as far as I know.  Which is why I wrote one instead, as it seemed remarkably appropriate.

Finished and Sent Off a Short Story

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While I remain more under the weather than not — and boy, am I tired of having to write those words — I was able to complete a short story and send it off to an anthology over the weekend.  (For those of you also on Facebook who’ve seen my recent status updates, this is the same story I discussed on Friday evening.)

Mind you, this is the first short story I’ve written in at least four months.  And as such, I’m pleased with it.

Of course, as with just about all of my shorter efforts, my story has a plot that would probably better befit a novel.  And I’ve already had one offer from a friend to help me turn it into just that down the line, so I guess there must be some promise in it.

Let us hope the anthology editor thinks so as well, whether she is able to buy it or not.  (I take all the reassurance I can get.)

As far as everything else . . . you might be wondering why I checked both “remembrance” and “persistence” with regards to this post as far as categories go.  It’s simple: the reason I came up with this particular short story has a great deal to do with my (deceased) good friend Jeff Wilson.  In this newest of my short stories, I showed an unlikely friendship between a human and an alien and how many things were left unspoken between the pair that seemed to be in complete accord.

Then something happens where the alien is no longer able to speak for himself.  (I know aliens don’t have to be male or female, but in this case this particular alien is male.  So let’s go with it, shall we?)

The human friend does her best to figure out what’s going on even though her alien friend is no longer available to discuss all the options with her.  And she solves a mystery — or perhaps comes up with a new one — while vowing all the while to never, ever forget her friend.

As I said, this story was prompted because of how much I miss my friend Jeff.  It’s not a story that I would’ve come up with otherwise, though I have had a few stories since my late husband Michael’s death that, to one extent or another, were greatly impacted by his passing.  (Most of them, to be honest.  Save this one.)

I’d like to think that my friend would be honored by the fact that I’ve written this story, even though it’s far from perfect.  (I know I shouldn’t say that, as the story hasn’t even been read by the anthology’s editor as of yet.  But I tend to think none of my stories are perfect — not even ELFY, though that one comes the closest by miles to what I’d dreamed it should be — which perhaps means I’m being overly perfectionistic again.)  I also think he’d be pleased that I’d written a science fiction story — when he had to know I’m more conversant with fantasy — because it means I’m better able to let the story tell me where it wants to go, rather than go where I think it should.

(This last may make no sense to non-writers.  But it is still the truth.)

I would like to think that our loved ones — friends, husbands, makes no nevermind — will live on as long as we remember them.

All I know is, I will never forget Jeff Wilson.  Not ever.

I just hope he knew that.

And I hope, someday, in some faraway place, that I’ll be able to ask him what he thinks of this story.  Because when I wrote it, I thought a great deal about him.

And smiled.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 4, 2013 at 7:43 am

Another Sad Anniversary

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The last ten days or so have been rather challenging.

In addition to the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, which is nowhere near as much fun without my husband Michael (his charm, wit, love of football and willingness to cook made any holiday much more fun, not to mention more memorable), I’ve also observed two other sad anniversaries:

First, I observed the first anniversary of my friend Jeff Wilson’s passing on November 13.  A particularly sad day, but I said nothing because I was too upset to even discuss it.

Next — today — I observed my friend Jeff’s 49th birthday.

Jeff was an extraordinarily kind and compassionate man.  He was funny in his own, quiet way (often surprising himself as much as me), he loved his four cats, he followed politics and current events and some sports — the latter, I think, so he’d have something else to discuss with me as he knew I’m a big sports-lover.

And Jeff had a rare gift of insight, something I’ve only found in one other person (my husband Michael); because of this, he tolerated no weasel-words, and would not be fobbed off by any polite words (such as “I’m fine,” which to him always signaled something else, something along the lines of, “What’s wrong, and how can I help?”).

I never was all that great at observing Jeff’s birthday.  I wish I had been better at it.

I can say that I tried, every day, to observe how important he was to me and let him know this.  Because I felt that was the most important thing; he needed to know that I found him a worthy friend, and an interesting person, and someone with many special gifts to offer the world.

I miss my friend Jeff profoundly, and I wish he were here on his 49th birthday, just so he could tell me to stop worrying so much about him.

Even though he knew I wouldn’t.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 21, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Health Care, the 2012 Election, and Why You Should Care

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Folks, even though I can’t stand it when people snipe at each other over the election (as I said in my previous blog in a “quick hit”), there are legitimate issues that need to be discussed.  To wit: health care.

Now, why am I bringing this up?  It’s simple — I just read two heartbreaking columns in the New York Times online edition by writer Nicholas Kristof (the second one is called “Scott’s Story and the Election”) about the life and death of his friend, Scott Androes.  Scott, you see, was self-employed, didn’t make a whole lot of money in his later years, and went without health care because he didn’t have health insurance.

Many people do this, in this day and age.

However, Scott’s story turned tragic when he found blood in his urine.   At this point, he went to the doctor; after some twists and turns, it turned out that Scott’s PSA was extremely high (4 is normal; Scott’s was over 1100) and that he had Stage 4 Prostate Cancer.  He started getting the treatment he needed — fortunately his local hospital was quite good and wrote off most of the care he needed (this was essential, as the cash cost was $550,000 — no misprint) — but it was not enough.  Scott Androes died at only 52.

The reason Kristof cares (aside from being a compassionate human being) is that Scott was Kristof’s college roommate.  Their lives diverged to a degree, but Kristof knew what was going on with his friend — knew that Scott Androes was, in general, a thoughtful and practical human being who tried his best to do what he felt was right.  But because he was low-income in the latter years of his life, Scott skimped on health care because he couldn’t afford health insurance — something Kristof’s first column about Scott called, in its headline, “A Possibly Fatal Mistake.”

It’s wrong that the United States allows men like Scott Androes to die far earlier than they should, merely because they lack financial means to buy affordable health insurance.  (Note that Kristof carefully explains that for many years, Scott did have enough money to buy health insurance and chose not to do so.  But my guess is that in the last few years of Scott’s life, where he was only making $13,000 per year as a part-time tax consultant, Scott no longer had the means to buy the health insurance that may have saved his life.)

Kristof is right that when people lack health insurance, they are afraid to go to doctors.  Thus, they put off regular screenings.  Which means if problems are found later, they’re going to be harder to treat — if not impossible — and far more expensive to treat, to boot.

I know this full well, because my best friend, Jeff Wilson, died last year one week before his 48th birthday.  (I wrote extensively about Jeff at the time; please see previous blogs about Jeff’s life, death, and my difficulties in coming to terms with his loss.)  Jeff definitely is someone Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney needs to know about, as Romney has insisted that people supposedly do not die in the United States because they’re poor because “we have emergency rooms.”  Yet that completely misses the point; people do die every single day because they lack money, they lack health insurance, and thus they don’t go to doctors when perhaps their illnesses are still treatable.

And in case I haven’t made the point strongly enough, here it is — my friend Jeff died because he was poor.  Because he didn’t have medical insurance.  And because he was afraid of racking up big bills he knew he couldn’t afford to pay, he didn’t go to the doctor soon enough.

That is the main reason why my friend, Jeff Wilson, one of the brightest and kindest men I’ve ever known, did not live to see his 48th birthday.  And for anyone to say otherwise is completely and utterly ludicrous . . . which is why I have no sympathy for Republicans like Mitt Romney or his running mate, Representative Paul Ryan, when they insist that people don’t die in this country for lack of health care due to being poor.

Maybe Mitt Romney means well; I’d like to think he does.  Maybe Paul Ryan means well, too — as he’s my U.S. Rep., I know his record rather well, so I have a much more jaundiced view of him than I do of Romney — and of course I’d like to believe that Ryan, too, means well.

However, the fact is that our health care system is completely and irretrievably broken.  And while the Obama “Affordable Health Care Act” is far from perfect — I don’t think it went nearly far enough, and the burden on independent doctors to get portable health care records up and running is completely asinine — at least it attempts to do something about the problems with the health care industry in this country, rather than ignore it and do nothing.

Or worse, what Romney and Ryan are doing right now in their insistence on hammering home the hard right talking point that “no one dies in the U.S. due to a lack of health insurance,” which is at best misleading, and at worst is wrong to the point of absurdity.

All I’m saying is this: if you like Romney and Ryan, fine.  But use your heads; think about the choices you’re making.  And then ask this one important question:  if you had no money, and you had a bad health condition, would you be more likely to wait because you were afraid to pay the bill?  Or would you instead be virtuous (as the hard right in this country believes we all must be) and go in and rack up those big medical bills, then wonder how on Earth you’re going to pay for it all?

Even if you’re in the second category (and get the charity care deductions, manage to get things written off as did Kristof’s friend Scott), how can you believe that this is the right way for any society to behave, when better alternatives clearly exist?  The city of La Crosse, Wisconsin, has a healthcare exchange that’s worked very well, for example.  Championing that makes sense.  So why don’t the right-wing candidates seem to believe that’s a viable strategy, rather than using this “us-versus-them” stuff that’s got us all in such an uproar that FB friends of long-standing are frothing at the mouth whenever any political comment is raised whatsoever?

That’s why I urge you to use your head for more than just a hat rack, folks; do your homework, and vote accordingly.  Then do whatever you can to remember that compassion is not a lost art, and that we really do have more in common with our fellow man than not, which is why we should work together rather than allow ourselves to be any further divided by petty partisanship than we already are.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 26, 2012 at 3:40 am

Whitney Houston dies at 48

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Whitney Houston has died at age 48.

I heard the news tonight on various channels, including MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News, so there is no mistake.  Houston is dead, and her beautiful voice and ability to emote while singing has died with her.

From a musical standpoint, there was a great deal to admire about Houston.  She had an operatic range, which is rare for singers of popular music (only Mariah Carey among current pop singers has anything close to the range of Houston).  She also chose great songs from great songwriters; for example, one of Houston’s best-known songs, “I Will Always Love You,” was originally written and performed by Dolly Parton — herself no slouch as a singer.  Yet Houston was able to add something to Parton’s excellent song to the point that if you asked ten people who’d heard each version which one they liked better, seven out of ten would probably say they liked Houston’s version better.

Houston’s death is a great loss for the music community.  And even knowing that the Grammy Awards are tomorrow (where music as a whole celebrates music and musicians), and that there will have to be a Houston retrospective, it doesn’t help overmuch because it just doesn’t seem right that someone so vital die at age 48.

As anyone who’s read my blog knows, I resonate strongly to this because my late husband Michael died at age 46, suddenly and without warning.  Then my best friend Jeff died last year, suddenly and without warning, after he’d fought off the worst of a terrible bacterial infection and seemed to be on the upswing, at age 47.  This is why it really and truly does not seem right to me that someone who still had so much left to give is dead at age 48.

I tend to think a person’s life has to be measured by what he or she did with it; in the case of Houston, I believe she was as successful as she could be, considering the terrible toll drug addiction had exacted from her.  She was a gifted performer, a fine singer, and by many accounts was a very kind person whose only real weakness was drugs.

At any rate, Houston’s life is over; she’s done all she could, and now all we have left are the recordings she left behind.

I refuse to say “rest in peace” because the phrase has been so overused that it’s trite.  I’d rather say that my heart goes out to Houston’s daughter, Bobbi Kristina, Houston’s ex-husband, Bobby Brown (someone that Houston stayed close to even after she divorced him), her mother Cissy Houston (a gifted singer in her own right), and cousin Dionne Warwick (one of the best singers of the ’60s, ’70s, and early ’80s), along with anyone else who knew Houston or loved her music.  May they be comforted by their memories and/or her music; may her spirit find happiness in Eternity.  (Amen.)

————

** Note:  Whatever else that can be said about my late husband, or my best friend Jeff, know that up until the day of each man’s passing, they learned, changed, grew, and became better people the longer they lived.  This is not to say they were saints (saints are boring); they were good men, which is a whole lot tougher thing to be than it seems.

Whitney Houston, according to Rev. Al Sharpton, had beaten most of her demons (this is my best paraphrase from hearing Sharpton on CNN and earlier on MSNBC); CNN has reported that Houston was about to star in her first movie in 15 years.  So as far as anyone knows right now, Houston was clean and sober.  She was able to act.  And she was able to perform again, albeit with a voice that was badly ravaged by drugs — though even had she “stayed clean” throughout her life, the voice tends to break down for many operatic-trained sopranos in their late 40s.

To my mind, Houston’s life was a success.  Not because she was such a great singer, but because she kept trying and didn’t give up.  In this way — and perhaps only in this way — she was like my husband, or my friend, and that’s the main reason I mourn her passing.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 11, 2012 at 9:45 pm

2011: My Year in Review (the Good, the Bad, and the Incredibly Sad)

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Everyone’s doing a “2011 Year in Review” column; at some places, like Shiny Book Review, this makes more sense (there, we did a “best of 2011” piece; check it out here).  So I thought I’d do one, too, incorporating most of what went on that’s fit to print that made any sort of impact on my life whatsoever.

Note that as Shiny Book Review has already been covered, I’m not going to say much about it here; I enjoyed posting reviews in 2011, and I will continue to do the same in 2012.

As far as fiction writing goes, I estimate that I wrote about 150,000 words on various projects.  I completed a new chapter and a half of CHANGING FACES; this will be finished in 2012.  I wrote a new chapter and revised five chapters of KEISHA’S VOW, an ELFY prequel set in 1954.  I wrote a new chapter and a half and revised six chapters of AN ELFY ABROAD, the direct sequel to ELFY.  I did my best to find an agent, but found no takers.

As far as editing goes, I was pleased to edit six different books — one on conventions and careers, four medical books (including one anthology), and one science fiction novel.  More editing is planned for the New Year.

Now, let’s get to the month-by-month breakdown of other events.

January 2011: 

New Republican Governor Scott Walker takes office, turns down federal railroad funds (following through on his election promise to do so), vows to work with everyone, etc.  (Too bad that last was all talk.)

“Joey Maverick: On Westmount Station” published at e-Quill Publishing (with Michael B. Caffrey).  This is the first piece of writing in Michael’s universe sold in over five years; I wrote over half of this story, but it continues to go under Michael’s name as an editorial decision by e-Quill’s publisher as it’s a continuing series.  (I’m sure Michael wouldn’t have approved, but there’s nothing to be done.  My name is on it as the secondary writer and there’s a permanent link to this story on this blog’s sidebar.)

Green Bay Packers blow through post-season, winning the National Football Conference championship.  Will represent NFC in the Super Bowl.

January 8:  United States Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) shot in the head by crazed gunman; she miraculously survives and recovers.  Several staff-members and innocent bystanders killed, including U.S. District Judge John Roll.  Gunman in police custody.

February 2011: 

February 6:  Packers win Super Bowl XLV. 

February 11:   Scott Walker vows to eliminate collective bargaining for all public employee unions (including teachers, nurses, and snowplow drivers, among others) except for fire and police personnel.  A firestorm of protest follows; the fourteen Democratic state Senators (“Wisconsin 14”) flee the state in order to deny the Legislature a quorum to keep the Republican-dominated Senate from passing a companion bill to the quickly-passed bill from the Republican-dominated Assembly.  The “WI 14” state their reason for doing this as the only way to educate the public as to what this bill will do to the state; more protests ensue.

March 2011: 

Gov. Walker and his allies, including Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) and Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon, brother of Scott F.), take to the airwaves urging the WI 14 to return to Wisconsin so Senate Bill 10 (eliminating collective bargaining for all public employee unions, even though the teachers, nurses, etc., have all vowed publicly to take paycuts and give back vacation days and pay more for their health and life insurance providing collective bargaining is left in place) can be passed.

March 9:  Senate strips all financial provisions out of the bill, allowing it to be passed without a quorum.  Only Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) opposes this bill, saying it goes too far; the Senate passes this motion 18-1.

March 12:  WI 14 returns to state to loud acclaim from most; some vow to recall their sitting state Senators from both parties.

April 2011: 

Milwaukee Brewers start their season.

Vinny Rottino starts season with New Orleans Zephyrs of the Pacific Coast League (affiliated with the Florida Marlins, prior to the Marlins’ name change).

JoAnne Kloppenburg loses state Supreme Court race to incumbent David Prosser by less than 1/2 of 1% of the vote.  Recount commences.

April 21:  Recall petitions filed for nine Senators, six Republicans and three Democrats.  Elections scheduled for three different days; the first is held in mid-July.

May 2011:

Rottino has a fantastic month for the Zephyrs. 

Brewers are still rounding into form. 

Looking forward to recall elections. 

Receive praise but no sales for three separate pieces of writing.

May 1:  Osama bin Laden killed, at long last.

May 23: Recount confirms David Prosser as winner of state Supreme Court seat.  JoAnne Kloppenburg decides not to sue; eventually seeks seat on state’s Appellate Court.

June 2011:

Observe my ninth wedding anniversary, the seventh spent alone since Michael’s untimely death in 2004.

Waiting avidly for recall elections.

July 2011: 

Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, and Rickie Weeks elected to represent the Brewers at the All-Star Game.  Braun is on the disabled list; does not play.  Minor controversy ensues as closer John Axford, having an excellent season, is not named to the All-Star team, nor is Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo.

Observe my late husband’s birthday even though, were he alive, he’d have taken no notice of the event.  (Michael counted unBirthdays instead, as there were a whole lot more of them, thus more to celebrate.)

Vinny Rottino makes the AAA All-Star team for the first time since 2008.

July 19: Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) is easily retained in his recall election.

July 31: Debt-ceiling crisis legislation is signed by President Obama.  Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) claims victory.  Most people unimpressed; Congress’s approval rating falls to new lows, and the President’s approval rating takes a hit, too.

August 2011:

Observe my birthday, though my best friend Jeff is many states away and my husband is long dead, so I wonder what the point is.

August 9: Two Republican state Senators, Dan Kapanke (La Crosse) and Randy Hopper (Fond du Lac) are ousted in recall elections.  Another four Republican state Senators, Alberta Darling (River Hills), Robert Cowles (Green Bay), Sheila Harsdorf (River Falls) and Luther Olsen (Ripon) are retained.

August 16:  Both Democratic Senators up for recall, Bob Wirch of Kenosha and Jim Holperin of Conover, are easily retained.  Status of nine recalls:  Two Rs lost their seats, while four Rs were retained.  All three Ds were retained.  Wisconsin state Senate stands at 17 Rs and 16 Ds.

September 2011: 

Vinny Rottino’s fine AAA season is rewarded by a September call-up from the Florida Marlins.  He plays in several games, mostly as a pinch hitter or in the outfield.  Gets a few hits.

Occupy Wall Street (soon to be Occupy Everywhere) movement starts.

Tenth anniversary of 9/11/01. 

Observed the seventh anniversary of Michael’s last day of life on 9/21/11. 

Late September: Jeff falls ill but does not go to the doctor. 

September 28: Milwaukee Brewers win first National League Central division title in history, make post-season play for first time since 2008.  Hopes are high.  John Axford sets single-season saves record with 46 and most saves successfully converted in a row with 42.

October 2011:

October 7:  Brewers win first post-season series against Arizona Diamondbacks (3-2).

mid-October:  Jeff is taken to the hospital and is quickly transferred to the best specialty hospital in Northern Colorado.  Bacterial endocarditis is the diagnosis.  I don’t find out about it until he’s been in the hospital seven days (fortunately he told a good friend there how to get a hold of me).  He nearly dies on the table due to open-heart surgery, something I don’t find out until nearly two days afterward.  He’s unable to talk for nearly two weeks and is mostly unresponsive to stimuli.  Death seems near.

October 16:  Brewers lose National League Championship series to eventual World Series champs St. Louis Cardinals; I’m more obsessed with Jeff’s condition and say so.

October 20:  Moammar Qaddafi, dictator of Libya, killed.  This, too, barely registers.

November 2011:

Jeff slowly starts to get better, regaining his powers of speech and mobility.  Cannot read well, which vexes him as a longtime, avid reader — and cannot write or create, which vexes him as a writer.  He improves so much he’s transferred to a long-term rehabiliation place (I talk with him every night he’s able, which basically is every single night).

However, Jeff only lives for four days after he’s transferred to rehab; in our last conversation on November 11, he tells me he’s exhausted and wondering when he’s going to get better, though he’s mostly upbeat.  Inwardly, I cheer that he has enough energy to mildly complain; I look forward to our next phone call, which was to be on November 12 at 7:45 p.m MST.

November 12:  At 7 p.m. MST, Jeff has a massive stroke and is taken back to the specialty hospital.  I don’t find out about this until November 13; all I know at the time is that Jeff hasn’t answered his phone, and I’m not able to get anyone at the rehab place to find out why.

November 13:  Get call from Jeff’s brother, Randy; Jeff is dead.  The stroke killed him.  His parents were with him when he died. 

None of this comforts me at all, as I’d been hoping somehow to get out to him to visit and cheer him up. 

His death, which a few weeks ago had seemed imminent, now seems like an extremely bad joke made by an unloving, uncaring Deity; Jeff had worked so hard to regain his speech and mobility, and could reason and think.  His personality and most of his memories were intact.  He deserved a lot more time, to fully recover, and for him and I to be able to see each other, bare minimum.  To say that I find this monstrously unfair is a severe understatement.

November 15:  Wrote a poem for Jeff, in memoriam.  I hope he’d have enjoyed it (poem is below).

November 21:  Jeff would’ve turned 48 today, had he lived.  Instead, his memorial service is called in Fort Collins, Colorado, and I’m unable to go due to financial considerations (I will regret this to the end of my life, and probably afterward). 

I start to slowly come to terms with the fact that the best friend I’ve ever had, save only my late husband Michael, is dead.  (Jeff was my staunchest supporter as a writer and poet who gave well-thought out, helpful criticism.)  I find out that Jeff was writing a novel, which he’d never shown me (though he had shown me six in-progress short stories, various pieces of non-fiction, and other writing, all of it excellent), at the time of his passing.  Now, none of his writing will ever be completed.

I reflect upon Jeff’s compassion, which was probably his strongest and best quality besides his high intelligence and creativity.  I reflect upon the fact that six years ago, I had no idea our friendship would grow to the point that he was my acknowledged best friend . . . who knows where it would’ve gone, had he lived?  (Now, I will never know, and that’s a sadness I can’t even begin to express, were I to write from now until the end of time.)  I’m grateful for the time I had with him, but I really wish there had been more of it because if anyone deserved more, it was Jeff.

I wonder, again, what the point is, when I can’t even get to see my best friend before he dies, then can’t get to his funeral, either, when I dearly wanted to do both things.  (Financial considerations be damned.)

Other stuff:

November 15:  Recall petitions to oust Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Kleefisch, and Racine’s state Senator Van Wanggaard (all Rs) are filed.  I’d been looking forward to this for months, but due to Jeff’s death, it barely registers.  Did sign the recall forms and get a few signatures, as Jeff was very strongly in favor of all of these people being recalled (we talked of this on November 11, and he’s the one who brought it up — as I said, his mind was intact and it was sharp); I tell myself that he’d be happy I was doing something I’d looked forward to, and try to be content with that even though I know I’ll never hear his voice again.

Ryan Braun wins NL Most Valuable Player award.  Prince Fielder departs in free agency (is currently unsigned).

Vinny Rottino signs a minor league free-agent contract with the New York Mets; he will be invited to Spring Training.

December 2011: 

December 13:  Play first concert in thirteen years as a member of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside Community Band; I play a lengthy, extended solo in Valerie Coleman’s composition, “Roma.”   My sister is in the audience, and says I haven’t lost a thing.  (I like to think that both Michael and Jeff were listening, too, from wherever they are in the positive afterlife.  I hope they were pleased.)

mid-December:  Ryan Braun accused of taking performance-enhancing drugs; he appeals this decision and proclaims his innocence.  (For the record, I believe him.)

December 17:  North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il dies.

Just before Christmas:  Federal government plunges into yet another crisis when House of Representatives initially refuses to extend the payroll tax cut.  Speaker Boehner adamantly defends his party, which includes many hard-right Rs self-identifying as “Tea Party” members, but is eventually talked around due to public statements made by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), former George W. Bush advisor Karl Rove, and a strongly-worded Wall Street Journal editorial advising him to just give in already.  Congress adjourns and goes home for the holidays.

Winter holidays commence; once again, I wonder what the point is.  The present I’d bought for my friend Jeff gathers dust as I can’t bear to put it away, nor can I part with it; the musical composition I’m working on to commemorate Jeff’s life and death is, at best, half-finished at 64 bars.   I’m told by a couple of poets I respect that my poem for Jeff won’t stand alone, thus has no chance of independent publication — which is why it’s here, so you all can read it and think about it, instead.

Note that this is a very formal way of writing, which is quite different from my usual, free-form style.  I wanted to impose some sort of structure on my shock, which is why I came up with this particular poem.  And while I believe this is among the most important pieces of writing I’ve ever created, it’s something I profoundly wish I’d not have had to do — much less this soon.

Here goes . . . but before I forget, Happy New Year, everyone.

*********** POETRY SEPARATOR ***********

“A Poem for Jeff Wilson — in Memoriam”

by Barb Caffrey

 

One who seeks is

one who asks

the questions that

no one else dares.

 

One who seeks is

one who finds

the answers, which are

unknowable.

 

One who waits is

one who looks

for love, creeping

in unawares . . . .

 

One who waits is

one who hopes

for light, which breaks

the dark forever.

 

One who waits is

one who seeks

out answers, or

merely himself.

——– written November 15, 2011

Music, Remembrance, and Observations

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Folks, this is a difficult blog to write, mostly because I’ve been struggling with my grief process over the loss of my good friend, Jeff Wilson, all week long.  (Well, really since he died, but this week it hit hard and fast, and just hasn’t really let up for very long.)  Couple that with the holidays, and with missing my late husband Michael something fierce, well . . . let’s just say that I haven’t really had an enjoyable few weeks and save steps, shall we?  (The sinus infection I’ve been dealing with hasn’t helped, either.)

What keeps me going despite these difficult and frustrating times?  My music, that’s what.   Music has a profound resonance for me, partly because I’ve spent most of my life studying it, and partly because I think better in music than words.  (Strange, but true.)

Next Tuesday, I’ll play the first concert since making a bit of a comeback as a musician out at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in Kenosha.  The UW-Parkside Wind Ensemble and Community Band will perform, both singly and together; as first chair alto saxophone in the Community Band, I will be playing an extended solo in a piece called “Roma.”  I’m looking forward to the concert, and I hope those of my friends and family who attend will enjoy it.

That being said, it feels very strange to me to be playing a concert at this time.  I’m not one hundred percent right, not physically (even without the sinus infection, my hands continue to give me fits due to my carpal tunnel syndrome), and certainly not emotionally due to the recent loss of my friend Jeff.  But that’s not any sort of excuse to keep me from doing whatever I can; I refuse to sit on the sidelines just because I am not in the musical shape I’d rather be in, or the physical shape, either.

The last time I played a concert, it was before I had met my late husband Michael — while Michael heard me practice many times, he never got a chance to hear me play in a concert, something I will always regret.  Now, Jeff is also gone; while he was there encouraging me through both rounds of occupational therapy in the last year, which helped me regain enough of my abilities to again be able to play my saxophone (and play reasonably well), he is no longer able to hear me tell him how things are going, much less get a chance to hear a recording of the concert itself.  (With his health issues the last five weeks of his life, that would’ve been the only way for him to hear me play unless I’d been able to get out there and play for him in person.  Which of course I also wanted to do.)

So the two people who were the most important to me in this life are gone.  I can’t do anything about that, other than wish with all my heart and soul that they were still here . . . and that’s not enough.  (I’m sorry.  I wish it was, but it really isn’t.)

What I’m going to try to do, therefore, is play and hope that wherever they are, they’ll hear it and know I’m doing everything in my power to regain my musical abilities.  That meant a lot to them, and I’m sure that wherever they are now, it still does — so for the moment, all I can do is save up my experiences and hope that down the line, I’ll again be able to share with them how I felt about what I was doing in some sort of meaningful way (even if it has to be in the positive afterlife, not here).

Music, ’tis said, is a great healer.  All I know is, it helps me to be able to play right now, even though nothing is going to be able to take this pain away because I miss my husband.  I miss my good friend.  And I wish very much that they were still with me in this life, because I really would’ve liked to see their faces after I finished, triumphantly, playing my solo in “Roma.”

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 9, 2011 at 12:15 am

Jeff’s Memorial Service, and Why I Can’t Go

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Folks, this is a terrible thing.  I’ve been struggling all week with the fact that my friend Jeff Wilson is dead, that I’ll never be able to help him again, that I’ll never hear his voice again . . . and now, I can’t go to his memorial service, either.

The problem is very simple: the money isn’t there.  I really want to go.  I feel terrible that I can’t go.  I want to be around people who knew Jeff at least a little bit — people who will understand why I feel so awful that he’s gone in a way my family can’t, my friends can’t (except for the very few who knew Jeff at all) — and it’s not going to happen without a major miracle (like winning $500 tonight in the state lottery; while I do have a ticket — I always played my numbers when Michael was alive, and I’ve continued to play them — I know how unlikely it is that I’ll win just the amount needed to go to Colorado at the absolute last minute).

Now, I suppose a major miracle is still possible and if so, I will be glad to come back here and say that if it happens.  I know I prayed all week and hoped that somehow, in some way, I’d be able to get to Jeff’s memorial.  But it’s in Colorado; I live in Wisconsin, and that’s the only reason I hadn’t already found a way to get out there and visit Jeff during the last five weeks of his life — while he fought a major medical crisis, looked to all concerned as if he’d turned the corner, was getting better and was sent to a nursing home for long-term rehabilitation and care — and then he died.

I know that Jeff wouldn’t care where I mourn him.  That’s not the point.  The point is that I wanted to be there so others who didn’t see Jeff in the same way I did would know to look for his good qualities.  As I’d said before, Jeff’s personal situation was far less than stellar.  Some people only view life in materialistic terms and don’t see that a life well-lived, where there’s a great deal of personal growth going on and a deeply spiritual outlook to boot, is one that’s worth living.

Jeff was poor in material things, except for books and his cats.  But he was rich in everything else.  That’s why I wanted to be there, so I could counter some of the materialism I was likely to find at his memorial service; Jeff wasn’t someone who had a big career or job or any money at all, but he was a wonderful person.

At any rate, I will never forget Jeff Wilson.  Never.  And I guess that’ll have to be enough for me, even though it surely doesn’t feel like it right now.

————-

Edited to add:  Jeff’s memorial service has been called for 3 p.m. on Monday in Fort Collins, CO.  He will be cremated, which was his wish . . . and the memorial service is to be held on what would’ve been Jeff’s 48th birthday.  That’s yet another reason why I wanted to go, even though I have a plethora of reasons as it is.  (As I’m sure you saw.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 19, 2011 at 9:58 pm

My friend Jeff dies in CO at age 47

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Folks, this is the last post I wanted to write, and it’s taken me nearly a full day to write it since I heard the news.  My good friend Jeff died in Colorado last evening; he was only 47.  (I’m withholding his last name for now at the wishes of his family, who haven’t all been informed.)

Jeff was a deeply spiritual man, someone who followed the teachings of Confucious and appreciated Buddhism as well as Christianity.  He was principled, ethical, interesting, witty, and extremely intelligent . . . and he was my best friend for six years.

I don’t have the words to express the depth of my feelings here; as I said in my previous post “Life, the Universe, and the Unexpected,” Jeff even being in the hospital tested my faith significantly.  His death will test it even more, especially as he’d improved  a great deal in the past ten days.

I called Jeff every single day since his mind and memories returned; I gave him encouragement, I told him how much I cared, and I told him I saw a bright future for him, one I hoped I’d always be a part of . . . I know he wanted that future, and I know he valued our friendship greatly, as I valued his in return.

On Saturday, we were supposed to talk around 7:45 p.m. his time; he had a stroke around 7 his time.  (I didn’t find this information out until later this evening; before, I’d been told he’d passed away by his brother, who had few details.)  He’d been sent to a long-term care facility, which means the doctors at the hospital he’d been at believed Jeff was on the mend — they’d never have sent him, else.   That care facility sent him to the local hospital in Fort Collins, then he went back to the specialist hospital in Loveland, where he’d been before . . . they attempted emergency brain surgery but it didn’t work.

Jeff died at 3 a.m. Colorado time, early Sunday morning.

Funeral arrangements are pending at this time.

________________

Note:  I will honor my friend’s memory as best I’m able; Jeff always believed in me, my writing, my music, he loved ELFY, he was a big fan of KEISHA’S VOW and AN ELFY ABROAD (both of those in progress), loved CHANGING FACES and THE GIFT (both also in progress).  I believed in him, too; he was a good writer, he was extremely creative, and he was an outstanding friend.  I will miss him profoundly.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 14, 2011 at 2:04 am