Dear Mrs. Huttlinger
Due to my crazy flying schedule this past week and the airborne illnesses one tends to attract whilst moving through airports and airplanes, of which I was a germ magnet, I’m going to re-run a blog from quite a while back. It seemed to be one that many people liked. If you’ve read it before, I hope you’ll enjoy the re-read. If you haven’t, welcome.
Dear Mrs. Huttlinger,
Thank you for my wonderful husband. You don’t know me but I married your youngest son, Pete. He loved and admired you so much, and based on his description of you, I think you were a lot alike.
I wanted to let you know that although we’ve never met, the way that you lived your life is now helping me live mine. You passed on to Pete two of your most valuable traits–a hearty sense of humor and a strong degree of resilience, a solid combination of qualities that served him well.
Pete was a funny guy to say the least. He was funny at home and funny on stage. Often his fans would come up to him after a show and tell him that he should be a stand-up comic. I don’t think that was in the cards, but he obviously touched people with his sense of humor. Sometimes it was subtle and sometimes it was full on Shecky Greene, “A fisherman walked into a bar.” He subscribed to Garrison Keillor’s “Pretty Good Joke of the Day” email, and after screening would post them on his website. He even submitted to Garrison a joke that he wrote and they used it. The day it popped up in his email subscription you would have thought he’d won a Grammy we were both so excited. He believed fully in the healing powers of laughter, which would come in extremely handy for both of us over the years.
Pete often talked about your big red book of jokes and all of the index cards that you kept as you’d write down a joke that you had heard. He told me the story of how you would call him on Saturdays and tell him a new joke and that you would start laughing so hard you’d have to call back with the punchline later in the day.
As you may or may not know, Pete and I spent a lot of time in hospitals and doctors’ offices. It was his goal to make his doctors laugh, or even crack a smile. He was relentless. They’re a serious lot those docs—guess they have to be. But Pete felt that he was the sick one and that if he could laugh, so could they. It gave him a good read on what they were made of if he could tap into their sense of humor. We both needed to laugh or we would have been scared to death.
I wish you could have seen Pete perform his own shows. After all the health issues he’d had--a stroke, heart failure, multiple surgeries--he would actually go on stage and joke about it all--to relieve his stress and that of the audience. He joked about his pacemaker making him play faster. He joked about his heart pump and how he was “the best guitar player in the world…without a pulse.” He even joked about the day he had the stroke and something funny that happened to him in the throes of it. That one was even hard for me to take. But he laughed a hearty laugh with a huge smile. All that you taught him propelled him into living his life full on even with such imposing health issues.
I won’t go into your history but I know it was one marked with more tragedy and trauma than any one person should have to endure. Pete watched you carefully as a young man. He learned how to survive terrifying events by watching how you handled things. He saw how you would pick yourself up after disaster and heartbreak and move forward taking care of your family along the way. He took careful mental notes as if he knew it would someday be something he would need to draw out of his back pocket. He witnessed first-hand a person who by all accounts had the right to give up, but never did.
I learned early on in our relationship that Pete didn’t like hypotheticals. As I grew to know him I understood why. There were too many “what ifs” in life. What if his dad didn’t die when he was three, what if he wasn’t born with a bad heart, what if we’d met when we were younger. He quickly broke me of my habit because he lived in the present. You taught him that. Living a life of hypotheticals wouldn’t have helped your situation one bit. If Pete and I lived in the space of hypotheticals, that wouldn’t have helped us either. What if he’d been able to have a heart transplant? What if he hadn’t had the stroke? Pete’s resiliency was based on looking ahead and moving forward. It was really the only way he could thrive after so many catastrophic health issues.
So he learned humor and resiliency from you—and I learned it from him. And now I apply it to my life. I laugh when I can find the strength, and I look forward even if it’s just a little bit in front of me. No “what ifs”--because when your husband dies in front of you, you could swim around in “what ifs” all day and never get out of bed.
On the inside of both of our wedding bands we had inscribed —“love – laughter – friendship.” They were the three things that powered our relationship.
That was your Pete. That was my Pete.
Thank you with all my heart,
Originally posted 01/12/17