Letter Two

Second letter to Libby:


Dear Libby,

Its confession time; now it may come as a surprise to you but during our marriage when we were sitting around the house and you were talking to me, I wasn’t always listening intently to every single word that you were saying especially if there was a football game on TV.

Shocking, I know.

Case in point; I vaguely remember remarks about colors – whites- bleach – temperature and other things about laundry that you thought  I should know. Well shortly after you left, although its not really my fault (blame it on ESPN) I somehow ended up with pink underwear, tie-dyed dress slacks and a very large iron shaped logo melted into the lapel of my synthetic, wicking “no iron” shirt.

Although my laundering skills might be suspect, on the bright side I have lots of new clothes and more grease rags than I will ever use. Now, obviously there is no reason to cry over “spilt” milk, besides if  I used these letters to try and make amends for all of the foolish things I have done there wouldn’t be room for me to write about the things that have been happening.

Speaking of current events,  do you remember what we were doing at this time four years ago?  (Of course, you probably posses total recall) but in case you don’t, we were watching the 2012 London Summer Olympics. I can’t help but think of those times when we sat on the couch with a bowl of popcorn between us watching gymnastics, swimming and track and field.  Spoiler alert, the US girls gymnastic team is stronger than ever and Micheal Phelps has more gold than the Aztecs.

In the normal letter writing process this is where I would say, “Well, I’m sure you already read my first letter” but the truth is I have no clue if you even received my first letter.  It gives me a headache when I try to understand the relationship between heaven and earth. For all I know, you may have seen this letter as I typed it and maybe you witnessed the Olympics and my laundry debacle? Hey, can you see the winning lottery numbers?

Speaking of writing letters, I now have blog! Again, shocking news I know. Of course, being the author of a blog isn’t exactly a great accomplishment because if you have the ability to launch Windows Explorer, you can start a blog.  But can you believe it? Me, the guy who hated English Composition class in college is now writing without being forced to do so.

I mentioned the blog because I often look back through old pictures and letters to reminisce about our life together and sometimes  post stories about you. OK, that’s not totally true, because every story I post in my blog is about you.

A few months ago I told the story about the rainy Sunday afternoon during that time when we were remodeling the master bath. I told my blog readers how we sat together on our couch and you began crying.  If you remember, I asked why you were crying and you said, “I’m afraid the last scan is going to show that the cancer is back and I’m never going to get to sit in my new tub!”  I tried consoling but you recoiled from my hug, shook your finger in my face and said, “…and if you think that SOME WOMAN is going to sit in MY TUB, you’ve got another think coming mister”.

Well, since its confession time, some “woman” has been in your tub several times:


In other news, we are planning our 40th high school reunion, can you believe it? We have been passing around yearbooks and old photos at our planning sessions and telling stories about dances, homecoming and our favorite teachers. I really feel old when the conversation turns to kids, grand kids and even great grand kids. That got me to thinking, are you getting older in heaven or will you be 56 when I get there? Again, I am struggling with the whole dynamic of time and space between heaven and earth.

But wait, what if you are not aging and what if I don’t die until I’m 95?

How do you feel about older men?

Love, Barry


Hair Today…Wig(s) Tomorrow

Libby always had gorgeous dark hair, it was one of first things I noticed about her during Coach Killen’s gym class at Chattanooga Valley Junior High School; well, her hair and the fact that no one really wanted to pick her to play on their dodge ball team.

Libby’s hair remained roughly the same length and style for her entire adult life (except for that teased, big hair, 70’s look). Libby spent a lot of time cutting, curling and fixing that hair, so and it was traumatic when a few days after her first chemo treatment, all of that gorgeous hair started coming out by the handfuls.

Libby snowshoing

Soon after her hair came out Libby said, ” The worst part of chemo isn’t necessarily loosing my hair, it’s that people treat me different without my hair because now I look sick.”

Libby in hat

Years later Libby’s opinion changed slightly and she said, “The worst part of chemo is not that my hair, eyelashes and eyebrows all fall out, its having to deal with all of that while still shaving my legs, because for some dumb reason, my leg hair is resistant to even the most toxic chemotherapy drugs known to man!”

In the five years that Libby dealt with breast cancer we spent a lot of time (and money) on wigs and they became a fun diversion because just as she did with so many things in her life, Libby made the best of a bad situation.

Libby had on her favorite wig one day as we were visiting my dad at his house on the lake; he had been feeling ill and like most southern ladies, Libby believed that home cooking could heal most any sickness. Using my mom’s recipe and her old black iron skillet Libby decided to made some cornbread to go along with the meat and vegetables that she had cooked.

It was difficult to determine if the cornbread was done by simply turning on the oven light and peering through the dark glass, so periodically Libby leaned over and opened the lower oven door to make sure it was golden brown.  After cooking, Libby decided to let the cornbread cool on the stove top and join me for a boat ride across the lake.

As we were walking back to the house after the ride I mentioned to Libby that she needed to check her wig in the mirror because she had a wind-blown look as if we were still flying across the lake in the boat. When Libby found a mirror, I heard a scream and uncontrolled laughter as Libby came into the living room with her wig in her hand explaining that the hairs had evidently melted from the heat of the oven and then cooled on the boat ride. The wind-blown look was permanent because the synthetic hairs melted together forming a cohesive wave and it looked as if she was moving fast even while she was standing still.

Later we decided to take a short family trip to the beach and Libby thought that she should buy a blonde wig because, “Blondes and beaches just somehow seemed like they should go together.”


It was rare that we could all get together as a family since Nathan and Bethany were in Augusta but the late fall weather was perfect and I was able to spend some time walking on the beach with my newly blonde wife.

Libby learned a lot about wigs and wig care, mostly through trial an error, for instance once you get the shape and look that you like in a synthetic wig, maintaining that look is easier if it is placed over a round object instead of putting it back in its box.

Unfortunately on our beach trip we didn’t take any of the styrofoam heads to hold the wig’s shape at night so Libby found a roundish lamp shade to support her new favorite wig.  The only problem was that during the night someone decided that particular lamp would make a good night light and synthetic wigs do not do well with heat (see cornbread story above).

Yea, we may have gone through a few wigs during Libby’s five year illness but with Libby life was never dull, just ask the lady at the wig store, we helped put her son through college.

Biking to Florida

“Wow Barry, what happened to you?  You look different!”  That was Libby’s reaction in the fall of 1972 as we both began our freshman year of high school. Apparently, I had changed since leaving Chattanooga Valley Junior High three months earlier thanks, in part, to a short growth spurt and a long bike ride.

When the 3:15 bell rang on our last day of class in Junior High my mom drove me to Nashville, Tennessee where I met up with a group of guys to begin a seventeen day, 1000 mile bicycle ride to Miami Beach, Florida.  For a year I had been planning, exercising, and raising money for a trip that I was scheduled to take with these guys who had come from various churches throughout the United States. The forty bicyclist represented twenty-five different states and we were scheduled to be at the Church of the Nazarene General Assembly which was being held in just over two weeks at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

Collectively our bicycling group was called “The Spokesmen” and along the way we sang, spoke and stayed in churches as we biked through Tennessee, Georgia and down the coastline of Florida to Miami. In addition to bicycles, our caravan had a portable kitchen, motorcycle escorts, vans and mechanics traveling with us as we pedaled our “state of the art” Schwinn Continental ten speed bicycles between 65 and 110 miles each day.

During that summer in Florida between Junior High and High School I grew 4 inches and added 25 pounds to my skinny  5″-9″ and 120 pound frame which may explain why Libby claimed that she barely recognized me when she asked the question, ” Wow what happened to you?”

After the bike ride I stayed several more weeks in Florida with family friends where we spent most days water skiing or surfing. Besides the physical changes that came with an adolescent growth spurt, 1000 miles of biking, lots of time in the water and copious amounts of food; looking back now, I realize how much confidence, self-discipline and perseverance that I gained as well.

Six years later when Libby and I were engaged to be married, she saved up her money from her Red Food Store cashier job and purchased an expensive Italian-made Bianchi bicycle as birthday gift for me, encouraging me to continue riding.  I would often tease her and say that just because my physique was radically changed by a bike ride when I was 14, doesn’t mean it will happen again. Libby’s response was always the same, “Barry, that’s not the reason I bought the bike for you.  I bought the bike because I love you;   Of course if you ride enough…???…who knows???”

I did make lots of bicycling trips in the next 30 years, including one memorable ride on a tandem bicycle with my niece Samantha Gilley where we went from Chattanooga to Memphis, TN to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

After Libby’s breast cancer diagnosis, chemo and radiation treatments, we were all looking for a little distraction from all of the doctor visits, so we decided to put together a bicycling trip. I made the following two posts to the Caring Bridge website during that time; one during our trip and one shortly afterward we arrived back home:

Aug 19, 2009 7:24pm

Greetings from Troy, Alabama!  Libby is acting as our support vehicle this week while Nathan and I ride our bicycles from our house to Destin, Florida.  We have 290 miles behind us and about 130 miles remaining, dodging storms and high winds from tropical depressions while Libby is driving her car, reading her books and supplying us with water, ice, Gatorade and encouragement.  Jerod is working this week but will meet us in Destin tomorrow night and we will relax a few days on the beach before riding back home (everybody in cars this time).

The MRI that was originally scheduled a few weeks ago, was canceled as the doctor wanted to give it a few more days without the drug.  Libby has now been almost a month without the estrogen suppressant drug and the headaches and some dizziness are still persistent. Libby called her oncologist yesterday and he has re-scheduled the MRI for Tuesday August 25th at 10:15 AM.

We are praying that we can find the cause of the headaches and find a way to treat them.  Thanks for taking the time to keep up with Libby and for keeping her in your prayers.

 By Aug 26, 2009 7:19am

Dr. Schlabaugh’s office called late yesterday to say that the head MRI showed no signs of cancer!  GREAT NEWS!

As Libby and I drove back home following our Florida bike trip we listened to some CD’s on marriage and communication.  One of the lessons stated that to be a good communicator one should tell the audience what you want them to know and then briefly summarize it to make sure you are being understood.  So I am going to apply some of the knowledge I have learned about communication by summarizing the first part of this entry to make sure all of you understand:

“Libby had a brain scan MRI on Tuesday at Erlanger Hospital and they couldn’t find anything at all”.

I think those CD’s are really working!



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