June 26 marked the ninth anniversary of Jay's death. It’s hard to believe I’m closing in on a decade of widowhood. Every year on this date, I’ve made a point of commemorating him. Most were modest activities, with two exceptions: the first year and the fifth. The first year I rewarded myself for making it through the year, which had been filled with loneliness and grief, by attending the Spoleto Festival in Charleston. There I immersed myself in musical performances for a week, a passion not shared by Jay, which was the precise reason I chose it. It was like blowing fresh air into oppressive sorrow and helped to heal my soul.
On the fifth anniversary of his passing, I drove with a dear friend to Washington’s Pacific coast where we stayed two nights in a condo at the ocean’s edge. I lingered on several solitary walks along the water’s edge, recalling the beautiful quality times he and I had spent walking that beach together. In the other years my commemoration was far more modest—taking a favorite route for walk we loved to take together, or a visiting a saltwater park in Seattle to sit on a driftwood log and think about him. One year I spent time on a long dock at the north end of Lake Washington where we often went on Sunday mornings to watch cormorants in the winter and water-skiers in the summer. Last year I bought his favorite meal at Dick’s Drive-In and ate it in my car, remembering how I never had to ask Jay what he was going to order when we stopped there: a Deluxe Burger and a chocolate shake.
For the past eight years it was easy to come up with a meaningful activity because I was living in the neighborhood that he and I shared. Passing a familiar spot made commemorative ideas pop up easily for the 26th of June when he would be the first person I thought of in the morning and the last person on my mind as I drifted off to sleep.
This year, however, was different because I moved last July to retirement community in a neighborhood we’d never shared. I still hadn’t decided what exactly I would do when I woke up June 26. I drank my coffee and read my emails while my subconscious was strumming through ideas. The emailed activities-list for the day sent by our Activities Coordinator jolted me. That night after dinner, a Jeopardy Game was going to be hosted for our community. Because Jay loved watching Alex Trebek’s Jeopardy and always made time for it when he was home, it seemed like a perfect commemorative activity. Decision made: I would join a Jeopardy team and participate in his honor.
After we formed our teams, the leader explained that the overarching theme for our Jeopardy game that night was Brain Health Awareness, reminded us of the rules, and read the categories for the first round. The categories were tantalizing—Brain Games, Memory, Parts of the Brain, Stupid Answers and two more. The leader reminded us to use our buzzers and frame our answers in the form of a question. She arbitrarily directed someone on the other team to start: “Pick a category,” and we were off and running.
“MEMORY, for $300,” the appointee called out, whereupon the leader uncovered the clue and read: “A Two-Word Latin phrase meaning to remember someone who has died.” I rammed my buzzer—no need to confer with teammates—and was promptly called on. I nearly shouted the answer, “What is ‘In Memoriam’?” And with that, our team won the first $300 (purely pretend money) and was headed for our ultimate win, after the double match.
I couldn’t let myself think about it while playing the game, but the minute Jeopardy was over, I found myself almost shivering in awe. Of the thirty boxes holding invisible clues in the first half, any of them could have been chosen as the first. What made the first picker decide on Memory $300 instead, of, say, Brain Game $500 or Stupid Answer $100? That “In Memoriam” was the correct answer to a randomly chosen clue couldn’t have been a coincidence. . . could it?
I will never forget how I commemorated my late husband in 2023.
R.I.P. Jay O. Glerum Aug. 16, 1930 - June 26, 2014 Lover of Jeopardy