Right foot, left foot

By Doug Tenney, Leist Mercantile

This was a column I never expected to write, or thought I could, sharing my grieving with the sudden loss of my wife Cindy in May.  

Cindy encouraged me immensely in writing the Ohio’s Country Journal columns. It allowed me the opportunity few writers have, just write. Her objective was to make sure the content made sense. If it didn’t make sense to her, I knew I needed to provide clarification. She did not want confused readers.

It has been my highest privilege to share thoughts about Ohio’s agriculture over numerous columns which have spanned 20 plus years. Some columns flowed easily when there was much to share about Ohio and U.S. agriculture, detailing that grain prices were intertwined with local and global events. Others came with great difficulty even staring at a blank screen at times.

Shortly, after my columns began, Cindy pointed out that other Ohio’s Country Journal columns would often begin with a personal story. “Why don’t you do that?”

Sharing those stories became fun and easy, as Cindy and I would often do something stupid or funny, providing fodder for the next column. Ultimately, she would inquire of what the next story would be and there would be multiple potential stories ripe for the picking. Or, when I did not have a clue, she would within 30 minutes hand me her written story. All I could then offer to her was a simple, “Thank you.” Stories about our cats often resulted in readers asking, “How are the cats?”

Cindy was all about those around her, encouraging them with her time, notes, cards, and flowers. She loved people. Trips to stores, whether card or grocery, both local as well as on vacation, involved looking at countless cards along the way. Sometime the card would be for a specific person for months down the road. Often, the purchased card had no specific person in mind, but became the perfect card at its later appointed hour. For birthdays of family members, especially for my three brothers, she would consult me with 3 to 5 cards of which any could easily be “the one.” Humor was often the theme. At times I was overruled, with her choice getting mailed — her choice was obviously the correct one. It resulted with the birthday brother calling us, sharing their laughter as we caught up on life.

Countless times before visiting family and friends she would quickly say, “I need a few minutes.” She would disappear upstairs in which I jokingly named “the warehouse,” to assemble what came to be known as, “Sunshine bags.” It involved individually wrapping up items she already had accumulated. These items included candles, cards, notes, pens, and sometimes silly items such as gum or candy. Sunshine bags were designed to provide encouragement when the recipient was lonely and discouraged. There was only one rule, don’t open all the items at one setting. Some bags were known to take months for the recipient to reach that one last gift.

Her visits to Lancaster’s downtown farmers market on Saturdays were opportunities to catch up with friends old and new. She stopped at numerous vendors in her quest to bring home baked goods, flowers, and fruits. When I was not cycling on a Saturday morning, I would accompany her to the market. My tasks were simple, park in her favorite parking spot. Then I became her shopping cart. She shopped, I made multiple trips to the car carrying her wares.

I’ll surely miss little things. She loved searching for lost items. It could be something I lost or even items others lost. Earlier this year I called her to ask if she wanted to go on a scavenger hunt. In an instant, her voice, telegraphed, “I’m in.” It was an item a fellow cyclist lost the night before on a group road cycling ride. The next day, we arrived where I thought it could be. I walked right past the tool which was the size of a cigarette pack cut in half. She found the lost item within five minutes.

Her favorite TV show was Jeopardy. She loved getting final Jeopardy when I did not. Cross word puzzles and its answers were important tools for her to answer more Jeopardy questions than I could.

At times, the column writing process over the last two decades was easy with Cindy’s help. Sometimes, though, it was not. Sometimes when writing you just have to push through, simply thinking, “right foot, left foot.” Slowly, the column would be completed. Right foot, left foot, slowing down, and being extremely deliberate in the next steps of days and weeks yet to come. That is where I find myself now without Cindy.

Thank you all for your work and love of agriculture.

Thought for the day. “If all I do in my life is soothe someone’s spirit with a song, then let me do that and I‘m happy.” – Gladys Knight.

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  1. My heart hurts for you tremendously. You are in my thoughts and prayers. Condolences for your loss.

  2. William Thompson

    Your generosity in sharing such valuable information is a testament to your genuine desire to heardle decades help others succeed, and for that, I am forever grateful.

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