The fellow in the picture with me, taken in April 2010 while we were on my birthday trip to Savannah, GA, is Randall “Randy” Walker, my husband. This picture was taken just a couple of years after I had discovered, and immersed myself into felting, and I am amazed that he isn’t rolling his eyes because of my felt “covering every horizontal surface of our home”. But, we were away from home, so maybe that explains his smile!
Randy was my biggest fan, even when the house WAS covered in felt, or fiber was flying, or I asked him to bring a table out to the patio for me to do some wet felting outside in the spring and summer. And, he didn’t fuss too terribly much when, during the winter, he would find our queen size bed completely covered by a tray, and tarp, and towels, where I was wet felting indoors. He especially encouraged me to continue creating ‘felt paintings’, which I am preparing to jump into once again, after a long hiatus from felting.
I’ve not produced much felt art in the past three plus years, well, because of Randy. About three and a half years ago, we started looking for what might be causing Randy to be feeling unwell. He had lost his energy, was losing a little weight, and just didn’t have the stamina for our regular life. When we found out that his younger brother had a blockage of the widowmaker vessel in his heart, we thought maybe Randy had something similar happening, so we began cardiac testing. Nothing was conclusive, and nothing was perfect, so we began looking at other possibilities.
We were also looking for our first house after having been renters for all of our 24 years of marriage. The process was hard on Randy, and any property with full staircases was quickly deleted from the list. He couldn’t manage them. We found a split foyer home, with only 8 steps upstairs or 7 steps downstairs from the front door, and Randy was sold. We began the house buying process, and though, we were very happy to have found our ‘home’, Randy continued to decline.
The weekend before we were to close on the house, Randy collapsed at our townhouse filled with boxes ready to move to our house. He spent a few days in the hospital, and the diagnosis was finally given: congestive heart failure (CHF). Not the greatest news, but a condition he could live with as long as we made modifications. He was released from the hospital the night before we met to sign the papers on the house for closing on August 17th. And then, BOOM, it’s time to move across town.
We got moved, it wasn’t easy or pretty, but we got moved, and Randy began to slowly put together his game room-an extra living area where he could run his DnD (Dungeons & Dragons) games. And his health continued to decline, with visits to the ER on a regular basis.
In September, about a month after we closed on the house, Randy collapsed again, and was once again taken by ambulance to the hospital. The tests they did showed that there might be something causing the CHF. I was talking with him in his hospital room before I was to head out to help a friend with her class, when I noticed that he hadn’t responded to a joke I had told him. I asked Randy if he got the joke, he nodded with a slight smile on his face. I asked him what he thought, and he continued to nod. Something wasn’t right-Randy ALWAYS had something to say. His neurologist was right outside the room, I told him that something was wrong, and when we turned back to the room, Randy tried to smile, only half of his face didn’t move. He had suffered a stroke. The doctors administered the medication to reverse the stroke right away, and within a few hours, Randy was able to speak a few words. At that point, Randy was referred to KU Med Center in Kansas City as it was believed that Randy had an infiltrative disease called amyloidosis: where the body produces an abnormal protein which attached to muscle tissue. The muscle tissue it attacked in Randy was his heart.
The next few weeks were a blur of driving to KC, appointments with doctors, tests, and repeat ER visits. Randy went on short term disability, and I continued to do my best to work, take care of Randy, and get our home put together. We had visits from both my parents and from Randy’s parents, both sets were very happy that Randy and I had finally managed to buy our first house.
Randy continued to decline, and lose weight. He lost his appetite, and his world got very small. After I helped him shower on October 20th, he broke down and said he just wanted answers, he wanted to know what was happening to him. I held him, tucked him into bed, and prayed for the same. The next morning, about 5am, Randy got up to go to the bathroom. On his way back into the room he collapsed again. I shouted for our boys to call 911, knelt down and asked Randy if he was ok, and he gave me a thumbs up sign. Just after the EMT’s arrived, his heart stopped and they began compressions, which they continued all the way to the hospital. Less than an hour later, Randy died, and my biggest fan was no more.
Today, November 20th, is Randy’s birthday-the fourth I have celebrated without him. And part of my remembrance of this day includes telling part of Randy’s story, and sharing how very blessed I was to have been his wife, his partner, his favorite person to fight with, his princess. My felting journey is greatly in part to Randy’s encouragement. My teaching is completely because of his bragging on me on social media. And my continued felt art will always have Randy’s love of life, love of fun, and love of art infused into it. Randy and I agreed long ago that our life together had #noexpirationdate and I will honor my biggest fan, my loving husband who drove me crazy sometimes, my Sparky, for the rest of my days.