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From a Crab's Perspective

by Ann Ulrich Miller

Posted on October 21, 2008 by Web Dreams


Published in the New Mat Top Hat October 2008

This month's contribution is dedicated to my beloved husband, Ethan Miller, who made his transition on Sept. 12 after a long progressive illness that affected his lungs. I am most grateful to the wonderful people at Hospice in Washington County, Ohio, who were there for us in his last weeks and without whom I could not have coped.

Ethan was an unusual guy in many respects. He told me 19 years ago that he was from Neptune. He almost had me convinced. He was very good at people so that you believed he was serious. For instance, when he told me he brushed his teeth with gasoline, it took me almost a full minute before I decided that just couldn't be true.

When I first met him, I was training two typesetters on newly acquired computers at the newspaper where I worked. I had invited him beforehand to stop in after he called me up on the telephone. Ethan popped his head in to say hello that day, but then he saw I was busy and almost left without talking to me. He wanted to buy me a cup of coffee, but I had just come back from lunch and couldn't get away.

Our next meeting was at a discussion group I had formed. We continued to meet there every Wednesday during my lunch hour. Sometimes there were other people present, in which case we'd discuss esoteric things, and sometimes it was just the two of us. And we'd still discuss esoteric things... such as his claim of being from Neptune. Actually, it turned out he was from Pennsylvania originally. Who knows, maybe that's a lot like Neptune.

I only know that we became fast friends and I enjoyed his company more than I realized.  He was a Forest Service volunteer at the time, working as a campground host at McClure Pass in Colorado. As Labor Day approached, Ethan broke the news to me that he was leaving to go back East. Suddenly, it felt as though my world was falling apart. I felt as though I were losing my best friend.

A year later, Ethan and I were an item, and for the last 19 years I have been privileged to be by his side. When we got married on Sept. 1, 2001, it was the 12th anniversary of a memorable day in our lives in which we recognized we were soul mates. He knew, long before I did, that he wouldn't be with me very long. No matter how hard he tried to prepare me, I wasn't expecting the impact that his departure had on me. It will be a long time getting over.

I've saved the eulogy for his memorial service. I just want to share now the lighter moments and memories of the Man from Neptune.

Ethan told me about the "snow snakes" in winter, and how I'd better be careful where I walked.

He had nicknames for some of his friends, which he shared only with me: "June Bug," "Jackalope," "Aids," "Weird," "Butterball," "Jim the Rim," "The Geezer," "Artichoke," "Jean the Scream," "Stone Head," "Mop Head," "The Paranoids," etc. It was like having a secret code.

Before his condition worsened and he was able, he loved to go fishing, hunting, camping or hiking -- whether it was in the woods, on the desert or in the mountains. One time he took me camping in the mountains in April and there was a freak snowstorm. The snow was piled up to the tops of the picnic tables. I had my cross-country skis and he had his snow shoes. I remember he was in his element. He built a leanto beside our pitched tent, and then he built a huge campfire and kept me warm while my clothes dried. I really wanted just to go home and get into a soft bed, but Ethan was having the time of his life. It was really fun to be there with him.

One time Ethan and I were driving in the mountains in his truck and we saw a black bear up ahead in the road. He stopped the truck and jumped out, then went running after the bear as it scrambled up the embankment. "Where are you going?" I called out to him. He looked at me and said, "Come on!" But I shook my head. I wasn't about to chase after a bear. But if I hadn't been there with him, I know he would have done so.

More recently, last Halloween he decided to get on the four-wheeler and cruise around the property. I was inside the house, working on a mailing and watching "Phantom of the Opera." Before long I heard him calling to me to come out. A bit annoyed for the interruption, I went out and he said, "I want to show you something." Oh no, I thought, I hope it's not a snake! I got on the four-wheeler behind him and we drove to Ed's oil well behind the house, where there is a big hole in the ground used for a pond.

Ethan showed me the tracks that ran through the bottom of the pond, which was then dry. At first it didn't register. Then he told me he'd been driving along on the four-wheeler and was staring up at the woods, not looking where he was going. Suddenly, he plunged straight down into the pit! At that precise moment he gunned the accelerator and with that quick action avoided a serious catastrophe. The four-wheeler went up and over the other side.

That was our Halloween fright. If Ethan had flipped over in the pond that morning, I wouldn't have missed him for an hour or more, and then probably wouldn't have known where to look. With his dependence on oxygen, he couldn't have gotten out of there by himself. A close call, for sure, but a sign that his guardian angels were looking out for him that day.

I used to find it interesting that Ethan never identified himself when he called anyone. The reason was, of course... he didn't have to. I will never forget his voice or the way he talked. He was unique, and whenever he called up some business on the telephone -- be it the hardware store or the bank or the lumber yard -- the person on the other end of the line always knew right away that it was Ethan. His voice was unmistakable.

Back in our old town, my husband was known for his cheery response everywhere he went. Whenever someone asked him how he was, Ethan would say, "I'm absolutely marvelous." It always brought a smile, even if the other person wasn't in a good mood.

Ethan, we miss you, and you'll always be remembered for how good you made people feel. It amazed me that even in his final hours, he found things to look forward to and kept a positive attitude and a sense of humor. In the words of one of my friends: "Ethan was a rare human being, because he knew how to live." 


Mr. Miller was a resident of New Matamoras since February 2007. He is the author of a historical novel, Night of the White Raven, which was published in 2006 and is available at

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