Last night I got a message via Facebook that someone I once knew well had passed away. As often happens in the world life drew us apart. Her marriage and child while I was still in the early stages of the relationship that would lead to marriage and our two children put us at slightly different points in our lives. I had seen, on Facebook, that she was going through a rough patch, dealing with chemotherapy and all things associated with it. I put off doing anything more than the meaningless response online, because I was no longer super-close to her and did not want to intrude. I thought of her in odd moments and sent, in my own way, healing thoughts toward her home and her family. I thought about the book I was reading and how I should send her a copy, then realized she probably already had a copy and stopped thinking further. I didn’t reach out, for fear it would be the wrong thing or unwelcome. This, I regret.
When I moved from Ohio to sunny NC, I moved knowing one individual here. I moved with a car full of stuff to see me through eight weeks of a show and trying the city on for size. It was probably the bravest thing I had ever done. That one friend of mine was someone I knew from college, and he introduced me to the woman he later married. She, at the time, had two housemates that later married, had a child and then divorced but remained close. One of the housemates was the woman who passed, the woman who I was very different from but we shared something very intimate – reading selections.
I know that sounds strange, but she is the only person I have met that perfectly intersected book styles with me. On our Sunday dinners we would occasionally search the bookshelves at each other’s homes and see familiar titles, also worn. She is the only person who has bought a book for me not using a list and gotten it right – introducing me to a new author and with nothing other than “I thought you’d like it” – and she was right. We would, in moments between other conversations, discuss whatever our latest book we had at hand or what we may have been looking forward to reading. Over those first couple of years in NC when I was still trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted, dinner on those Sundays was a touchstone of friendship and welcome that made living here so wonderful. We six together had fondue nights and made lasagna, talked movies and got married off, changed careers and bought homes. But what I remember most is the book she first gave me and the girls’ night at the farmhouse.
So I’m going to spend a little more time being grateful for another day. I’m going to try to remember to reach out even if it isn’t perfect. I’m going to hug my kids because there’s an eight year old boy who won’t be hugged by his mom again. But first, I think I’ll go find that book.
Part of the reason I’m doing this effort of NaBloPoMo is to get into the habit of writing. I have a box in my craft closet that is full of the pieces for albums – our wedding, Gummi Bear’s first year, my college pictures and ones that go back even further in time. Part of my anxiety is that I know the finished project will sit on the shelf and be dragged out from time to time to be looked at by me and that may be the only one who sees it. But for that, I want perfection. And in waiting for perfection or just the right moment or just the perfect phrase, I might never finish. I have to remind myself that these memories in pictures will fade and if I don’t record them, though the words may be imperfect, will I remember?
I confess: I cannot remember Gummi Bear’s first word. I can tell you what we were doing when she took her first steps on her own but I don’t remember when she began to crawl. It has only been three and a half years since she was born and I’m already glossing over milestones and memories because I didn’t find the perfect word. How much longer until I lose hold of other memories? How many years in the future will we be sitting on the couch, with family & friends, and look through a photo album of smiling happy coeds and Gummi Bear asks “who is that laying on the back of the couch? and why would she do that?”
I don’t have a writing space. I don’t really have a place that is mine (and just mine). Then again, technically nobody in our house does. The aforementioned craft closet resides in the children’s room and is full of my stamps & paper, photos & patterns. The Bald One built in shelves to store things and a counter that folds up on a piano hinge or is supported by a chain when down. I can quickly do a little thing in there, but any major efforts end up being done on our kitchen table – where they have to be packed up in between to avoid children and cat destruction. Our home office is a shared space that is more his than mine and everything else in the house is a shared space. Pre-kid, I’d curl up on the couch and read or write on my laptop. Post-kid if I’m curled up on the couch, it is usually with a tiny human or in the event that they are sleeping, my cat comes to demand a few minutes grace. Both cat & kid are equally uncaring that a tablet in my lap means that I’m doing something that does not involve them. But that is the way of cats and kids.
Some days I think of the place we will have next where there is an actual office that can have a section for the office things and an area for the music to spread out and a wall for me to have a work surface and cabinets galore for my craft inclinations. And in the corner, there would be a chair and a half that I can sink into to write, long hand, in a journal or read a book. Until then, I write where I can and when I can so that the little things aren’t forgotten. Even when it is just the chaos of bedtime punctuated by the giggles of an almost three month old boy as he’s tickled.
I had, what appeared to be, a picture perfect life. I hit several of the picture’s requirements – nice job, lovely little flat with a nice commute to work and a dog for companionship. The job gave me the ability to travel and meet interesting people. I had it all. Except, maybe, a job I cared about. I punch in, I punch out and the hours between pass by slowly. I need a break and some excitement. All this is probably why I find myself renting a beach house in an out of the way of corner of the world. At least I still had my dog.
I’d been with the company long enough I qualified for the sabbatical granted to employees who managed to stick around fore more than seven years. Most of the people who stick it out that long are the ex-academics who use the sabbatical to tune back into their former lives on this or that. I didn’t have that connection, and more surprising to my coworkers was the fact that I had been around long enough to qualify. I was low enough of the hierarchy that most of the lifetime employees didn’t notice my existence and most of my level rotated out after three years to more lucrative positions with other companies. Somehow, I never had bothered to move on and because of that, they’re trying to find someone to fill in for me while I try to figure out my life in thirty days or less.
The beach house where I planned on finding myself was a find in itself. The house was a sprawling affair on stilts on the end of the island. The real road ended a mile up the island. To get to the house, you have to have a jeep or decent four wheel drive and not slip too much in the packed sand. From the wrap around deck, the view of water and untamed land beckoned. The houses out this far were spaced so you didn’t feel like you were on top of one another. The solitude was a wonderful contrast to the cubicle living I had been in almost constantly since I finished college.
I had known since I finished college I would have to pay my dues professionally. Since then, I have made friends and talked with the right people. Somehow, others have always received the credit for my work. And because the work has been nothing I’ve been proud of, I have yet to see the point to argue. What drove me to this sabbatical was finally having a project that I did care about and worked very hard to get launched only to have it corrupted and stolen away from me as it neared completion. With this change, I couldn’t focus on even pretending to play nice with others. It was time to get out.
But the big question – What Next? I hoped to find out here.
For those curious, I did get a late start. Very late start. But I’m going to see how much damage I can do for the next fourteen days anyway. You might have noticed an entry below called Last tango at Paris hotel. I have no idea why that has stuck with me…but I’m using it as a proceeding event. For the curious…here’s my start:
Rain dripped drearily against the window. The sound, on any weekend morning would be a soothing balm against whatever plans she originally might have sketched for the day. Can’t do yard work, it’s raining outside. Those errands here and there would have to wait as well since nobody in their right mind goes slogging packages to and from the stores when rain could drip into them and make your car smell like wet dog for weeks afterward. No, the rain would herald a chance to roll over and cuddle deeper into the down comforter and reach for the book and glasses sitting on the nightstand. A few hours later and she would emerge from the realms whatever was on top of her stack had taken her and she’d stretch to start her day with whatever could be accomplished around the weather.
But this rain dripped down as if to further her misery. Instead of being a gateway to staying in her little haven it made leaving it that much worse. There would be fewer cabs available for the harrowing trip to the airport. Flights would be delayed once she got there. And the outfit she had carefully figured out was not meant for puddle jumping. This was probably the worst start to her trip that could possibly be imagined.
If anyone has any comments, please feel free to leave them here. If I do manage to get more done, I don’t know where I’ll post them but I can send the Nov 30th version to anyone curious.