17 years ago tomorrow, David and I said “I do” in a c. 1923 waterfront mansion in the nearby town of Portsmouth, Mass. 17 years ago today, it cool and cloudy and I worried that the plans for our outdoor wedding might be squashed if the weather didn’t cooperate. The morning of the October 1st, 1995 was grey and colder than it had been all week. Determined to be wed in the open air, I vetoed the suggestions to move the event indoors. Then, according to lore, as I took my fathers arm and headed toward the crowd, the clouds parted and the sun shone more brightly than it had in weeks. We were blessed with meteorological perfection. The sun and bright blue sky were our companions as we celebrated what was to become the foundation of our journey together. Now, this many years later, the rain has been pouring down for 3 days straight. David heads back to Seattle tomorrow and I will stay here to finish closing up this house. After baring my soul and my heartache the other day, I hoped the clench in my chest might ease. Grief is funny. Even when losses are obviously leading to other opportunities, it is still painful. I have had many moments of clarity where I see how this decision will impact our life in positive ways. I see the logic, I see the gifts, I see the benefits, and I see how it really can’t be any other way. And, still I mourn the goodbye to this home.
It’s fall in New England. A blustery, overcast day down by the shore carries the vow of a new season, along with remnants of the old drifting by, sprinkled on raindrops trying to make up their mind as to whom they might be. In this mostly summer community, houses are readied for winter, shutters firmly placed, outdoor furniture stowed, boats hauled to dry dockages. It gets quiet, although down here it is always quiet. The biggest sounds of a bustling summer are screen doors slamming, lawnmowers droning and children laughing. It’s that kind of place. Special beyond words, beautiful beyond description. Idyllic with rolling pastures, old clapboard houses, and rocky shorelines. This place is a hope chest of memories for my life. For 41 years, my family owned this house, and even before, we visited my grandparents and I toddled around their rolling lawn and tumbled down to the beach. Here I sit in this house, for the last time, with alternating waves of anticipation for our next step in this wacky life we are living and devastation that burps to the surface threatening to block out the light. Yes, of course saying goodbye to such a constant in my life would be complicated at this moment when we are still officially homeless. And, yes, the sale of this home will allow us to no longer be homeless. An “artisans bungalow” (as it is described in the MLS) near the lake in downtown Evergreen is readying itself for us and our ragtag of possessions. I came here, to Rhode Island, to carry out the sale of this house as well as to disperse of its contents. 41 years worth of stuff crammed into nooks and crannies, a lot ruined after years of humidity and mouse habitation, and many treasures found.
Twenty-three years ago today, I said ‘yes’ to a life of recovery and ‘no’ to the addictive mess of a life I had been living. Twenty-three years ago, I had no idea my path would twist and turn in so many fascinating directions. Every year at this time, I reflect, yet this year I see my reflection in shards of broken glass. I can’t quite get a grasp on what I see. It changes from moment to moment and day to day. The deep anguish has passed, yet what remains is more confusing, less definite and in many ways, less comfortable. It’s a new stage of grief called “hiding” or “shut down” or “I don’t like who I have been being very much”… This stage lacks clarity, is full of doubts and questions and feels more tiring. In the early days after the fire, the pain was raw and ragged. Now, it has buried itself in my system. My new companion seems to be a knot in my chest and a very very very (did I mention very?) busy mind. My mind has always erred on the side of busyness but now the loops are endless as I try to figure things out –where will we live, what should I eat, and what is the meaning of life, after all.
On the anniversary of 9/11 many of us unite and reflect on that devastating event that changed lives in a flash and altered how we view the world. The range of reactions to today will be as wide as the range of personalities on this planet. Many will stop and honor the dead, remember and reflect. Some will weep and mourn. Some will merely go on with their day. Some never have stopped weeping. Some haven’t missed a beat this whole time. In this big, wide, wacky world there is a plethora of reactions to this event, to other events, to how we handle grief and anger and uncomfortable emotions. Today, I will stop and reflect. I will have gratitude that my slice of tragedy pales in comparison to this enormous event. Yet, I will also mourn my own and continue to gently find my way through something that doesn’t make sense, that came out of the blue and turned my world upside down, leaving life hardly resembling what it was before. I will think of my neighbors who lost loved ones and know their pain is not any less than those who lost loved ones in 9/11. Across the world, people will stop and grieve those lost in 9/11. Who will stop today to remember those lost in the North Fork fire? Or the High Park fire? Or the Waldo Canyon fire? Or any fire? I will.