Though MM and I had initially taken some rough measurements of available wall and floor space in my new digs, the drawings she had extracted using those measurements were rudimentary at best and incomplete/lacking in some important details at worst, though they did suffice to enable layout of the very minimal furniture (bed, chest of drawers, TV) that served me in the very beginning, immediately after move-in. They were also just correct enough to confirm that the chofa she helped me select could be configured to fit into the open living room space, pre-shelves and tables.
As much as I hate to confirm the accuracy of some historical stereotypes, in this case it turned out to be true that the guys took the same measurements as MM and I had previously, but with much more exactitude and foresight for placing my new furniture in an optimum configuration. Perhaps that is based on especially T’s experience as a hobby woodworker (witness the game/dining table he’d just built and installed for the kids) who repeated on this occasion an appropriate adage I’ve heard before. “Measure twice, cut once”, though in this case it was more like measure once, then enter the measurements into some software, then play with the layout and then place furniture once.
MM’s sketch – much better than anything I could do
See what can be done with the right equipment, software and skill set!
The net result was a very quick and efficient furniture shuffle on the second day of MM’s in-laws’ visit that yielded what might just be the best use of the space and furniture I currently possess. An extra bonus of this higher level and semi-hands-off design process netted me the use of one of my “new” tables and lamps at my bedside and one set of the “new” shelves as additional pseudo-drawer space, thus enabling me to complete the unpacking and organization of my clothes and freeing one of the four folding chairs I’d moved with me from use as a nightstand so it could now be employed in the use for which it was intended!
An earlier post The Road to Kalamazoo for Daughter #1 just briefly mentions in passing the fact that Mini-Me’s in-laws live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Also noted in the same paragraph is the fact that this had enabled a convenient arrangement for combined family get-togethers when MY family (idiot ex and me) lived in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. (Not surprisingly, the fact that this friendly roundup is no longer feasible is just one of the many issues that still sticks in my craw post-divorce.) I could go on and on about how wonderful T and K are and have been since the moment I met them. I really wanted to grow a strong bond of friendship between the former us and the former and current them pre-divorce. I still want to do this though the previous us is now down to only me. This still slightly painful though continuously less difficult process is still ongoing and, in some ways, made easier through their observations and real-time experiences with my alcoholic serial monogamist idiot ex-husband to which they’ve been subjected since the kids’ wedding three years ago. They were even privy to the new and probably uncomfortable (as Mini-Me told me it was for her last Thanksgiving) experience of meeting my “replacement” aka (Wife) #4!
Next to the kitchen, and there’s no delicate way to make this point, the bathroom is the next most important room in the life of a foodaholic. Most of what goes in the mouth must come out at the other end of the body. IDK if alcohol is a laxative (I’m pondering the possible effect on what was grossly and way too easily expelled from the asshole of the idiot ex in his bathroom). Coffee used to have that benefit for me but, as I’ve noticed, for babies and old people (mostly the Devil Child and Mom and me), some of us have the opposite problem.
I have been taking fiber and stool softeners regularly since my first (right) hip replacement surgery, after I learned that a BM was required before I could be released from the hospital! This output is monitored by caregivers for both babies and old people. In my family this info was liberally shared, generally as a kvetch, a complaint and an excuse for otherwise inexcusable behavior. I didn’t move the toilet plunger I’d invested in for and hidden from Mom while I lived in her house. I thought I’d learned what worked in these situations (plugged toilets) from personal experience and observation of idiot-ex on those occasions when I couldn’t do it myself and had to wake him up! Mom had avoided upgrading hers by calling on her more than very helpful neighbor, “Saint Joe,” to accomplish this task which was always his pleasure (to be helpful, not gross!).
After searching high and low over an expanded list of brick-and-mortar sources (Home Depot, Lowe’s, Menard’s – another new favorite) I invested in what I thought would be an economical and efficient set of both bowl brush and plunger. In the “end”, though, both have turned out to be mostly useless. Hard water requires extra scrubbing to remove (or at least diminish since I clean only when I feel “moved”) toilet and bathtub rings, so I don’t use the brush from the set which also included what I thought was the ultra-deluxe kind of plunger, the one with the knob on the end. To this day, I don’t know if it’s me in my weakened and female state or the equipment, but the damn thing has never worked, as I just explained to my apartment maintenance guy. That right there is reason enough for me never to own my own home ever again!
So, when MM’s wonderful in-laws came to deliver the game/dining table that T had hand made for the dining room in the kids’ new home, I ended up surreptitiously and almost though not quite unconsciously recruiting them to help me settle in here. Here’s how it went.
The elder Mights arrived at the home of the younger Mights (MM + EG + 2 of my 3 grandcats) late on Saturday. I’d followed their progress just a bit by checking on their expected arrival time so as not to arrive at MM’s place too early or at the same time. When I did make that short trek between her house and mine, the new larger table had just been set up and the older smaller table had already been carried down to the basement. Here is where the story starts to get deep!
By deep, I mean unfortunately into the subject of clogged toilets. More specifically, my clogged toilet, a condition which only seems to occur on weekends when the apartment maintenance crew is not available! Such was the case that particular Saturday afternoon. While chatting with the family, the tears started to well in my eyes as I realized how helpful they all were to each other, even from a distance. The fact that I am now basically on my own and more or less isolated from this immediate familial assistance, which was possibly the first and last thing I’d come to appreciate from my idiot ex, is really the largest issue for me these days. (I’d never expected to have to handle Mom’s estate or my living space pretty much by myself, but here I was and am!)
Being the simpatico types that they are, T and K wanted to know why I was teary. I explained to them my specific toilet plight within my general new woe-is-me I’m all by myself current living situation. Of course, T offered to immediately go from the kids’ house to my apartment and rectify the situation right then and there. To add to my shame and embarrassment over the clogged toilet, I confessed that I thought my plumbing skills were so poor that my inability to clear the clog with the new special (though cheap) plunger I’d bought in anticipation of being able to do it myself may have been faulty or, probably more correctly, my skills were lacking. I had intended to borrow the kids’ plunger on the chance that I may not have been at fault, but only my own faulty plunger!
I continued to “pooh-pooh” (pardon the pun) the offer to clear the clog for me, hoping I could do it myself later. The conversation then moved on to the method I’d used to furnish my place. Using the very rudimentary measurements MM and I had previously taken, along with her attempt at a manual layout of each room using those measurements, I had pictured the possibility of having something like a real dining room, or at least a semi-separated dining area, between the kitchen counter and the living area in the more or less great (at least it’s the largest) open single room in my apartment. Based on that, I’d turned down the kids’ offer to give me their old dining room table because it was too small to really dine at.
However, as the pre-dinner hour passed, wiser heads prevailed to the point where Tom and my son-in-law convinced me that they were sincere and able and would have the time to take the table and the plunger and accompany me to see if I could use the former and if they could fix the latter. I could and they did. And then they did even more than that!
As of mid-October, it seemed to me I had just about enough space to store and places to put everything I had and most of which I wanted to keep. The next required action was to figure out where I wanted to put what so everything would fit and at least be mainly unboxed. Up until that point, I had been using lack of space and place as an excuse to delay opening many more boxes. In the meantime, I had continued to indulge in some old practices and behaviors, though part of the requisite self-evaluation I have been forced/directed into by a recent turn of events includes making conscious choices about what I want to keep from my past and what new thoughts or behaviors I may want to introduce or at least to try on for size.
Where to start this new me/old me monologue? I guess I will start with the comfortably old but with the new twist of where and how and with whom. One of my go-to, usually solo activities, aptly and personally named by me, is a little thing I like to call “retail therapy (RT).”
Wikipedia opines the use of the term as “ironic and semifacetious,” and also comparable to comfort food, which is what I purchased most often recently in my pursuit of short term “relief from dysphoria” before I finally settled where I am now. Now my need to indulge in RT for any purpose, to deal with depression or stress, occurs much less frequently. That’s one thing about Mom (my historical and hysterical stress inducer) I definitely don’t miss and try not to emulate with my own now nearby adult daughters.
Food is my drug of choice (Excuses, Excuses)so I’d already started (re)filling the two most essential rooms in my three-room apartment first. After piecemealing kitchen purchases, I’d finally bit the bullet and settled on buying a set of real plates at my new favorite store, Meijer, and dining utensils at a store I mostly stay out of, Cost Plus. It almost physically hurt me to pay full price for a 12-piece setting for four of Corelle Geometrica pattern (no need for coffee cups or saucers anymore) and a 16-piece setting for four of dining utensils (no need for salad forks, either). The pain was only slightly mollified in that I think the latter was marked down to justify using it to supplement my minimalist starter set, purchased for $1.25/pair (fork, knife, teaspoon, tablespoon) from Dollar Tree. Is it odd that kitchen items I’d moved with me, including drawer organizers, have sentimental value?
I have continued my RT by acquiring and using “new” furniture. I have put that term in quotes because my shopping/retail therapy methodology has been extended, finally, to the use of 21st technology as it has been taught to me by my daughters. Like most millennials, and even a few advanced/daring/sane baby boomers, they prefer to make their purchases online. I feel like I have so far employed a fine mix of many of both the old and the new RT options available to me to find usable and easy to move furniture, aided and ably assisted by Mini-Me (MM).
She knows my taste more than she knows my needs. She also knows, and does not appreciate, my FOMO, though she does share, to some degree, my nearly extreme frugality. I spent several successive days while MM and her spouse were on vacation late last summer making limited forays into any and every brick-and-mortar local retail establishment that might carry what I hoped would be reasonably priced and sized furniture – a solo exercise that left this hobbled old lady exhausted and overwhelmed and worse, still unsatisfied with the results. I didn’t share all of these details with MM upon her return, though I still used them in my own mind as an excuse to continue to dither and therefore not commit to getting that critical first piece of furniture I needed: seating for the living room!
Lucky for me, she had heard that prices and availability were excellent at a local chain establishment I had not yet made my way to. We made that the last stop on my final living room furniture foray where we found two “chofas” that would work with my style and space. As usual, I had to extend the decision process and time by going back to the store to make my final choice. Even after that, I still ended up paying extra for an extended warranty that I may not need on top of the exorbitant delivery charge that I had expected. On the upside, if I move again and anything breaks in the process, they will fix or replace it!
I had a lot of time to prepare for this move, so by the time it finally happened I’d already forgotten about some of the things that I’d packed a while ago.
There were a lot of things from Mom and Dad’s youth where I recognized their visages, thoughts, or milestones. There were a few things from even farther back in their family histories, where I recognized much less. There was also a lot of memorabilia, including many, many photos, from all the trips they took, mostly with their friends, after they were retired but still healthy enough to get around. I recognize many of the faces and a few of the places. I brought some of my parents’ old books and antiquated records (albums and singles), many of which I still personally consider to be classics. If and when I ever get to read or reread or listen to some of the works of Michener and Stone, and of Rogers and Hammerstein, among others, I imagine when I have done with them, they might go to a library or antique store or into someone else’s personal collection. Best and optimum use for pre-disposal or pre-dispersal purposes would be to share with and/or pass along to some of the younger, and hopefully/possibly related to me, generations. Mini-me has already followed in her mom’s and her grandpa’s footsteps as an aficionado of musical theater, though she has also taken up, with her spouse, her idiot father’s appreciation of sci-fi.
On top of all that, I still have all my photo albums, going back to middle school, that I assembled when I was single. I’m also moving once again my college year books, which are much heavier than high school, that my idiot ex put in the POD. These will go with single copies (out of the multiples that Mom still had) of memorabilia and programs from my days in Girl Scouts, Torrance Area Youth Band and USC Trojan Marching Band (the greatest marching band in the history of the universe!). These all recall the (mainly happy) times I hope I can share with a granddaughter, at least. A lot of them still make me smile. I brought back to my children all the photo albums I made in their childhoods, and all the extraneous photos and memorabilia I never got around to adding to them. Maybe it will make them smile, too, if we ever get to sit down together to reminisce about their births and birthday parties and holidays and trips and Girl Scouts, too.
Finally, I brought the new queen bed I’d bought when it became pretty clear that I would be staying with Mom in the house with her for a while, and maybe for the rest of my life, though of course that’s now how it turned out. It’s one of the newer ones with an extra thick mattress that required deep-pocketed bottom sheet corners and even then they don’t stay fitted as tight as I’d like. It’s like the one my idiot ex and I bought to sleep on (together – which was unusual and uncomfortable) when we bought our first house in Tennessee together. He sent the king size sheets I’d used for that one in the POD after I’d already bought myself a fresh new set. The old sheets were too big but had become an oversized cocoon for me, that I could tuck in nice and tight, keeping me warm and safe, bounded and protected, at night. He slept most of the daylight hours away on his old nasty leaking waterbed in his deep, dark and desolate mancave of a bedroom in the basement with two fans blowing directly on him.
Finally, already boxed up, in addition to my own precious books, are some sorts of antiques: a DVD player and discs of old beloved movies and some school events and last but not least though probably oldest, some family home movies and videotapes. I had already moved some to Tennessee with plans to get them digitized. They came back to Mom’s house again when I did and now are making the trek to our mutual new home, with younger family, in Michigan.
It’s been so action packed that another update of my About Page will be required by and for Independence Day!
The end of the divorce is now so close that I can touch it. Everything is done except the last final financial details. Fingers crossed I will be able to close that chapter by June or sooner.
I’m still living in the same house where I grew up. I’m still here alone at the moment but won’t be for much longer. Little by little, or really more like bunch by bunch over the years, I have gone through Mom’s stuff more than once, gleaning and disposing of a little more each time. I sold the house last week so now it’s the final go-around, the last long good-bye with a firm completion date of June 30, 2022.
While this old house had already grown slowly emptier of both life and associated stuff, there will be one long and enduring last hurrah over the next couple of months. I am inviting friends to visit me here for a final nostalgic experience and to take with them, if they wish, keepsakes from my family in whatever form they wish. Some have already asked for photos, of which there are plenty, especially of all of us in our younger days. There are still books, antiquated records (albums and singles for which I understand there may be some recent collector demand), furniture, paintings and lots of different kinds of fogyish decorative items that Mom treasured but which mean next-to-nothing to me since I’ve already been through everything that might.
I will soon be descending on my kids in Kalamazoo. My sojourn there will start in the basement of Mini-me and The Evil Genius. I had to twist her arm to let me stay there for at least a month. Though I gave the go ahead to her suggestion to find out from her friends what apartment complexes in the local area they might recommend for me, I would prefer to have more time to look around the area than just the one week I had last Thanksgiving. I spent a good part of that time driving around just the very limited local area where my kids live. Around Covid it was not easy to really get in touch with “my people” but I was able to get a little better “lay of the land” in the suburb of Portage where they now live.
As I have done every time I have moved to a different state or a different part of the same state (which didn’t happen at all before age 50 and this will be the third such move in the 16 years since then), I started by popping into the usual places where I expect to spend some time and/or find “my people.” These days my people are generally retired or near retirement age, which is not the same for everyone. Most of them have at least one college degree but all of them are intellectually curious about their surroundings and the world at large. I like to have interesting and often challenging conversations and I always look to learn or hear about something new.
I have found that the best places to meet “my people” have been libraries, civic centers and educational institutions. These places have hooked me up with different groups, and sometimes even individuals, who could introduce me to or guide me through opportunities to pursue different interests. In Portage, the Civic Center, library and Senior Center are all within walking distance of each other. It was too cold and blustery for this “weather wimp” to walk in November, so I drove.
At City Hall I got a map of the historical sites. When I drove around to check them out I was not impressed at the time because they didn’t stand out much from their surroundings. I might have had a better experience if I had had in hand what I recently discovered on the city’s website – Portage Historical District Trading Cards! I also discovered The Celery Flats Historical Area, with stops near several relocated and restored buildings on the paved for driving road through the Portage Creek Bicentennial Park. I didn’t spend much time at the library or the Senior Center due to Covid and also to the fact they were both at the same time undergoing a planned physical metamorphosis. By the time I get back there, there will be a brand new Senior Center and an expanded library. I consider both of those to be propitious portents of other discoveries and connections I will make there, assuming they will remain safely open.
Portage in particular, and the surrounding area in general, seem to have all the other places where I have spent a lot of my time in retirement, and then some. For my retail therapy, I found my old favorites, including but not limited to Sam’s Club, Costco, Dollar Tree, Aldi, Target (which I have dearly missed due to present lack of convenience and Covid), Barnes & Noble and some potential new favorites that I’d either never been to or were not convenient to where I lived in TN and Torrance.
I know there are several movie theaters in the area, and like most of us I have not been to one in years by now. As a matter of fact I think that last time I was in one was when I saw the Beyonce version of the Lion King there with my girls! I know I’ll have to adjust to new grocery stores, again, but have already come close to determining what and where my new favorite coffee bar might be. Like most “college towns”, I guess, I found a plethora of those spots to try, along with a plethora of microbreweries of which it will take more time, if ever, to find a favorite.
I will also have to find new doctors and other services which may both involve starting a new fitness routine. I’m glad I’ll be going back to Michigan in warmer weather. I plan to bring my old and much moved beach cruiser bike to try some of the rides planned through Portage Parks and Rec and the Senior Center as soon as I get the old girl fixed and cleaned up. Almost last and not close to least but I don’t want to take up more time, I have found that the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Western Michigan University (WMU) will be offering in person classes with graduate students as instructors. This seems like an ideal way to acclimate myself to both the group and the campus as I start over again with some of my favorites among “my people.”
Portage is, like Torrance, a standard concrete suburb. Unlike Los Angeles, I would not classify Kalamazoo as a big city, though it is close to a beach that fronts Lake Michigan instead of the Pacific Ocean. Since I am more of a mountains and forests kind of gal, having easy access to a large body of water is not high on the list of features I’d need to have wherever I live. Been there, done that, enough already.
I’ve been grappling with what to say about that ever since
I haven’t said a lot about Mom and our relationship before my abrupt return to her house or about the things I came to surprisingly appreciate about that, in hindsight, especially since Mom’s passing on January 25 of this year. For the story of how life for both of us had been for the last year, you can refer to the following posts.
I have written this addition about her and me to help me close that relationship and to strengthen me to see it through to the real end. Right now that would include disposing of the last real assets she owned, especially this house where we had lived together and which I thought I had already left behind. I am paraphrasing a lot of my recent thoughts and emotions, some that were included in the funeral service given by the Rabbi who had only known Mom for 4 years, supplemented by others who had known her better than I had for most of the last 17 years (since my dad’s death and my move to TN), and some that I wrote myself, looking back over what I knew of her life.
Family was very important, even if she was no relation other than having met even just one member of nearly any family. She had rediscovered some local blood relatives recently and I had hoped to get more info out of her about some of those she grew up around before marriage and children. On the other hand, I got tired of hearing the same stories over and over about some of them! I did find out that at one time she had wanted to be a shorthand teacher and was immodestly and I thought sometimes too extremely proud of the story she told about one of her first jobs with what she still referred to as the North American Credit Union.
Dad was the love of her life and vice versa. She was his biggest supporter, as she tried to be for me as I was growing up, especially in nudging both of us to join in a whole range of social activities. He took on her family, caring for them as they aged. She did that for him too, and for a whole bunch of other people I never knew but heard about, whether I wanted to or not. I don’t know how Mom and Dad managed to work together in the insurance business for 20+ years without killing each other, and we all knew if something bothered Mom, no matter how long ago it had happened, she would bring it up at least once later, often not even related to whatever the subject under discussion was at the time.
After their early retirement, Mom and Dad took a whole lot of trips, and it was during this period that I first lost track of them, and Mom continued to expand her social circle even after she became a widow. Sometimes, when going through Mom’s mail, I might encounter a strange sender’s name and address. She could still usually recall where she had met them and sometimes even more personal information about these people who to her were always and forever her friends. Obviously that sentiment was very much reciprocated. One of the first signs of Mom’s Alzheimer’s, that bothered her the most for a very long time, was that she couldn’t balance her check book. When I took over that duty, I didn’t tell her that I couldn’t always balance it either and as long as I came close that was good enough for me.
Mom did her best to take care of everyone she loved, to whatever degree she loved them at the time, offering her advice whether requested or not. She always thought she knew best and we all learned to try not to argue with her if we didn’t agree because she would never let it go otherwise. She also had no problem telling someone a little white lie if she was afraid of losing face or looking bad in their eyes or sometimes of hurting their feelings. Sometimes I would remind her of what she sometimes told me “Lies walk the streets” and if anyone she knew had one, “J. Edgar Brook” would often discover it.
Dad had started calling her that, a play on the longtime and first director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover was infamous for digging into the personal lives of people under investigation. Mom did that, too, so we were lucky she didn’t know how to use the internet better. I was touched when the the rabbi told us she called Mom “The Informer”. Her explanation for that nickname was because Mom took it upon herself to let the rabbi know if any temple members, or even just any of her mostly Jewish friends and acquaintances, needed spiritual support. Rabbi Lewis got a special kick from Mom’s closure to these messages and conversations, where she asked the rabbi to make sure the person of interest didn’t know how the rabbi knew they were having a spiritual or personal issue for which they might appreciate her help.
Due to Covid, Mom had little to no opportunity to get much of the regular attention she had received from her friends and their families for all those years she had lived alone. In its place she had settled for what she got from a visiting nurse and especially from the physical therapist, though she didn’t like it when I started referring to him as her boyfriend. I was proud that I’d done what I could to protect both her health and mine, in the face of her hunger to maintain constant in-depth contact with her friends, some of whom were merely acquaintances in my book, and who also might show up unexpectedly on her doorstep, vaccinated or masked or not.
I had missed Mom since she stopped being herself, especially since she and I had finally, I felt, figured out a way to live with each other under her roof. I had Mom so hooked the “political news” programs I regularly watched on CNN and MSNBC that she started watching those networks even when I wasn’t in the room! She even admitted to learning a few things from historical series we watched together on PBS occasionally. She watched Jeopardy for me and I watched Wheel of Fortune for her. We both watched 20/20 (though she forgot that’s what it was called) and 60 Minutes (though she forgot what day and time it came on.) She couldn’t stand the “reality” shows I watched on Bravo and E! I think they offended her old-fashioned sense of morality. We both missed watching live sports, too. Like many who have had or at least tried to maintain a relationship with an Alzheimer’s patient, it was hard for me to get to a level of comfort with Mom as she was after her fall. Over those last months, while Mom was physically still with us, her mind and sense of reality had been gradually fading away. She is now with her mom (even at the end Mom still called her “Bubbie”), my dad, and various other assorted friends and relatives I had never met but she remembered, while still “mentally” preparing and planning to take care of her home and the people she loved.
An old family friend (actually she’s more of Mom’s friend but that’s a whole other story) is kind of estranged from what’s left of her family (that’s a big part of the story) and because of that and other things in her past that were beyond her control doesn’t seem to have many friends or even a decent boyfriend. One family member she does have and could/wants to visit runs an Airbnb called Happy’s Bus Stop in Kanab, Utah (UT).
If I decided to accompany this person to that place, I have already suggested to my only remaining high school friend who now lives in Tucson, Arizona (AZ), that we could also visit her oldest daughter in nearby (to Happy’s) Northern AZ. This daughter teaches school on the Native/Indian reservation that is close to where she lives in Page, AZ.
I have been in the Kanab area before. It is just over an hour away from St. George, UT. St. George is the first city over the state line between Nevada (NV) and UT heading north on Interstate Highway 15 (I-15). I have made the 28-hour round trip between Los Angeles and Malad, Idaho (ID), more times than I would care to count. Malad is where my in-laws lived and we made at least one annual trek up there when the kids were growing up and we were still living in Southern California (CA).
The closest I ever got to Kanab, though, was on one of the few very enjoyable side trips we took when Malad was the family’s final destination. This was during the first year after we’d moved to Nashville when we rented a family van and drove there from the Southeast instead of the usual Southwest point of origin. By that time, when the kids were in their teens, they were so tired of visiting national parks (Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks were two side trips we’d made more than once when “visiting Grandma in the desert”) that after driving through Zion National Park (between St George and Kanab), they protested that they were beginning to think all national parks looked the same!
On that once-in-a-lifetime family vacation, though, the idiot (my ex husband) got the biggest kick out of fishing for trout with our two girls on semi-frozen Panguitch Lake. Neither he nor I had heard of this place till I found it as one of the stopover points that offered places to stay in the middle of winter! Since Daughter #2 is more like her dad, we’d expected she’d take to fishing with as much gusto as he did. Maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised that Daughter #1 was the one with the patience required to actually catch a fish. In hindsight, this early father-daughter bonding with #1 may have been the initiating event of her rise in his eyes and affections.
Given that I-15 runs through Las Vegas, I have been there many, many times – before, during and after marriage and motherhood. It is also a pretty central point on this potential upcoming road trip with interim end points of Tucson and possibly even as far north as Gunnison, UT, the ancestral home of my high school friend. I heard so much about it during those years that if I get that close to it again, especially with my friend and her family’s fond memories and enduring presence there, I must finally make that pilgrimage!
I started my holiday letter in 2020 the same way with this thought and went on to say “I don’t know about you, but I don’t think my life or really life in general will approach any kind of normalcy until 2022.” I guess I was right! I wish I was in a position to have even a really clear idea of “what I might do in ‘22”, but who does?
This is REALLY how my new life started in 2021
The year started as it had ended, and indeed as most of 2020 had progressed, if you could call it that. I got Mom through all her doctor’s appointments, tried to get her to eat what she should when she should vs. her normal preferences and habits, and did what I could to keep her spirits and her body up and moving. We both knew her mind was going and, though she tried as best she could, in the end (though more accurately in early June when she took her final fall), there was little I could do to restore that or to ameliorate the decline in her physical capabilities which had never been a big priority of hers before anyway.
Meanwhile I had to keep plowing through the increasingly difficult and nit-picky details of my divorce. When the ex abruptly filed in June of 2020, he went to a pay-as-you-go type of lawyer with the expectation that I would go easily, as his previous two wives had done. He should have known better after thirty years of marriage to a woman he’d always acknowledged was smarter than him! I took me a while last year (as he pushed me) to get a lawyer (the stupid idiot didn’t expect me to). I got a smart lady lawyer who worked on a flat fee retainer and protected my interests throughout, even beyond things I’d already considered.
The lawyer-to-lawyer contact started last year when mine totally rejected the agreement his lawyer had submitted. He kept harassing me to “get it done” while at the same time continuing to bring up issues that were either nonexistent or in which his proposals were inequitable. By June I had reached the point where I refused to respond to his direct communications to me and forwarded them to my lawyer instead. He’d previously jumped on me when I’d asked Daughter #1 to help him pack my stuff to be moved out here (after I wouldn’t let him put it in the attic) but ironically, in her unwanted status as go-between, Mini-me finally got him to back off his unreasonable stance on at least one issue by telling him what I was going through with Mom and that it was not fair to expect me to have to deal with his shenanigans on top of that.
I guess I could be amazed now that I got through all that stuff that seemed to follow so quickly upon each other in probably no more than 90 days, approximately end of March through end of June. I had to persevere as Mom’s caretaker, which would be an ongoing battle as long as she still had the mental wherewithal to try to carry on being who she always was, while the ex continued to careen out of control at least as far as I was concerned. I really didn’t want him to know how bad off Mom was, and I still don’t. It’s none of his business, especially since his last visit to her home was all the way back in 2014, though he continued to say how much he loved her. That was most likely just another lie he’d been telling all of us, including himself, for many years.
I got through a challenging summer as I came to realize and accept my new (again) status. I guess I knew, deep down, that I would just have to keep stepping a little further down the land-mined road toward embracing, with as little drama as I could, that I would be starting to live again as an independent single woman in the (sub)urban metropolitan Los Angeles jungle. At the same time, I knew that Covid and other lingering responsibilities would limit my options in pursuit of more social outlets. Thank goodness that by fall, when Mom was well-settled and I had figured out how I would deal with the fact that she has lasted this long, many of the things I wanted to try were once again somewhat available.
I was free and fortunate to begin venturing out in the fall. First I took a “baby step” of a trip down south as far as Escondido. Then I took a longer trip to visit my BFF and “extended family” in Oregon. Both of her kids are getting married in the first half of 2022, so I already have two planned trips up there plus a bridal shower/bachelorette party/cleanup for the first wedding trip on the books next week.
The longest and best trip was my triumphant solo return to Michigan where I finally got to meet in person my newest grandcat, Maple. This trip was also a sort of “scouting expedition” of the area so I could see if it had any potential to become my permanent home when, someday down the road, Mom will be physically gone from this earth. In the short week before Thanksgiving that I spent there, I got to familiarize myself with the area and its amenities, on top of looking into my normal pursuits that should be available again post-Covid. Other than the cold, which all my loved ones and their loved ones tried to convince me should not be an impediment, I found a lot to like up there, besides them!
Since Omicron entered the picture, I have been doing even more reading as my “need/want to read” book list keeps growing. Like many others before me, I have lately joined the “binge-watchers club” (such a thing exists, right?) where I at last got to watch some old series that on my mentally compiled to be watched list. Last but not least, after many “false” starts, I think I may have finally begun to develop my long-desired writing habit.
This year, partially due to Covid-uncertainty and partially due to my uncertainty, I have spent most days in the house. A more or less standard day for me starts by browsing the web and email then moves to one or two of a few easy reader spots in different rooms before circling back to my laptop for a couple of hours of writing and always ends in front of a TV screen. On my “wilder” days I may add just an infinitesimal amount of “retail therapy” which these days is almost exclusively limited to grocery stores. Occasionally I’ll add in a stop or two at a discount or big box store.
I also do a few “shoulds” like laundry and cleaning. The “should” that is getting harder for me to do is to go visit Mom. The caregivers keep her clean and clipped and fed. She can’t get out of bed so of course her body has pretty well shriveled up. I’m OK with that part but I just can’t deal with the fact that it is impossible for me to interact with her. I had cut back my visits from twice to once per week but now, since she doesn’t know it’s me who’s there, I can’t see any reason to go any more than monthly to pay her bill and talk to her caregivers. More often wouldn’t do much good for her and would not be good for me!
My New Life (In Old Books) or Is It My Old Life in New Books?
I can hardly believe that I am now nearly three years into my second retirement. Finally, after all that time, close to eight years in total, I feel ready, comfortable secure enough to do what I imagine many other people do at this time of year: look back at where I’ve been and what I’ve accomplished and also try to look ahead to what might enhance the value of this time, its quality and purpose, along with, best case, its joy and happiness or, at minimum, its feeling of satisfaction.
One of my more annoying and detrimental personal habits, which I have lately come to recognize in my early senior citizenship, is that I have often been a slow learner, perhaps more correctly, a late bloomer. Maybe that’s a trait that comes from being a true Taurean. As an old fart, looking back now, I might have advised my younger self to set goals, to have dreams and aspirations, or to at least have some type of design or plan for my life. Alas, over most of the prior half century, I have been more often driven by the philosophy of the late, great John Lennon, who advised us all, just before his own untimely death, that “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” Here and now though, with the luxury of having a lot of free time on my hands, I can start applying my hard-earned and slow in coming self-knowledge to a new and probably more achievable design for the remainder of my life.
Unpublished Draft Post written in 2017 or 2018
I wrote all of that way back in 2017 or 2018. Back then much of what I was reading and trying to implement for myself, my life and my future had to do with goal-setting and plans and efforts of that ilk. Given the turn of events in my life in general and in the world in particular it’s clear that anybody who thinks they can live their life on that basis is at least pretty delusional and possibly even insane! About (Created May 2021, Updated September 2021)
When I started this new blog, which apparently and coincidentally seems to have really happened at the beginning of the year, I said on the very first post
While that is still true, I guess I could also add that, given the thoughts I started this post with, besides teaching my daughters all about me I may also need to teach me about me through my blogs more than through a memoir alone. I want to belabor both these points at this time and in this post.
First, the bit about the past informing the present for both them and me. Much as I have tried not to rehash my marriage and my divorce and everything that went before each of those events, I can honestly say (and my daughters and my friends will attest to this sad fact) that I have not been able to stop myself from doing that over the past year. It is my hope, though, that whatever I have to say about that here will, best case, be the last time it is a subject of any posts this year or the main subject of my thoughts and feelings at any time going forward.
Again, looking back over the past couple of years and, yes, even farther back than that and indeed even wider than that in the present, I can see that I am not the first or only one to realize that it makes no sense to put the effort into developing goals or planning life around what one may expect or anticipate and continue to try to convince oneself that these goals are (1) achievable or (2) really what one would want to achieve if possible.
To get some perspective on this dreaded looking back exercise, I of course went to the written history of the thing. As a sort of old school old fart correspondent, this consisted mainly of emails and texts written and received. I had already reviewed a lot of what I had received but after finally getting back to doing this catch-up exercise on my sent emails I can see that the marriage probably entered its final death throes in 2019. Reading between the lines of what I wrote, especially to my spouse, I think I see where our mutual resentment started to build as I got more and more involved in more and more activities outside the home that made me happy.
At the same time, it looks like he was getting more and more morose and out of sorts. I base this guess on what was a clear and mainly continuing pattern of his atypical, at least for an adult male who could be considered by some to be in the prime of his life, sleeping and active periods. Like a stubborn baby or an average really old person, he slept during the day and worked on his hobby at night.
Throughout that pre-pandemic year we became more and more like “ships passing in the night” with those passages most often occurring in the late morning or early evening. In the evenings we at least both tried to indulge one of our fewer and fewer common interests by watching TV programs, sports and movies together. But in the mornings when he came up from his mancave to my woman cave in our split-level home, he would usually find me in front of the computer, often just playing games. This latter exercise had been going for some time before and when this part of our macabre marriage death dance started, I would get up, come around my desk, sit in my rocker-recliner and we would try to have a conversation, a check-in about how and what each other was doing. I think we both noticed that I made this effort less and less, until his attempts to do this started declining, too. Maybe the patterns and comforts of our lives had moved so far away from each other that they and we were beyond reconnecting.
Another probable point of resentment, I’m guessing, is that I did not participate as actively as he wanted or expected me to in his (unrealistic) dream of making a business out of his hobby. That was where his time and our money went while a lot of my time and our money went into reading and traveling and socializing. I know I’d expected him to enjoy those last activities with me. Over time, though, his enjoyment of and interest in doing either had ebbed so low that I had begun to know better than to even ask him to join me because I knew what his answer would be.
There were other stressors that year that in retrospect could have brought us closer together but in the end seem to have had the opposite effect. That was the year that Daughter #1 got married and Daughter #2 started medical school. Both of these momentous events turned into wedge issues that drove us farther apart from each other.
Here I can add that another longtime festering wound in our relationship was how differently he treated our children. Again, these differences and disparities became more and more glaring over the years, though I can’t really pinpoint how far back they began and of course I don’t really know the reasons why. My guess is that he took for granted or accepted or expected #1 to be totally like me and therefore “perfect” while he presumed #2 would be totally like him, an imperfect and stubborn addict who would always be “less than” in the eyes of everyone that mattered, including himself and possibly, in his mind, even me. I surely had reached that point by the end of that year. There is no better indicator of this disparity, and how it finally blew our marriage apart for good, than summarizing his participation in the life of Daughter #1 and his withdrawal from participation in the life of Daughter #2 over the last six months of 2019.
And just to be complete and to add to my disappointment, I’ll have to throw in the monkey wrench that entered our relationship at about the same time. That was the necessity for someone to devote more time and effort to taking care of my mom. I’d expected my husband, who’d said and even written over and over, over all the years, how much he loved and appreciated “Mom” to do just that. He’d also warned me, based on the similar trajectory he’d endured with his mom, that I’d have to figure out what to do with her sooner rather than later by this time.
It also just dawned on me that he’d handled most of that without the help of his one remaining brother just as I found myself in the same situation vis-à-vis my one and only sister. Wouldn’t you think that shared experience would have made a better and possibly even average person more sympathetic and helpful to one’s most beloved spouse rather than drive said simpatico away? Oh wait, in fact and reality it seems to reinforce what he finally told me, after I told him I didn’t think I could continue to live this way.
In a nutshell, that was that we should have separated fifteen years earlier, based on his presumption that I would not move two thousand miles away from home (and Mom) when his job relocated. I did it because I didn’t want to break up OUR family. I can see now, as I should have seen before, that he just didn’t care about that. It also clarifies what he first told me and repeated in those six months. “You are number one for me. I am number five for you.” That first part was a lie though possibly the last part had been true for quite a long time. I’d always said he knew me better than I knew myself.
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