Next month, June 12, 2022, it will be a year since my husband physically left this world. I’ve never been a widow before, so I’m in unfamiliar territory. Of course, I have lost grandparents, parents, close friends, and when I was three years old, I lost my only sibling, but was too young to understand the full impact of that loss, even though it changed my life forever, due to its effect on my parents and the fact that we moved back to Denver, Colorado from Vallejo California two days later.
My parents didn’t fully recover from those events until after I was an adult. The restart in Denver was itself traumatic. My entire childhood and adolescence were viewed through darkened lenses. The past existed behind a mysterious door to a room I assumed was locked. PQ’s absence has been like an enigmatic dream. As in a dream, reality pops back and forth between dimensions.
I suppose, everything in life is influenced by one’s previous history and my history has become a kaleidoscope in the months since PQ left. Of course, I remember the things that PQ and I did together. The mundane things are now the most precious and I’m today aware that words such as mundane and special don’t mean anything to the heart. Kaleidoscopes are a bit like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and they can be hypnotic. I suppose any shock to one’s identity and life habits can spin one into another world. My response varies from day to day, but it is full and fascinating.
Two days ago, I was thinking of my mother’s description of moving from their apartment in Denver when my father was conscripted by the government to work at Mare Island Shipyard near Vallejo California on Navy ships damaged in WWII. I have always had a mental image of their apartment. Since I was nine months old, (or was it six months?) I have no memory of that fabled peaceful beginning. While looking for some documents, it suddenly occurred to me to see if the location of this apartment might be listed on my birth certificate. Indeed, it was!
I looked up the address, and found a triplex of apartments, all on ground level. They were in one of the older neighborhoods and appeared to be of a style common in the 1890’s. I could tell that very little had changed, except the shrubbery was probably no more than 20 years old. They were much like several apartments my grandparents had lived in. The importance of finding that apartment was that it had never occurred to me to do that simple bit of research on the internet before. When my mother described the struggle of packing up their belongings and arranging the trip to Vallejo on her own, since dad had to go ahead of her. She had to do it all while dealing with an infant, I had always imagined them living at the top of a two-story apartment. This is all very mundane stuff, but it was a shock to realize that it had never occurred to me to ask google maps where I spent most of my first year. I’m learning to explore ignored corners of both the past and present.
PQ’s passing is still rearranging my life and not just the life I’ve had since moving to Taos, but my entire relationship with time and identity. PQ kept me on the first floor of my living space. I loved the routines, the trips to Santa Fe, visiting with our friends, shared memories, looking forward to the film about PQ’s life, restaurant visits, family members dropping by, and people wanting to meet PQ hoping to get some counseling, wisdom, or sympathy. He and I for a long time held the hope of someday getting back to our soul home in Arizona. Even though it became apparent that it wouldn’t happen in the time we had left, the meaning and memory was our special shared paradise and soul retreat.
Death is a radical reboot! At least that’s how it has been. If it was possible, I would bring him back in a heartbeat, but if he were to come back, he would find that I have changed in many ways. I can’t easily explain how I can be in mourning and excited about rediscovering the world and renewing personal history at the same time. Yesterday, I went to the El Prado post office which used to be my post office in earlier days, to pick up my friend Jeannie’s mail and was almost washed away in waves of memory that are now teaming with new fish. Sometimes there are more insights, memories, and new impressions than my mind can hold, and they slip away as I try to catch and bag them.
I’m experiencing a goodbye to old hopes and dear memories all the while experiencing a restart. Right now, I’m still not ready to come out of my exo-womb, which is my house and familiar neighborhood. However, all the previous lives comprising my almost eighty years are, much to my surprise, being reborn as well and I think about revisiting places of meaning, not just for memories sake, but to see how they are with my new perspective, much like trying on an old dress that you loved but were too fat to wear. I’ve literally and figuratively lost weight in this past year and I have a new wardrobe that was tucked away in the closet for a long time.
This past year I’ve lived alone quietly with my cat Shadow and a sick stray I call Himmy, because I thought he was a Himalayan. I’ve been tied down because I don’t know anyone to take care of them if I left for a few days or even overnight. I don’t think Himmy has much time left, even though I’ve taken him to the vet several times, his condition is getting worse. My long-time friend Jeannie has bone cancer and can no longer drive and for awhile was barely able to walk. I’m tied down even while I would love to fly. Realistically, my income wouldn’t allow travel anyway, but I wonder how it would feel to visit some of my old haunts in my new state of mind. I have a sense that PQ completely agrees and would love to come with me.
Sometimes I work for awhile on a painting I started months ago, but it isn’t ready to emerge yet in the physical world. I write every day in my journal, and that is where I strip away the outer layers of my mind to reveal paths to higher worlds while connecting the trails in this world. The Hermetic axiom, “as above, so below,” reveals new applications from the simple to the sublime.
I’m physically more fit and energetic than I have been in recent years, as if a heavy coat was removed. I have nothing to declare on the Medicare/Medicaid survey I’m supposed to submit. I’ve learned to do many physical things I thought I was too old for, but I’m still very aware that I don’t have time to waste, and I have practical issues to deal with such as a will. If I died tomorrow, no one would know what to do with me, or whom to contact. Time is ticking but I’m learning how to dance to new rhythms.
As I'm writing this, I look around the room trying to understand why the walls and furniture seem like a clever copy of my living room. Nothing seems familiar anymore. I don't think the same eyes are looking at my house. I'm just a housesitter taking care of the house until the owner returns.