Last week, I decided to move closer to family. It’s about a three/three-and-a-half hour drive between here and there, and I’ve been making the trip more and more of late.
I had to close the bookstore after David died (did you know that with spunky volunteers you can pack up, haul away, and erase a bookstore in just over three hours?!?). Since then, I worked for a couple of months as a waitress and dishwasher, and find I like being a waitress and dishwasher – but it was only part-time and I was going backwards financially, so I either needed to move in with someone and/or get a full-time job. The people around here have been wonderful – but at the end of the day I have been living in an empty house, and I can’t stand it. Dad is in his 80s, and invited me to move in with him. He’s moved since I was a kid, so I’m not faced with living in my old bedroom or anything like that, and my brother and his wife live next door, and a nephew and his family live a few miles away. I’ve checked out the church my nephew attends, and like it, so I’ve got a start on getting connected with a church family, too.
The very idea of moving is daunting, but somehow or another I guess it’ll get done over the next few weeks, God willing.
However, it might not happen all that quickly, if the past few days are any indication. I came home Friday, fresh from making the commitment to move, and determined to dig in and sort and cull and pack and run around tying up loose ends with David’s businesses. I gathered up a load for the thrift store, and ran it over – only to meet a friend who invited me to dinner and services that evening at a Mennonite church camp. I had just enough time to get gas in the car, and drive up to the camp in the mountains. When I got there, I was invited to stay for the whole weekend, and never mind that I’m not Mennonite, had no camping gear, not quite the right clothes, and was afflicted with laryngitis. (“I don’t know if I’m contagious,” I squeak, offering to take my germs, if any, home. “Ah, you’ll have fresh air here. We all have fresh air. Stay,” they say, genially, as someone rounds me up a tent, sleeping bag, mattress and pillow, and others run around seeing what they have for spare warm clothes if I need them.) I stayed, and had a wonderful time. (I wasn’t the only non-Mennonite, by the way, but we were distinctly in the minority. But included in everything.)
My cell phone battery died, but there was no coverage there anyway, so it wasn’t until Saturday afternoon when we went down the mountain to a ball field to play softball that I could call my Dad – on a borrowed phone, held just so to get it up to three bars – to say I’d be out of range for the weekend.
Sunday evening I got home in time to shower and change into clothes that weren’t cured by campfire smoke, and make it to evening service at the Church of the Nazarene.
Yesterday, I think I mostly went in circles. I found out that the recently-made-and-never-tested spare keys for the storage units were too thick, and had to run back to the hardware store. I cleared boxes out of an old van, but got sidetracked when the boxes contained diaries and old photos and old sketchbooks, all of which I thought I’d lost years ago. I talked to the landlord, and others. I tried to take another load to the thrift store, but they were full. I tried to make it to a Bible Study out in the country that I used to attend, mostly to say goodbye in case I didn’t see some of those folks again. But I got sidetracked, and didn’t make it. I tried to give away a recliner, but found no takers. Definitely a going in circles kind of day.
This morning I slept late (without meaning to, but living in an empty house makes me weary), but forced myself out of bed to go check in with a Ladies Bible Study at a nearby Baptist Church. I found myself in the middle of a Vacation Bible School. I was invited to stay, and got to help with snacks, and watch kids, and listen to lessons, and dance along with the songs in the video. I wasn’t too sure about the dancing at first, but most of the other grownups were at least taking a stab at it, and so I did, too. I’m not much taller than many of the kids. I fit right in. Some fellow got it into his head to take pictures, though. I’m sure I won’t be mistaken for a kid in any of those. A crazy lady, maybe. Oh, well. They’ll love me anyway. And maybe have a good laugh or two.
The past few months have been extraordinary, and not always in bad ways – although in the past few months I have discovered depths of grief I didn’t know were possible. I have learned a lot, been blessed, but also discovered what it is like to be overwhelmed. I think I used the word “overwhelmed” too lightly in the past. I could guess that widowhood would be rough, but I had no idea how much it can mess with your mind, your ability to cope, even your ability to eat. There were times, especially at first, when there was nothing for it but to go into a dark room, and lay down in absolute stillness and silence, refusing to answer the phone or the door, because any more input, even good input, even softly played Gregorian chant, even an encouraging word from a dear friend, was just too much to bear. Some days, the big problems seem of no consequence at all, but little things stop me in my tracks.
I have been blessed by friends and neighbors who have offered assurance and more assurance, no matter what. I went to the bank to make a deposit, but couldn’t manage to fill out a deposit slip, and the teller says, “You’re doing fine, honey. Really, you are. This is normal.” I get to a stoplight and have to think which light means go and which one means stop, and decide, on that evidence, that I should stop driving for a few days at least, and my friends say, “You’re doing fine. Really. This is normal. Really.” (And then they make sure to drive me around until I can remember the rules of the road again.) No matter what odd mind glitch I got, no matter how trivial something was that triggered tears, no matter if I fell asleep in public, someone would step up and tell me it was normal, and I was doing fine. I didn’t always believe them, but it helped to hear it anyway.
I still have times when it’s like someone has thrown sand into the gears of my brain, I still have tears now and then, I still feel worn out too often for too little reason, but on the whole I’m doing pretty well, all things considered.
(Now, if you try to call me on my cell phone, you might wonder. I brought the phone home, but thought I was heading right back, so didn’t bring the charger. I hadn’t realized how much I’d come to depend on that phone. Sigh. My laptop is down there, too. It’s my main computer. I am up here without any of my book manuscripts, or my journal, and I have edits to make in the books and entries I want to make in the journal. Moving is such fun.)