The Road Home
As I drive north, the closer I get to Deadwood, the slower I go. It's like one of those time clocks about the history of the world, where human life has only been around for the last ten minutes before midnight in one 24 hour day, all of that history compressed into a mere ten minutes of a clock's ticking. So, even though time is passing, passing, relentlessly passing, very quickly, in its ordinary tempo, my movements slow and slacken until I can hardly be seen to be moving. No more 12 hour days of driving. I plan my trip from Tia's to Eugene with three over-nights included.
Dreading my re-entry into my home, I have boldly invited Jacques to join me in this intense ritual, since he has missed all the others so far. I've asked him to take time from his complex life to meet me at Richie and Michelle's house and drive on up the road together. I feel like I need someone to hold my hand as I face the return to our family home.
But I haven't heard a reply from Jacques, and I figure my slowing down only extends the possibility that he may get my messages in time and be able and willing to extricate himself from his own life to join me for a few days in mine. Frankly, I'm scared. I remember how lonely that house was after Steve died, after Churpa went back to college.
On March 31st I awaken in sadness. What makes nine months so hard? I approach the first of every month with caution, never knowing what -- or how much -- is going to well up on that monthly anniversary of Steve's death. My sadness about Steve has not emerged for some days, I think, because I have been so much with people. But today I am leveled by exhaustion before I even get going. It is partly, I'm sure, my agitation around returning to the home we shared together for so long as a family.
In the afternoon I get back into bed, too tired to even read. And in my inner world of reverie, it was like I hearing an echo from deep down in a well, as if Steve were down there somewhere, and I could see him, like a little hologram, distant, at the end of a tunnel. I could remember and feel his essence so vividly, and yet he is small and far away and deep. And it is again a wonder to me that he can be so completely gone from the world.
And yet again the thought comes -- did this really happen? How could this happen? How can he be so completely gone?
This month's passageway is exacerbated by the defection of a friend, reviving the underlying dormant but easily awakened question that has plagued me since Steve's death. Steve is dead; who are my friends? Call it paranoia, but there is a natural process of sloughing that occurs when one's mate dies. Some people relate to couples better than to single women. Others were Steve's friends originally, and I got shared into the relationship, only to be bumped out again when he was gone.
But the friendship in question was as much mine as Steve's. She was one of the many who showed up when Steve got ill, came out of the woodwork after a long silence. She didn't travel to visit but was present by phone call, emailed us info about liver disease and treatment.
Hers was one of those friendships that due to life's circumstances had gotten put on the back burner. But I always felt our friendship was alive and well, bubbling along, steeping, as it were, until we managed to meet again. And her immediacy and availability during Steve's illness and death seemed to prove me right.
But now she staves me off from visiting. "I'll call tomorrow and we'll have a long talk," she says. "I love you, Tina," she says with that intensity that only she could squeeze into a phrase. She never calls. She doesn't respond to a message I leave her.
I seek succor from Tia, who has no time for my agitation, preoccupied as she is with party preparations for the April Fool's Day celebration of her 31 years on the Bluejay land. I am inordinately upset with her inability to be there for me and stride out of the house. Xuxa and I walk up to Perrone's pond, a place of daily beauty and solace for me during my visit here, and I sit until the cleansing tears come.
Later in the day, part of me goes to Tia's party.
Bruce shows up in time for me to walk him up to the pond at twilight, a place magically transformed in the glow of the dusky orange sky. Subtle reflections shimmer on the pond's surface, and the rushes are alive with red-winged blackbirds trilling their call. We stand transfixed and listen in the gloaming. A pair of ducks swoop flying down with a fluttering of wings to land on the water, swimming tranquilly across the smooth pond, leaving only a slight ripple, to disappear into the grasses on the other side. The colors of the flora settle slowly into the darkening taupes and mauves of evening. Being there, with Bruce, is the day's celebration of Steve for me, softening the pain of his loss and of my friends recent abdication.