Friday, August 31, 2001

Prelude to a Rebirth


This was written after we had sold all of our things, moved from CA to NJ what we were going to save in storage, rented our CA house, and sold our cars. This was written in retrospect from my father's home in NJ where we were staying and leaving from for Europe. Prelude to a Rebirth

There are many words left unsaid, not because I did not have the opportunity to express them. There were too many tasks to complete for the words to form. The tears have been sealed behind the dam; a fissure has not evidenced yet.

My mind was continually doing somersaults with a “To Do” list to allow any penetration into the lower recesses of feelings. Emotions were a luxury that I could not afford at the time, or so it seemed. Those that did surface were of despair and had to be suffocated quickly after a short exposure least they be allowed to fester into greater boils of self-hatred.

When it had been a year past my graduation, with my doctorate and the “dream job” never materialized, it seemed like the perfect time to start out on our adventure, the one that we had discussed many times in the past. We dreamed of taking a year off and traveling. Let life happen for a change rather than try to navigate the waters with such precision that any shift off course, seemed like a failure. Ron was ready to retire, though early, it did not affect his benefits in any significant way. This was the time to be free.

The most difficult decision was to decided to sell the house. Our home, our place of pride, our place of sharing with others, was no longer going to be ours. Without our home, a piece of our identity would be lost forever. This was the space that we opened to others to share holidays, birthdays and other events of achievement and camaraderie. Without it we would be homeless, not having a homestead to which we belonged. This was the most difficult obstacle to overcome initially. The second was the furniture. Our furniture had served us well. It decorated our home in a way that others could appreciate the charm our home, thus adding to our identity, but also was functional enough to give us pleasure during our tranquil times at home alone. Each piece of furniture had it’s own story and a bit of history, however brief. Every piece of the furniture had its own purpose, but seamlessly adding to the holistic effect of comfort and welcoming. After much soul searching, we had concluded that the furniture was a part of this home and would not be agreeable with another home. The symbiotic relationship between the furniture and the house were established. If one went, the other had to follow.
When it was time for the final good-bye party, it was not as emotionally significant as it was intended. We had postponed our parting for another month, circumstances now forgotten. We had over 60 people coming to share their well wishes and offer their memories of our importance, but again, nothing filtered into the deeper recesses of the mind, the emotional recesses where feeling are suppose to reside. It was a party after all and we had had many. Only the words exchanged provided the shift from the last party, but I was too busy trying to greet and host to allow the exchanges to filter through. This was just another dream sequence and when the house was empty of guests, I would wake up to reality once more, or so the thinking went.

Having your home on the market, knowing that strangers are passing through the rooms that you have lovingly created, either praising or disparaging them, is a sad feeling. Just as I want to be liked, I want my surrounding and creations to be liked also; it is an extension of me. To know that some who will enter with the welcome sign and the real estate open house have critical comments is deflating. To not have our house sell was like someone saying we were not worth as much as we felt we were. It was another ego deflator, but who has time to pay it any heed when you are letting life flow on its own.

First is was Kazakhstan, then it was travel, then it was some other adventure. How many stories there are to tell so many people and how often it changes. Not changing by our wistful revolution of moods, but by life’s flowing along. Too many people and too many changes subjugate the emotions even more. Too much thinking needing to be attended to does not give one the time to feel. There was too much house and furniture to be disposed of before the feelings could be attended to; this was a time for intellect, not for sentiment. Life’s flow was putting obstacles in the path. Does flow have so many twists and turns? It seems it does and we had to ride the wave of uncertainly.

Some friends rallied toward the end for a last good wish get together, but the reality never emerged as the festivities progressed. We were going to be without these people in our life as we had known them, for many years. Some changes are welcome, but so many losses are not fully realized until it is over. Yet sometimes the mind still controls and the heart is left wanting.

Ron had sold his truck leaving him without transportation. Being homebound afforded him the time and focus to get the packing nearer to completion. Still, I had my car to deal with and the dread of driving across country. The anticipation of sitting in a car for that many hours was like knowing I could eat from a banquet if I could learn to use a ten foot fork to get the food to my mouth. Torture personified to the 7th degree of madness. What choice did we have? One of our good friends, Margie decided she could easily drive the car across country for us and we could meet in New Jersey, where she would fly back home. My angel of mercy had appeared until the devil of last minute airline fares rose its ugly head. The cost would have been unfathomable. Again we were reminded that not all seemingly positive decisions have well paved roads leading to the destination. This option was out of the question financially. The confinement of the car was once again looming over my head, but as with all of the other feelings, there was no time or energy to squander on the dread. What was to be would be, but why couldn’t I see what was to be my crystal ball? Still so much to pack yet…

I feared the day of the furniture auction that I would resent those that wanted to make our furniture a part of their living space. It was ours, not theirs. They bid and they bought. Dozens of people flowing through our home like all the parties of the past. Ron and I along with four friends played host to the masses, who wandered from room to room surveying the end of this phase of our life. It was similar to many of our parties in the past, where there were too many people at once to give too many time and attention. The difference being this time they brought cash and left with a memento. We had friends who offered their time and energy. They were lifesavers, energy savers and moral support besides. Then the buyers returned day after day to cart their new treasures out of our house without the same relish that we labored over our choices in the first place. The parade of collectors continued hour after hour and day after day. I realized then how my dying clients have had to deal with losses during their ending duration of life. Loss by loss, piece by piece, you see the life you have accumulated unravel in front of you. Each departure of furniture created less of a home, but yet the dam of tears held fast. There was still too much to do and the time was drawing near. By the end of our last Saturday in Modesto, my car had not sold. Triple A was working on the triptik, but still I had not secured the needed drugs to make this a lesser memorable experience.

The end of the furniture sale day, sitting in exhaustion and recounting the events of the last six hours with our friend Marsha, the buyer of the dining room table came to pick up the purchase. As a side comment, he asked what we wanted for my Saturn. I told him I needed $13,000, which was the blue book value and the pay off amount. He offered $10,000 cash. We told him we would consider it, but my mind was screaming SOLD to the highest bidder and burn that triptik, Triple A be damned and my condolences for unnecessary work completed. When we discussed it in front of our friend Marsha, I explained to Ron that losing the $3,000 was a better gamble then thinking my father would be able to sell it for me for more in New Jersey. Then the heavens opened up, joyous sounds were heard from the heavens and the voice of Angel Marsha quietly and calmly said “I will buy the car from you.” This was almost, a religious experience for me. Had there been a minister handy, I could have submitted to a baptism on the spot. Like the good friends we are, we refused the offer, but only once. Why take chances? Suddenly, I had remembered how to pray…that she was serious and was not going to change her mind. Like all large purchases, we gave her time to opt out of the deal, condensing the usual 30 days to 30 hours. She did not renege on the offer and my nightmares of car travel came to an abrupt halt. She is our special angel. That airfare Lucifer appeared again. Air to New Jersey with such short notice was over $1400. each one way and a round trip was no cheaper. Thoughts of the car sale being a saving grace were soon extinguished, be it not for Amtrak. I remembered that Denver is a hub for United, so the air was cheaper from Denver. We were able to secure two tickets on Amtrak for $183.00 for both of us. Then I had a brainstorm. We had two unused tickets on Frontier Airlines that were purchased with moving to Boston in mind. We had paid $222.00 each for them. I assumed that since it was such a super sale, the money was lost forever, but when I called Frontier, they cheerfully, applied the funds to a ticket from Denver to La Guardia for only a $60. re-ticketing fee each.

That Tuesday was my last day at work. I had expected tears, my own. Having worked as a contractor with this agency for the last ten years, I had developed some close ties with many of the people. There was always much to share at lunchtime. My immediate co-workers had taken me to lunch the week prior and the whole group had given me a going away party. None of it felt real, at least not for the reason they were being given. The sense of loss was still at bay through all of this and stayed that way as I hugged my team members good-by for the last time. This was terribly confusing since this is not the consequence that fit my usual sentimental journeys. Packing was waiting for me at home.

It seems that no matter how much you pack, there is still more that surfaces or expands or appears out of nowhere. Our friend Margie was a trooper, helping us pack many nights in a row, plus being there for us in many other ways. There are so many things to do when you move, but more so when you are planning to leave the country for a long period of time. Getting the finances in order was an ordeal. There were checking accounts to close and others to condense. Then we had to determine ways of accessing money in Europe. Then there was the satellite dish, cell phones, water, electric, gas, newspaper, and Internet providers to contact. Wills needed to be notarized and Durable Powers of Attorney needed to be revised for two states: California and New Jersey. The homeowners insurance had to be changed due to the house being a rental now. Plans had to be made to access our e-mail as we went on our travels. And friends were still dropping in, though not unannounced to say their good-byes. That was a welcome diversion from the labors of the day. I know exactly where Office Max stocks the bubble wrap and if the shelf has been cleaned out by frantic packers, where the additional supplies are kept. Then there was the insurance to cover the goods while in transit since the mover only paid by the pound and not the worth. I could not let go of the $15.00 coupons that I had earned from the Hallmark Crown rewards program, not could I let go of the $9.95 left over on my gift certificate given to me by my co-workers. The original was $50.00, but I made good use of it.

The truck arrived and we stared at its bulk. It filled our driveway, but the shadow filled our thoughts with the reality of our pending move: the commitment to adventure. We had only contracted for nine feet of it’s enormous length and would be penalized $200.00 for each additional foot we spread out over. We were responsible for packing the truck, but we hired two expert movers for the labor. We had packed, labeled, and computer inventoried over two hundred boxes. Our backs were screaming for mercy and they received it. The packing was done with expertise and in a professional manner, but there was no clemency in square footage; we used eleven feet of space.

By Friday, the day the driver was coming for the truck, we were lulled into a false sense of security that all was well and we could afford the luxury of taking a ten-minute break. Instead, we went to the notary, the insurance agent, the bookstore, Hallmark, and to buy an additional suitcase to take on the trip.

Everything we intended for Europe and beyond was spread out on the spare bedroom floor waiting to be packed. I had secret hopes that magic was alive and they items would jump into the suitcases themselves while we were out running our errands. No luck! With the new suitcase in hand and the old, well-traveled suitcases spread out, I started to condense our life once again into two carry-ons and two full, wheeled suitcases. Unfortunately, my compulsive need to have books with me was a dreadful downfall. We had to include in the travel repertoire the oldest suitcase that we had which did not sell at the garage sale. While I was negotiating with physics and the available space versus abundant matter that needed to fill that space, our tenant comes by to show the house to her in-laws.

About six months ago, I had spotted a pricing error at our favorite caffeine hang-out, Starbucks downtown. They rewarded my eagle perception with two coupons good for any coffee drink. At the time, I had told Ron we would use them for our last coffee in Modesto. Friday, August 31st, our last stop in Modesto at 5:00 pm was Starbucks having a celebratory Venti (their largest) latte and cappuccino toasting Modesto good-bye.

Where are those dammed tears?

Next stop, Amtrak -- All aboard!!!!!

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