Conversations I Never Expected to Have

IN A DREAM, I ran into Sandy in an airport. It was all so happenstance. I was walking through the crowd, looking for the people I’d come with, and an airline employee handed me something he thought I’d dropped. It was a boarding pass with Sandy’s name was on it. I looked around to see if she was there, and sure enough, she was.

IN REAL LIFE, Sandy is moving to Florida due to her husband’s job transfer. I guess that’s why I ran into her at the airport in my dream. She’s on her way there, at least in my mind.

* * *

IN REAL LIFE HERE lately, we’ve been talking about retirement. On a recent trip, we allowed for an extra day and drove through a region, considering communities we might like to settle in. Choosing a community one has never lived in in a state one has never lived in – on purpose and not because a job is forcing you – seems a little strange to me. Why not settle in one of the places we have previously lived and loved, places where we have roots? (Answer: Because the people we love all live on the other side of the Appalachian Mountains and it might be more convenient if we did, too.)

My father had a retirement dream. He bought a piece of property in Florida and had the paper to prove it. The lot sat on the corner of Ruth Lane & Ruth Ave. My mother’s name was Ruth. That’s why he chose that corner.

“He’ll never do it,” my mother said. “He’ll never move.” Ten years after he was gone, she disposed of the property. It was still undeveloped.

Honestly, Wally and I never expected to be talking about retirement together. We never expected to be choosing a location, exploring communities, deciding whether we’re finally ready to have someone else tend to the mowing. Not since 2008, we haven’t expected it. Not since the CLL diagnosis. Retirement was 10 years off. Life expectancy, 5.

In 2010, a neighbor asked me, “Where do you and Wally think you’ll retire to?” and I had the same reaction I had when people asked where we were going for summer vacation. It took everything I had not to burst into tears. Our summer was eaten up by treatment appointments at the Medical Center.

But here we are, 2016, making plans for retirement. And we are grateful. We are getting to do the very thing we thought we wouldn’t get to do. It doesn’t always happen, but it makes me wonder. What else do I think I’ll never see happen in my life that I’m grieving in advance?


When Things are Broken and it’s Mother’s Day

I really don’t know what to do when things are broken and Mother’s Day creeps up and everywhere are photos and flowers and gatherings and sunshine. I don’t know what to do, except wait for Monday. Books have been arriving here lately at an alarming rate, a rate much faster than reading speed. Maybe this is a weekend to get lost in one and stay off social media. A weekend to paint, to play music. Church, which I love, is a huge gamble. Game-time decision there.

There are times when muddling through is the best you can do. Muddling through is an underrated skill. I used to be blind to those who muddled through. I once was blind, but now I see. And maybe this sight will be useful to me in some way. I’m sure it will. I’m just not sure how. But I have faith.


Free to Not

Censored mailTruth is, if someone had asked me that last day in Nebraska what my takeaway from the retreat was, there was one thing clear.

I feel free to stop writing for publication.” Sounds strange, I know. Most people come away from a writer’s retreat inspired about a new project or renewed in their commitment to an ongoing one.

But a stop sign is also direction.

Nobody asked and I was glad. I wasn’t ready to say it aloud. Once I returned home, once I unpacked and settled, once I processed and considered, surely I’d go the other way with it.

I swear, I must have been absent from school the day they covered gut feelings and how to go with them.

* * *

Tammy writes about “Living the Small Creases of Your Life.”

There are times you live in the hidden nooks-n-crannies of your life, as if it were a shrinking back. But that’s not entirely true. It’s really a folding into your life. One that’s necessary and truer.

There it is again. Permission. What seems like shrinking back is really a folding in.

Ideas pop, and against the too-long-blank canvas of my mind, they splash like fireworks. An old voice pitches to me. Write an article. Write a series. Query today. They will love it!

But I have this other investment I’m making, see? My peak creative time is spoken for.

* * *

NEXT MORNING again, before sunrise, I start a letter.

When the sun comes over the roof of the house across the street, I pull the curtain a bit, to keep the blinding ray at bay. Just 5 more minutes. That’s all I need and I’ll be done. Always the same, every day.  Just 5 more minutes, please.

The dog lies tucked in beside me in the upholstered chair, tight. I sometimes imagine he is sending me sentences, but pay no mind to that. It’s the least of my insanities, but I have changed chairs since rescuing him, so he has a place.

He’ll not stir until the printer prints. I get up for coffee or a sweater and he doesn’t lift an eyelid. But he knows when he hears that printer, his breakfast is not far off.

I pick up a pen,
I sign,
I fold the paper into thirds. These are the small creases into which I am tucking my everyday life, a mixed bag of a ramble, all so much nothing that turns out to be something to someone else.

* * *

SHE’S GONE DOWNTOWN and surrendered herself. Five days after I’m back from JT, she goes – just as instructed, just as she needed to do, just as arranged for in her plea agreement. We won’t be meeting at Panera again, not for a very long time.

Today I got a response from her, stamped on the back that it had been seen by the censors first. My postman’s gotten used to this, the regular influx of screened mail.

It’s arrival means my first letter got there okay! I’m happy for that.

“You never told me that story!” she writes. “I’ve read it three times so far.”

It’s crazy math, I know, but one letter read 3 times means more to me than one article seen by thousands.


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