The night grows quiet. The hum of fans mixes with a chorus which could be crickets or the noises made by my broken brain struggling to make sense of its surroundings. Occasionally the neighbor’s dog whines.
I lingered over goat cheese and local red wine with several folks, until the mosquitoes drove one of our group into her tiny house. The rest of us said farewell, and I came inside to do the day’s dishes. Our conversation haunted me. We had talked of the homes which each of us had sold to embark on this grand adventure, this experiment in nontraditional living.
The fear that I’ve deprived my son of a place to bring his children still troubles me. He showed mercy. He gave his blessing to my decision. But still; shouldn’t I have stayed? Shouldn’t I have put his future need to return to his childhood home before my own desire for change? Did I put him to a Hobson’s choice?
As I puttered in my 200 square feet, I remembered a recent phone call with my son. I have these flashes of fearing that I didn’t adequately arm him for adulthood. That concern gripped me on this occasion, and I started rattling off advice. I asked about his homeowner’s insurance and smoke alarms. I urged him to make sure he had a paid-on-death designee for his bank account. He gently dismissed my worry, with his typical assurance that everything was fine.
No, really, Buddy, I repeated. There’s a form at the bank, you can probably do it online. Just designate a POD.
He cut me off, but kindly. Mom, he said. Listen: If I die with money in the bank, I didn’t tip enough or buy you enough presents.
The sunset streaked the western sky over the park. I cannot see the San Joaquin from my window but I sense its constant presence. In the morning, the same group which sipped wine this evening will gather on my deck for coffee. I’ll serve biscuits and set a little pitcher of almond milk on a tray beside the sugar. There will be laughter, and stories told. In the quiet moments, I will think about my son, drinking coffee in his apartment near Lake Michigan, twenty-five hundred miles to the east and light years wiser than I could ever hope to be.
It’s the twenty-ninth day of the sixty-sixth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.