I made the decision to move to California without asking anyone’s opinion of the plan. Of all the people most impacted, my son has said the least. I don’t often write about him anymore; he asked me not to do so and I try to respect that. But thoughts of him both haunt and embrace me, in turns.
Yesterday I felt a fire to get chores done. I started early with an interview for the upcoming event at the community in which I live. Then I launched into household tasks, before driving into Lodi to get prescriptions, make a Goodwill donation, find new textiles for my sitting area, and buy groceries. An incredible sense of accomplishment flowed through me as I loaded bottled water into the car and turned towards a gas station.
I asked the Google lady to play John Prine for me. Of all the famous folks who died of Covid, his passing hit me hardest. True enough, I had no personal connection to him but his music has always moved me. When I learned that he had died, I texted my son in Chicago. Some kind of grief overwhelmed me as I walk down the roadway of my community under a dusky sky. My musician son and I texted our mutual sadness for a few minutes before I walked up the hill to photograph the sunset that evening, still cloaked in that poignant sorrow humans feel upon the death of someone famous whom we suspect might have been worth knowing.
As I pulled out of the parking lot at Sprouts yesterday, the strains of Summer’s End filled my car. Tears rolled down my face. My brother Stephen’s face rose before me, a loss to addiction and unchecked mental health issues. I thought of my friend Laurie’s son Steven, another tragic death by suicide, a beautiful soul who succumbed to unfathomable demons. My own struggles with prescription drugs seem like a distant past which I know contributed to the mess that I made of my life in the last ten years. I thought of the airplane bungalow in Brookside, Kansas City, where I raised my son and which I sold to make this move. I could not stop sobbing. I strained in vain for a sentimental prayer with which to console myself.
I have no home to which my son could return to find solace, assuming that house would have ever been a safe haven for him in adulthood. John Prine’s images mixed with my own memories: of love and loss; of mistakes and victories; of grief and joy. I pulled into the gas station and let my head fall onto the steering wheel. Then I crawled from the car and started filling my tank, briefly smiling at the man behind me who had spared a concerned glance in my direction.
When I got back into my vehicle, I started the music again. Another song; another haunting metaphor. I drove towards my island with the windows open wide to let the healing autumn breeze surround me.
It’s the twenty-sixth day of the ninety-third month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.