In the twenty-five years that I lived in Brookside, I never washed the windows until I got ready to move. Now, in my tiny house, I’m yearning to climb an extension ladder and wash the Delta dust from the windows of my writing loft so I can see the sunrise while I write.
This place shimmers with magic. As the weeping willows come into their own, I gaze with clear-eyed wonder at the delicate greens and sturdy browns of the park. When I drive along the winding levee roads, hawks glide above me. Owls hoot as I settle for the night. Crows sear through the sky, with their ponderous bodies and their strong wings.
My muscles have grown stiff these last few months. Since I have no regular place to go each morning, I walk from my first floor to my loft and sit for hours on end. But I’ve needed these weeks to let my brain adjust to the assault on its complacency. I’ve been thinking about this move as an escape; sometimes as an affront to my son’s childhood; but only recently have I realized that it’s an evolutionary twist. What everyone assumed I would always be has now fallen away, and I’m becoming something else.
I’ve spent the last six decades defining myself by my shortcomings. I had help with this; I’ve been given a lot of vile labels over the years. I’ve even been told by someone who professed to love me that I was too damaged for him to remain by my side. At the time, I fell silent for a full five minutes before I nodded and acknowledged that I understood. I had not expected his love, and I was stunned but not particularly surprised by his desertion. After all, I knew my limits.
But other memories have crowded those sad exposures of my decline. One in particular rises from the mud to soothe me. My son and I ascended from the first floor pre-school to the second floor elementary school on his first day of kindergarten. I had been struggling with inexplicable illness, the opening volley of a four-year slide into catastrophe. Patrick raised his face to mine and asked if I would die before he got to be big.
I stopped climbing and crouched beside my son. No, Buddy, I assured him. I’m going to live to be 103, and I’m going to nag you every day of your life. He reflected on my promise before replying, Then I’m going to annoy YOU every day of YOUR life. We continued up the stairs, satisfied with our pact with one another.
I’m turning 63 this year. I have forty years to go. That should be time enough for my wings to unfurl so I can soar.
It’s the fourteenth day of the fifty-first month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.
In Memory Of A Great Man
STEPHEN WILLIAM HAWKING
8 January 1942 – 14 March 2018