My RAV4 had accumulated four days of dust and soot in the parking lot of Lodi Memorial. Pattie deposited me adjacent to its driver door, my belongings safely tucked into the passenger seat beside me. She waited while I slid into the car, then guided me back to Kettelman Road for my drive to the Delta Loop.
After brief stops at the drugstore and the bank, I traveled westward, towards the winding rivers and the islands which they formed a century ago. I turned into Brannan Island Road just past four o’clock, days after leaving for what should have been a scant few hours’ errand. I traveled past the Lighthouse, then Pirate’s Lair, then the Spindrift, and thus into Park Delta Bay, where the garden grows and the scrub jays wait for my unsalted peanuts to appear in the little feeder which Christina made for me.
My arms bear the bruises unavoidable during a hospital stay. They stabbed my rolling veins every six hours, measuring my clotting time, my hemoglobin, and my platelet count. “I’m a hard stick,” I’d tell each lab person. I followed with a laugh and a warning: “I’ve got a two-poke rule.” Only one person needed the admonishment, leaving two nasty mars before getting the butterfly needle to draw blood.
As I rounded the 1/4 mile circle drive on which I live, I passed Sarah, with her blue hair cascading down her shoulders and a bag of laundry bouncing on her hip. I opened the window to greet her. “Hey, welcome back,” she called. We told each other that we would be at the community garden that evening at six. My long absences seem to inspire dramatic development in the garden. This time, Sarah and Jessie built a tree branch trellis to support the pole beans.
I followed the curve, past Pattie’s trailer, Melanie’s tiny house, the little Scout new to the neighborhood, and others: another tiny house, a couple of RVs, one or two empty lots. Finally, I parked in front of my tiny house on wheels. I sat for a few minutes, looking at my tiny garden, the blue roof, the cedar siding, the porch with its faded rocker and old oak box. Satisfied that nothing had been disturbed, I eased my stiff muscles from the vehicle. I clutched my computer bag, prescriptions, and a parcel which had arrived for me that Pattie retrieved before driving to Modesto to get me.
I struggled with the upper lock, but the door finally yielded. A slight musty air washed over me. I stood for a minute, beholding the sink of Wednesday’s breakfast dishes, the unmade bed, and the bundle of laundry waiting for its turn in the washer. But other sights awaited me: outside, the limes on my little dwarf tree; and within — walls of gorgeous art; shelves of angels and fragile mementos of my clumsy but well-lived days.
I dumped everything on the table, then unsealed the package, and lowered myself to the little chair in which I spent so many fond hours in my mother-in-law’s home. I carefully unfolded the bubble wrap which Pat Reynolds had used to cushion her creation. With trembling hands, I slid two tiles from the depth of the box. I rested them on the piece of wood from my 100-year-old Kansas City bungalow which I’ve reserved for just this purpose. I knew, as I sat contemplating the sweet gift of my devoted friend, that I had indeed come home.
It’s the twelfth day of the fifty-sixth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.