It’s been two years now since we got the news that Keith had cancer. Right before the Labor Day weekend of 2011. I was such a different person then that when I try to look back, I can’t remember what I was like. I do remember that we had plans, dreams, a bucket list, and that sparkling naive idea that we would be together through our golden years. But plans are subject to change.
And change they have, on a grand scale at a rapid fire pace. By December of 2011, Keith was gone. By February of 2012, my dad was on the road to a full recovery from the gall bladder issues he was going through at the same time Keith was being treated. By May of 2012, the bulk of our financial fallout from Keith’s cancer had been resolved. When summer rolled around, Zach and Brandon were both finally set for college. My parents moved in that November and Christmas found me at the Klinglesmith house just like I used to do years ago.
By March of 2013 I had realized that I was capable of loving again. It’s another leap of faith that I temper with the hope that if he isn’t destined to walk with me together into our golden years, I can once again conjure up the strength to say goodbye. What a strange notion that Keith and Gary could meet on the other side. They could shake their heads at this crazy girl’s maelstrom of thoughts and adventures. There would be endless discussions about politics, the state of the economy, our military men who fight for our country, and the nation’s current status. They’d share their love for their children with each other. Keith would give Gary a tongue lashing for taking his wife on a motorcycle. Gary would chuckle at Keith for his brief run as a guppy farmer. But that day isn’t here yet. So today, in this moment, my heart will hold all the love from both the one who is gone and the one in my here and now. As if I have found an endless treasure in the depths of my grief.
In April, I lost the same job that afforded me the opportunity to work from home to care for Keith. By May, I took on a seasonal job in Ocean City which shook off the cobwebs, got me out of the house, and gave me a diversified caring fun group of coworkers whom I now call my friends. Yesterday was my last day and they sent me off in style with pizza and homemade ice cream cake. I’m going to miss our small talk between phone calls. The way we all ran around at a mad pace on Saturdays to handle all the guests checking in and out, until the pizza showed up and we’d take turns slipping into the conference room to scarf up a slice. We’d play Pandora radio and whenever the station stopped, one of them would turn to me and say “I’m still listening” so I’d go to the website and promptly click the “I’m still listening” button to start it up again. I have an overwhelming urge to call them right now to ask if they are still listening and should we order pizza for lunch.
But like the job that kept me home ended at just the right time, this job ended at a point where I need to have time on my hands. Time to move. It’s this weekend – the two year anniversary of Keith’s diagnosis- that everything leaves the house we once shared. The family homestead where 3 kids grew up. This same house my parents lived in before moving to South Carolina in July. After all of their own moving, they still found the time to move my stuff to Salisbury. Dad and my brother Lance loaded up my washer and bedroom furniture, then the whole Lankford gypsy clan made their way to my new abode. My oldest niece held open the door so we could let all the flies in. My youngest ran around the house counting Gary’s parrots and eating cheezits. When we got down to the heavy furniture, we stood on the brink of defeat. We had already spent the whole morning moving things and now faced with the big heavy dresser and wardrobe, it seemed like an impossible task. Then Lance figured out how to take the drawers out so the frames were light enough to handle. We all laughed at ourselves for not being smart enough to do that when we moved them out of Easton.
And so it will go this weekend. Christie is driving down in a rental truck tomorrow night. Everything must go. We plan on getting all of the furniture loaded and then off to its new home. That’s the plan as it stands now but the last two years have taught me a few important things. You have to sway and give with whatever the wind brings to you. You have to know that nothing is written in stone. You’ll never cross life’s finish line with a victory smile without adjusting as you go. It isn’t a race – it’s an obstacle course. The only constant we can count on is plans are subject to change.