Plans are Subject to Change

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.

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Moving On

Last week was filled with visits from old friends colliding with my present world.  While catching up with my old high school friend, Karen, my step-daughter was at the house getting geared up for moving her Nana’s things out.  I sat next to Karen as she deftly knitted away on a scarf of lacy yarns while I wore a finished one she had given me in my favorite green and rust colors, wondering how it was going for Christie as she looked over all the things she grew up seeing around her Nana’s house.  While catching up with my old college friend, Dan, my step-son stayed by the side of our old man, Rusty, until the dear old dog had to visit the vet for the last time.  Sitting between Gary and Dan at a comedy show, I laughed just as hard at the two of them heckling away as I did at the comedian’s morose humor.  Somewhere, deep in my brain, I was with Rusty.  Thinking of all the times he made his great escapes from the yard. Keith would hop in the car and coax him into chasing behind it around the neighborhood until his tongue dragged on the ground and he stopped bounding along.  Then Rusty would be content to go home.  I could not shake the thought that he has now made his last great escape. Keith is waiting for him, engine revving, just in case Rusty wants to chase freely behind him.

These are bitter sweet days.  I’ve made the decision to move out of the house so that I can rent it.  It is a fiscal decision, simple as that.  Emotionally, there is nothing simple about it.  All the children are pitching in to clear out everything they ever wanted or think they might need.  I spend my days off, loading up the car and making hauls of stuff to the new place.  Each shift of things from old place to new place brings me joy and sorrow.  As if I’m starting with a clean slate using pieces of my life infused with memories of all that was and gone.  My grandmother’s dishes now rest on a beautiful oak hutch as if they belong there, while images of those same plates sitting on her red counter tops drift into sight.  The sewing machine the Klinglesmith family gave me 20 years ago sits perfectly next to a handsome mahogany leather couch and I think of all the miles of battenburg lace I sewed onto bed sheets with it while working on “As You Like It” at the Shakespeare Theater.  The hutch I managed to sweet talk away from the boss 10 years ago has a new home and the scrapbooks I’ve made over the years will once again live on its majestic mahogany shelves.

Once again, I’m meshing what was with what is already there, in a new abode.  Just as I did when I moved in with Keith 8 years ago.  Today I had my moment.  I had moved a desk without thinking, so I moved it back.  Sitting on the floor under it, hooking up the wires and cables to the computer, I had to stop.  The sobs were too strong to focus on the task at hand.  I couldn’t comprehend why. Tears rolled down my face while sitting under a desk in a little room, wondering if I would ever be able to stop this disjointed life I live.  To move to a place that is not yours that feels like home.  To own a home that feels like it isn’t yours any more.  It occasionally pushes me to madness.  Just as I stand on the cliff, ready to to make that final leap into that dark mad place, a couple of gentlemen show up.  They load up the truck with a mahogany book case, hang curtains, clean the weeds away from the deck where my firepit sits, and allow me to have one little room with a desk I can cry under.

Moving is stressful.  Moving on and moving is, well – I don’t know – strange.  I know the shifting from one place to another will end and I can stop this mind racing project and start a new one that might cure cancer or solve homelessness.  Something a little more productive and constructive.  I think Rusty had it right.  If you have to escape the yard, do it in style.  Run till your tongue drags the ground.  Only chase the cars driven by people you love.  Never look back unless you absolutely have to.  Feel the joy of just moving.  And take a nap when your done.