I’ve gathered all my memoir-associated blog posts, notes, poems, essays and excerpts into one page that you can find at the top of the main “Home” page. Anything I do online having to do with the memoir, will be placed in “MEMOIR” for safe keeping and easy reference. Here’s a sneak peek at the prologue of my book-in-progress.
In 2008 my late husband (we were not married until later) was diagnosed with leukemia; after the initial shock became almost bearable, I began an online patient journal to update our friends and family of Paul’s condition. At first the online journal was written on a laptop that my cousin loaned us, and then Paul bought us one. I wrote the patient journal at Paul’s bedside, or next to him in our temporary housing; that journal went on for a year. Paul listened to the entries before I posted them and would occasionally have me add a message for a specific person, or his peers at the fire department. He especially loved hearing me read the sometimes funny, always supportive, comments.
A few weeks after his death I began an email journal of my painful progress through the nightmare estate issues and my stunted grief process. The email journal went out to our incredible circle of family and friends and continues today. Along with my journal entries are pictures, poetry, and incredibly supportive reader comments.
Six months after Paul’s death, I ran away from home; to the beach. Our home was home no more; it was a raped and pillaged shell that had once been the comfortable shelter of our love. Home was now held hostage in a gripping tug-of-war between lawyers and adult step-children, and then more lawyers and new insults from the same adult step-children.
Grief was made to sit along the sidelines, impatiently waiting to have its turn at me. For 6 months, the punitive damage against my very being, the onslaught of accusations and my own impotent defenses beat me down. Every single day for six months, I was ruled by the next-shoe-drop theory.
It was down to flight or fight, and I had no armor for fighting. I could barely attempt even a weak defense against those enemies beating at the gates. The demanding, insensitive treatment that I received sent me running for cover: to the imagined imprint of my husband’s body in our bed.
During those retreats to our bed my world became a string of flashbacks; two memories ran like film loops behind my swollen eyes. In Seattle, when allowed freedom from the hospital and the clinic, we aimed my little Nissan Frontier straight for a tiny strip of beach near by. It had been a Eureka! moment when we found that secret beach on one of our escapes.
We walked that little beach for as long as Paul could bear to be upright. We collected beach treasures to aahh over back at our temporary apartment. A lonely dog showed up once in awhile and chased the rocks that Paul threw into the waves. Other times he just followed Paul’s slow meander down the shoreline. Sometimes Paul insisted that we go to the beach; I silently wondered how he could even manage the long steps to the truck, let alone the challenging walk along the sand. His determination made me keep my worries to myself.
The other flashback was from a fun day on an ocean beach. On one of our few escapes back home, I unloaded the truck, grabbed the camera, and then we headed back outside with provisions for the day. We climbed into Paul’s 50th anniversary black T-bird, I tied a luscious silk scarf to my head, added big shades, and we became cosmopolitan tourists for the day.
Minding the clinic rules to stay away from people, we window-gazed the ubiquitous souvenir shops and scanned seafood menus on restaurant doors and windows. We picnicked on his “safe” food, and then silently walked the beach, allowing the colored rays of sunset to sooth our troubled minds. Although we missed ducking into the shops and tasting the local clam chowder, we came to understand that there’s much to be said for souvenirs held only in your heart.
These are the flashback scenes that surrounded me in my bedroom retreat during those first 6 months. Those memories led to thoughts of other times that I had found sanctuary on the beach. Many times during single-motherhood, I bundled up my nursing son and my toddler-daughter and made excursions to a friend’s beach cottage on Puget Sound, or to the sands of Ocean Shores. I recalled treasured memories of Huntington Beach, California, with my beautiful red-headed sister and our young families.
As beach memories crowded my thoughts after Paul’s death, it was automatic pilot that managed the details of the next episode of my life. Without that autopilot, I could never have abandoned our home; that sacred (albeit de-sanctified) place of “us.” As some have suggested the opposite, there was no bravery involved at all. Autopilot shielded me from sinking into fear, thus absolved me from carrying the tag of bravery on my weary shoulders. Autopilot also served up a pair of wings for my flight to the beach.
Maggie is less than 300 square feet of all mine. She’s as safe as the bedroom closet that our dog, Jake, snuggled into during fireworks and storms (and not much bigger!). We’ve been together for over 3 years and I know that Maggie holds no secret shadows. She’s a travel trailer who beats her chest with happiness when salty winds batter her metal skin. She sings along with the chimes I hang, and apologizes unceasingly when her plumbing proves imperfect. Maggie is home… and only a short walk to the beach.