Updated: Oct 22
I will begin by saying I arrived in Tashkent, Uzbekistan last night. Mike and Kira met me at the airport and I nearly cried for joy. I am so relieved and very happy to be here with them. Getting here has been a bit of a stress-filled and exhausting odyssey. Ima bring you back to when I last wrote.
Four more, um... three more days: Packing in
When last I wrote, I was writing about Ash and I about to go shopping at Sam's. We had loosely planned this because, when I informed them that Sam's is closing, Ash seemed to be taken over by a grief wave. They landed on the shore where grief meets reality and said, "I need a couple of pairs of pants, and a couple of t-shirts, and yeah, sure, Bop-Bop, I could get more underwear." Shopping at Sam's would most likely be our one last activity together before my worldly exploits. We had been packing in last activities together.
On Saturday, we had done our annual trek to a local Fall event (and fundraiser for Groundworks Collaborative) called Empty Bowls. We have been attending Empty Bowls for as long as I can remember. It's been so much a part of our family's fiber, it seems we've been looking forward to and attending Empty Bowls forever. It has not been forever, of course. This is the twentieth year... 20 years since Empty Bowls began, in Putney, Vermont, started by the one-and-only Alan Steinberg. This year Empty Bowls was dedicated to Alan. Because this year, on Saturday April 8, Alan suddenly and unexpectedly died. Alan and his wife, Linda, are friends of mine. And because grieving is so tender and unpredictable, Linda had asked me to pick her up and bring her, which I did. This year's Empty Bowls, though already part of us, was especially significant for many.
The next night, Sunday, Ash and their bestie Seth came to my home for our weekly "pizza and a movie at Bop-Bop's" night. When it was time for closure, we could not. Instead, we made another plan. And now, we are back to Sam's.
It was Thursday. We walked into Sam's and downstairs to the sporting goods section, looking for our friend and Ash's current main caregiving person, Beto. Instead of Beto, I saw backpacks. "Huh, look at that," said I, "the travel backpacks are on sale." And off I went to try them on. Twenty-year-old Ash, puppy-dog-like, silently followed me, sat down on the floor under the backpacks, and played Pokémon Go.
To be accurate, before Ash settled into their own groove, they were very helpful. They found numbers on the backpack tags, indicating the volume each bag carried. Then they went off and found a salesperson to help me. At one point, I apologized for monopolizing our time at Sam's. Ash said, "I can come back for pants anytime, Bop-Bop. You need a travel bag for your big trip."
Ash has become quite accommodating, thoughtful, and understanding. I love my grandbaby. I love them to the core. I've loved them since before they were born. Sometimes, caring for the child and adolescent Ash felt extremely challenging. Sometimes it was 98% challenging. Now that Ash is older, calmer, and smarter about interacting in the world, I don't feel challenged. Maybe part of that is me. I've come to accept Ash as Ash is. Most likely, I'd say, the reason for my changed perspective is that both of us has changed. We both are older, calmer, and smarter. Ash and I are growing up. Nowadays, I feel zero challenge when we're together. I just feel love. 100% love. I love my Ash.
Ima stop here for a moment and get into someone's head. Someone, I sense, is wondering "Ami, why, on Thursday, three days before leaving, were you shopping for a travel bag?" It does sound ludicrous, or like just plain old bad planning. But, I had my reasons... even if I didn't know them at the time.
I had designated Tuesday as packing day. I had washed and dried the clothes that had been hanging on hooks in my bedroom. Clothes hanging around my bedroom on hooks are what I call the "not clean enough to put away but not dirty enough to launder" clothes. I washed and dried those clothes, along with the rest of whatever was dirty laundry. After all clothing items were clean and dry, I pulled out of my closet every item that I thought, "maybe I want this on my epic journey" and heaped them onto my bed. I tried on every item in the heap. I tried items on in combinations. I whittled down the tops and bottoms until I got to "yes, this." I put away the rejected ones, and folded and neatly piled up the chosen ones. As you can hear from this story, I did everything and then some. What I did not do was pack. I had pulled the two (what I'm now calling the "cow") suitcases out of my closet. They had been standing in the corner of my bedroom, waiting for designated-Tuesday-packing-day. I looked at them. I knew, in my bones, that I could not pack them. There was some reason, something I couldn't lay my finger on, keeping me from the final step of putting the chosen clothes into the suitcases.
I didn't know until Thursday that I was waiting for my new travel backpack from Sam's. I didn't know until Friday, (stopping at Experienced Goods, aka: the Hospice thrift shop, for a scrunchy raincoat, which I found for one dollar. Yay), that I was (also) waiting for my new trusty rolling-backpack carry-on.
Still, I could not pack. The helpful salesperson at Sam's suggested I mark my travel backpack. "Ah" thought I, "I know how to do that!" So, on Friday night, my next window of opportunity, I painted my new bags.
What do you do when you have little time to finish your long have-to list, and are feeling so much stress in your body that it's buzzing in your skin tissue? It seems that I paint bags.
Another side of Three more days: Closure
I was both gearing up to travel and gearing down from working with my one-on-one client. We had done a lot together. In three months, we had met every day. We had taken a road trip... a couple of them. One epic trip was an overnight in Maine, so he could sit with his dying ex-wife. It was significant. One shorter trip was a week ago, to Bennington, Vermont, where (among other things) he visited the VA Home (that had accepted him). In our three months together, we had waxed philosophical and reached in to the heart and soul of things. He had become my friend, and I his. He told me he would miss me, and I fully believe that's true. He would be mostly alone with not much to do for two weeks (before moving). I would miss him too, though I didn't feel that at the time. When you're busy - so very busy - and being with other people - so many people - as I had been, missing isn't really an issue yet. Friday Oct. 13 was our last day to meet together. He was anticipating this day. I was too busy to anticipate anything.
When I'm overtired and over-stressed, I am not patient and do not tap into compassion. On Friday, I was not patient. I was not compassionate. He was. After we parted, throughout that night, he called me multiple times. He left one message saying "did we say goodbye?" Actually, we had not. I had not wanted to. I had not wanted to feel all the feelings that would most likely arise with the words of finality, the words: good bye. So I had said "I'll talk with you in two weeks" and "I'll visit you when I'm back" and other such platitudes that elude closure. It is true that I hope to do those things. It is also true that we both needed closure.
So, on Saturday, I called him. I apologized for not saying the words of finality the day before, and I told him why. He was gracious about me being stressed out. He was gracious about me not wanting to upset him. He was as gracious and kind and gentle with me as he'd been every day for the three months we'd been meeting. We both said "good bye." It was good closure.
I will skip ahead here and say that I have received multiple calls from his phone. Multiple, like 6 in a row, daily and through the night. And there have been messages. In the messages, he is wishing me well, hoping the best for me, ever gracious and kind and gentle. And in moments when I feel like I've lost my mind, I listen and his message makes me smile.
Two more days: Spreading ashes
My tenant and friend, Garth, had lived in the apartment downstairs in my house for over 17 years. Garth's health got worse over the last five or so years. In the last year, I felt it was unsafe for Garth to live at my house. I had asked him to move, in September 2022. Garth did not want to move out. On August 17, 2023, Garth moved to a place in Vernon.
I hadn't seen it. I was waiting to visit, for Garth to unpack and feel settled in. I heard that his new apartment was a lovely and appropriate place. That made me feel quite happy for him. Garth, though, did not live there long enough to enjoy the fruits of his move. He did not live long enough, period. On Labor day, Garth was hospitalized, and then, on September 22, 2023, Garth left his body. Gone. Died. Death is such a strange phenomenon. Here and then not here. Just like that. Gone.
Garth's childhood and lifelong friend, Jim, from Long Island, came up to visit Garth often. Through the years, Jim and I became friends. Jim picked up Garth's ashes on Friday. On Saturday, Jim, Aaron (my neighbor who became close friends with Garth these past few years), and I spread some of Garth's ashes at the grave of Garth's son, Earl. We poured vodka into the earth. We swigged vodka in Garth's honor. I was impressed how warm and instantly calm I felt.
I understand how addiction happens. I understand why people reach for a drink or a pill or a needle. Our cultural way of life, for the most part, is stressful. There are quick ways to calm things down, inside. A quick fix, though, doesn't change things on the outside. A quick fix doesn't change anything in the long run. In the long run, many quick fixes actually cause more problems. I do, though, understand the quick fix. I do understand why Garth drank, even if his drinking, most likely, is what ultimately led him to an early death.
Jim stayed overnight with Aaron and (his wife) Alex. On Sunday, Jim drove me (and my painted bags) to New York. And here my travels begin.