Up...and away

Steve is headed South to Pompano Beach for respite from the cold / the midwest / the basement/ me. In truth, it is chilly there, with the Southern Belles bringing their wool and fur out of mothballs to counter the 60 degree days and the 40 degree nights.It will suit Steve just fine. So will the solitary life. It suits him.

I am stubbornly hanging onto a little cheer, though I unplugged the front porch at midnight last night. I will not be wrestling with wreaths and garland until the double digit temperatures return. What remains of the holiday will be part of my “post-Steve” winter. I have hundreds of things on my “to do in Steve’s absence” list, and a few will make it to my “will do” list. A very few may be stamped “done” by the end of the winter. On top of my wish list- the rescue of all my photographs and albums from the basement. We have two sump pumps in the furnace room- the one room in the basement that is mine, all mine. I keep my beading supplies, wrapping paper and scrap booking stuff, and memorabilia there. Over the holidays I detected a musty/moldy smell to all my paper.  I also noticed that I wheezed if I spent too much time sequestered between the furnace, the freezer and the sump pits. I may reclaim a bedroom for my workroom- after all, we rarely have a full house.  And I think I deserve better than the furnace room.

I think my boys worry at the ease with which I can bid farewell to their dad.  He is retrievable, I remind them, and he will be popping in periodically.  I plan to pop in and make sure he hasn’t taken up with a Palm Beach octogenerian with a big dowry. (kidding, boys)  We have phones and even computers to confer on. In fact, I am not ready to return to the compound yet.  I would rather have Steve go first.  Our ceiling took a hit from water upstairs, and I know the task of repainting the affected area is the kind of purpose Steve likes.  When I miss him so much that I am really lonely, it will be easier to go back.  When I left Florida last Spring, my Dad was still toddling around.  I am haunted by our last goodbye- the first time he did not walk me to the parking lot and command me to make haste or miss my flight.   He was too weak.
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(what a difference a month makes with heart failure.  Left picture, February farewell, Right, March -and final- goodbye)

American Idol returns next week, and that was a preoccupation with Dad.  He loved to laugh at the bad contestants, but he thought Simon was too mean.  He also thought Paula was on drugs.  He was impatient for the real season to start last year, and settled in for all the shows from Los Angeles.  Adam Lambert was not his cup of tea, but he felt certain that Adam would be a finalist.  Dad favored girls.  One of his favorite stories involved seeing a very young Barbra Streisand at a club in Detroit, where he marked her for stardom.  He knew what it took.  This year I will not get as hooked without my viewing partner.   
Dad spruced up his place last year, aware that he was passing it on to his family, in a trust that restricts its sale.  He had new windows put in;  the company that did the job placed the glass panels on the grass outside his unit.  Of course, the sun burned giant squares into the turf, a reality that at one time would have unhinged him.  I expect that many words were devoted to the maimed lawn at happy hour. I knew Dad was reserving his energy for what counted when he just shrugged off off, saying, “it’ll grow back.”  The other condo inhabitants took charge of the destruction, watering the burned spots and removing the dead blades.  By the time Dad left the place to go to the hospital, the grass was regenerating.  Dad, not so much.  
Now Steve will be there without my Dad to anchor his sense of purpose.  He will have his podcast to dissect the morning, and his ritual of beach walking and photographing unsuspecting sun worshipers.  He will try to eat well, but he will not.  He has threatened to start attending St. Gabriel’s parish, just to please my Dad’s spirit and to irk me.  Dad loved that parish, with its Irish Pastor spinning yarns and telling jokes.  I loved it too, because where can you find a choir that allows every singer to sing whatever words or notes they 
wish?   The “altar boys” and Eucharistic ministers are all 80 year old women, surveying the tourist men with wishful thinking.  The ushers are the roosters, large and in charge.  The organist is more piano bar than holy roller.  It is a lovely way to spend an hour.  I wish Steve well in his conversion, but I do worry about all the hearts he will break if he wears his wedding ring.  
In Chicago, I will keep the dogs company, reassemble the rooms I have been working on, get my basement under control and try to eat well.  I will not, either.  With only my mouth to feed, baked potatoes and soup with toast are staples.  Nachos are also a staple.  I doubt if I will return to the daily folds of Catholicism to comfort me in my loneliness, though I do find a rosary or two is a powerful sedative. 
Matt muttered that we must have a loveless marriage if we can separate so readily.  Nah.  He forgets that we have been together 24/7/365 since his dad’s emancipation. A little breathing room will remind us that we are yin and yang.  He will miss me rather than be irritated by my phone calls, my cheery banter and my futzing.  I will be free to turn off the TV, deleting about a thousand decibels of sports programming from my life.  I will make the bed as I exit it, rather than come up midday to reconfigure the muss.  I will read in bed with the light on.  I will go out to movies with my friends, and have movie night at home.  I will train myself to be self reliant, because that is an essential component of growing older.  Most of all, I will miss him a few times a day.  That is a luxury when coupled with the fact that he is still my partner, a time zone away…experimenting with a sunny winter.  He earned his good time with 37 years of work, and I earned mine by riding in his side car- one that hit every pothole for at least two decades.  I hung on long enough to get to these years, and I am willing to be flexible.  
Steve and I saw UP on the plane to Hawaii, and we were both moved (and maybe embarrassed to be so moved by a cartoon) by the montage of Carl and Ellie’s married life.  We all start with stars in our eyes, with our goals and dreams.  Life just happens, and the trick is to keep inventing ways to make it a good one.  A sturdy marriage is a tool to do that.  
If you have not seen this film, get it.  It is genius object width=”640″ height=”505″>

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