Where Generations Overlap

A few years ago, I lived for a short time in a gated modular home community for older adults. It wasn’t a good experience — I was renting a room in the house along with a fellow who spoke not a word of English and had mental problems of an undisclosed nature. Even worse, a key was necessary to leave the park on foot, and since the owners didn’t see fit to give me a key to the gate, I felt trapped. Worst of all, there was a high school outside the gates, which made me feel as if I were living in some sort of apocalyptic science fiction story where people were forcibly segregated by age.

I didn’t live there long — just a few months. Then the park manager evicted me. Apparently, although I was there to house sit, I couldn’t live in the house without the owners being present. (I don’t think the manager understood the concept of house sitting.)

That whole experience creeped me out. I can still see that place — the old folks walking around inside the walls, the teenagers milling around outside. It’s not something I ever wanted for myself, and luckily, I didn’t end up in such a situation. Many of my new neighbors seem to be around my age, but there are a few younger folks with children.

One neighbor (who happens to be the son-in-law of the people I bought the house from) planted my mailbox for me. Most people in town have their mail delivered to their door, but there are now separate rules for newcomers, and though this guy is a friend of the postmaster and tried to get me a dispensation, the postmaster stuck to the rule. So my pretty new mailbox is sitting out on the curb without any of its ilk to keep it company.

Another neighbor is a lovely young woman who wanted a job, so I’ve been letting her take care of my weeds that for now form what is laughingly called a lawn. Generation-gap relationships offer new challenges for me. The girl told me she thought my house was cute and that she liked the woman who’d moved into it. I gave her a spontaneous hug, and then later realized I probably shouldn’t have since kids today are being taught not to let anyone touch them without permission.

The next time I saw her, I apologized. She said she was glad for the hug, that it had made her day, but still, the incident reminded me to be careful.

Most of my socializing (to the extent I do any socializing) is among women about my own age, but still, it’s nice to be in a place where generations aren’t segregated.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

The Nasty Thing in the Wood Shed

I didn’t mean to drop a zinger and then leave you hanging. Well, maybe I did. I am a writer after all, and we writers like to leave you wanting more.

Besides, I only learned the truth about the nasty thing in the wooden shed a couple of days ago. To be honest, I didn’t think the capped pipe was anything at all. I was simply being mysterious for the sake of the story. What spooked me (a bit) was the way the contractor kept staring at the sewer pipe and saying, “Anything could be in there.”

He didn’t tell me until afterward that he wondered if it might be a pipe bomb, and he hadn’t wanted to worry me.

As it turns out, nothing was in the tube, though the pipe wasn’t as innocuous as I thought it was. It was a makeshift hydroponic contraption for growing marijuana. There were several holes drilled along the length of the pipe, one for each seedling. After the plants were in place, the pipe was then filled with water. Drains were attached to the capped ends to remove or change the water without disturbing the growing plants.

Since the pipe was empty, it was easy enough to dispose of — it went into the dumpster.

There haven’t been any other discoveries. A winter storm put the work on hold, but also that same winter storm helped ease my sinus condition. Apparently, I am allergic to the ornamental pear trees that are prevalent in the neighborhood. They truly are beautiful, with those bright white blossoms, but the beauty is not worth the pain. (Though it will have to be. This is a neighbor’s tree, not mine, so I’m stuck with the sinus problem.)

Next week, perhaps, the gas company will come and move the gas line so we can finally get the porch foundation poured. After that, they will put in the subfloor so we can get at the basement.

I wonder what we will find when we start moving things around down there? Dust of course. Lots of dust. And dirt because the basement is bordered on two sides by an open crawl space. But other than that, who knows? Anything can be buried in a 90-year-old basement.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Something Nasty in the Wooden Shed

My next book seems to be writing itself, which, now that I think about it, is a good thing since obviously, I am not writing it. Obvious to me, anyway. When I am not actively involved in my new house and new neighborhood and new town, I loll around on my new couch and read new books from the library.

All of which might make for a nice life, but doesn’t do much for the word count.

I still don’t know what the story is, though I do have the main character (Pat from Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare), and I have the setting (this house of course). And I have a sinister atmosphere with the spooky basement, the cistern we uncovered beneath the enclosed porch, and now the shed, and more specifically, the sewer line in the shed.

The shed is actually a garage, though because it can’t be used as a garage quite yet, we have all gotten in the habit of calling it a shed. One corner of the building leans severely enough to the right that it prevents one of the doors from opening. The contractor had thought overwatering the flowers near the foundation of the garage made the floor crack, which made that corner lean precariously. Since all the other corners of the garage are completely straight, however, he’s decided it’s unlikely the garage tilted, because if it had tilted, the opposite corner would have also had to tilt. And it didn’t. So now he thinks the garage was built like that.

Curiouser and curiouser!

Then, as we were checking out the ceiling in the shed/garage, he pointed out a ten-foot piece of turquoise pipe stashed in the rafters.

I’d never given a second thought to the pipe (never even given it a first thought!) — it was just one of the many pieces of junk that needs to be cleared out. He stared up at that piece of turquoise tubing and wondered aloud what it was doing there. And what he should do about it.

I told him he could haul it away with all the rest of the junk, but he kept staring at it. “The pipe is capped on both ends,” he said. “Anything could be stored in there.”

Oh.

See? Plenty of atmosphere for my new novel.

At least, I hope that’s all it is — atmosphere — and not something nasty in the wooden shed.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

One Month Anniversary!

This is the one month anniversary of my new love — my house! This love comes as a surprise to me because I’ve never been particularly interested in things, and a house is definitely a thing. A big thing!

At a time (and age) when people are downsizing, here I am — upsizing. Not only have I accumulated a house, I’ve accumulated furniture, stocks of cleaning supplies, extra dishes. And flowers!

This daffodil isn’t mine exactly. Although it’s on my property, I didn’t plant it or do anything to help it grow, so it belongs to the sun and the earth and to itself more than to me. But still, it’s mine to enjoy.

Work on the porch has come to a standstill. The gas pipe going into the house needs to be moved otherwise it will become embedded in concrete. Meantime, the contractor will be here sometime this afternoon to see if they can straighten the garage. One corner lists to the right, so the door doesn’t work, and there is a huge crack in the floor they will try to repair. All that damage was done because of overwatering the flowers that are planted along the edge of the garage, so I’ll have to eventually relocate the flowers if I want to water them. Poor daffodil. I hope it survives the move; who knows, maybe it will thrive as much as I am with my own move!

I went to a dinner play last night put on by the youth group of a nearby church, and it was very good, both the actors and the food. A new friend invited me, and I saw a couple of people I’d already met, so that was nice.

I moved here for the house — it was by far the best house I saw in my extremely low price range, and it seemed to call to me — but the town is turning out to be a great place for me, too. People are friendly and welcoming, the streets uncrowded, and everything I need (especially the library!) is within walking distance. I still go to a bigger town once a week to shop — it’s an excuse to drive more than anything else because otherwise my poor car would sit there unused.

It’s amazing to think I’ve been here a month already. It’s even more amazing to think of all I’ve done in that month.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

GRIEF: THE INSIDE STORY is now available!

Coping with the death of a loved one can be the most traumatic and stressful situation most people ever deal with. As the bereaved struggle to make sense of their new situation, they often find that the advice they receive is produced by medical professionals who have never personally experienced grief, is filled with platitudes and clichés, and is of very little practical help.

How long does grief last? What can I do to help myself? Are there really five stages of grief? Why can’t other people understand how I feel? Will I ever be happy again? Grief: The Inside Story answers such questions while debunking many established beliefs about what grief is, how it affects those left behind, and how to adjust to a world that no longer contains your loved one.

Although the subtitle is “A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One,” the book is written especially for those who have lost someone intrinsic to their lives, such as a spouse or life mate, and who now struggle to cope with their new realities. People always want grievers to “get back to normal,” but as Grief: The Inside Story shows, there is no “normal” to get back to back to, but grievers can eventually find renewal in their lives.

Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Grief-Inside-Story-Guide-Surviving/dp/0368039668/

If you have read the book and it proved valuable, please leave a review. The more reviews, the more visible this necessary book will become. Thank you.

***

Pat Bertram is the also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Twitter. (@PatBertram) Like Pat on Facebook.

 

Next Week is Here!

Every time I talked to the contractor who’d agreed to fix the foundation of my enclosed porch, he told me he’d be able to do it “next week.” Well, yesterday he showed up! He and his worker got right to work, and ripped up the old floor of the porch. If the basement isn’t enough of a setting for a horror story (or at least a rather trite novel about a new houseowner who finds a buried body), this boardless porch certainly would add to the creepiness of the story.

We found an old cistern under the floor and decided not to open it. Not that there would be anything in there, though the contractor did admit he has found bodies buried at some of the sites where he worked. (That’s not as sinister as it sounds. In Colorado, some counties have no laws — or at least they didn’t — about not burying your deceased on your property, so many country-folk buried their own dead instead of forking out for the undertaker.)

Still, burial site or not, I took a photo of the hole under the porch in case I ever need inspiration.

By the time this particular job is finished, the porch truly will be enclosed. The new concrete foundation will go all around the porch, keeping out critters, moisture, and any nefarious types who might want to dig for whatever might be buried in the cistern, but the hole will still be there.

Out of sight, out of mind? Let’s hope so!

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Life on the Trail

I haven’t yet taken up my perennial pastime of long rambling walks, though on one lovely spring day I did follow a road out of town to see where it went. I didn’t go far, only a mile and a half or so, and what I saw was . . . a whole lot of things or a whole lot of nothings depending on your point of view. Mostly, there was the road bounded on both sides by brown-grass fields, an occasional field overrun with purple mustard (which smells like sour milk to me and melted crayons to other people).

A few creatures stopped to nod at me and welcome me to the neighborhood.

And at the beginning — and end — of my journey was the courthouse.

I am living on the Santa Fe Trail, though in this particular political climate, I’m not sure what to think about that. Is it something to brag about, be ashamed of, or ignored altogether? Whatever the truth, it’s hard to ignore the trail since some of the roads around here follow the trail, and there are reminders everywhere. (It’s odd to think how often I thought of living — backpacking — on a long trail, and here I am. Life seems to be something of a punster.)

I used to love history, no matter whose history it was, because it seemed to me past events and other cultures were an indication of who we are as a species, but nowadays, with accusations of “cultural appropriation” heaped even on youngsters decked out in tribal wear for Halloween, I’m not sure it’s wise to see myself other than what I am today. (Whatever that may be.)

It’s amazing to think I haven’t even been here a month. I’ve made friends. (Meet Butters, who loves my little awning.)

I’ve joined the art guild, made plans to go to a dinner theater put on by a local church, am getting to know a couple of street people, and frequently visit the library.

Next week, workers are supposed to come to do some repairs around the house, and I’m hoping that this time, next week will actually come. (He’s been promising “next week” for weeks now.) It would be nice to finish unpacking, though I am getting used to making my way around the maze of my belongings.

As for today, well . . . when I finish here, I’ll fix asparagus in my new asparagus steamer (a housewarming gift) in my new kitchen and read a new book from the library.

Life on the Trail is good.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Unsettled

I’ve been feeling a bit down the past couple of days. My nest building has come to a standstill because I can’t do any more unpacking until the foundation of the enclosed back porch (soon-to-be exercise and storage room) is fixed, and the guy who promised to fix it has so far been too busy to do the work. It’s always “next week” and apparently, next week never comes.

That’s not really a major issue, though, just a bit of frustration that adds to my overall feeling of being unsettled.

My meeting people has also come to a standstill. Although people I encounter have been nice to me, I spend most of my time alone, which isn’t a new development, of course, but that aloneness, too, adds to my feeling of being unsettled.

What isn’t coming to a standstill are all the small things that demand attention, such as a breaker box that was stuck (it took a guy from the electric company two hours to dismantle it and put it back together), smoke alarms that need to be replaced, scammers sorted out from the official folks I need to deal with. All these things make me wonder if I’m in over my head, which contribute to my feeling unsettled.

Mostly, though, it’s the date. I’d forgotten tomorrow is the ninth anniversary of Jeff’s death, but a tightness in my chest and stinging eyes have reminded me of why I am here in this place, this house.

Because he is gone.

My sadness this anniversary is more nostalgic than painful. My missing him doesn’t feel as personal as it used to. For most of my years of grief I lamented that I never felt any different. Lamented that I hadn’t changed. But being here in this house, trying to create a new life for myself, tells me the truth. I am not at all the same person who struggled to live while her soul mate struggled to die. Not at all the same person who witnessed the death of the one person who anchored her to life. Not at all the same person who screamed her angst to the uncaring desert skies. That woman, I am sure, is still feeling the agony of his absence, but she is not me. She could never do the things I am doing.

Despite all the changes, I still worry about stagnating — becoming the crazy cat lady sans cats — and so far, there is nothing in my new life that precludes this from happening.

I tell myself to be patient, that my new life will be revealed (will unfold?) in the years ahead, but for now, I’m feeling . . . unsettled.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

The Dark Underbelly of Home Ownership

Although I was hesitant to post a photo of my creepy basement, enough people wanted to see it that I figured I should go ahead and post the image.

I don’t suppose it’s really all that creepy, just . . . old. The little room off to the left is the old coal bin back when coal used to be the most up-to-date heating system. What doesn’t show in this photo is the crawl space that surrounds this dug out part of the basement. The walls are only about shoulder height — the rest is a wasteland of dirt, junk, cables and conduits.

It seems the perfect setting for a murder mystery, or rather it did until I realized how trite the setting would be.

One day, though, when the  contractor has time to redo the floors and walls, I have no idea what (or who) we might find buried behind those cracking walls.

And so the adventure continues . . .

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Buyer’s Remorse

I’d forgotten about buyer’s remorse. Not that I ever had reason to remember the concept because until last week, I’d never owned a house. (Until a couple of months ago, I’d never even considered owning a house!) It’s come as something of a surprise that I am now not just a homeowner, but a house owner.

So far, though, it’s been great. No remorse!

There have been a few frustrating episodes, such as trying to get set up with the internet. What a chain of errors, lies, and miscommunications! But I’m set up now, so that’s good. There’s so much work to do to get unpacked and settled that I didn’t really miss the internet, but it does help to be back online. It feels normal and familiar in a world where little is familiar. New house. New (to me) furniture. New town. New folks to meet. New chores. (I’ve never been obsessed with neatness, but I have discovered how lovely it is to wake in the morning and see my beautiful living room, so I make sure I do a quick clean before I go to bed.)

And then there was “that” day. For the most part, the weather has been ideal, but shortly after I got here, a bomb cyclone hit. We didn’t get the blizzards that Denver and other areas got. We just had a bit of rain and insanely high winds. Being in town helped moderate the winds because other houses provided a bit of a wind break, but even though we didn’t get the 80-mile-an-hour gusts that were recorded at the local airport, the wind was still severe.

Luckily, this house really is solid. No drafts, no whistling or rattling windows. The electricity, however, did go off for a couple of hours. After about an hour, the smoke alarms started screeching. To be honest, I don’t see any reason for smoke alarms to be wired into the electric system — individual alarms seem to work just as well — but that’s what I have here: inter-wired alarms. When one goes off, they all go off.

Which is overkill. A beep from cell phone can wake me. Why would I even need four alarms screeching at me all at once? I dismantled all the alarms, but they still continued to screech. It wasn’t until I took out the batteries that silence finally prevailed. When the electricity came back on, I reattached the alarms. Or tried to. Two did fine, but one chirped and one screeched. Thinking it might be a circuit problem, I ran outside in my stocking feet for just a second to check the breaker box, but couldn’t figure out how to open it. I ran back to the door, but the screen door had latched. (I think the wind banged the door shut with such force that the latch latched.)

So there I was, in the rain and mud, with winds that about blew me over, in my stocking feet, and no way to get inside. I had the keys, but the screen door didn’t have a keyhole. I ran down the street to where a handyman lived, but no one was home. Then I ran to my next-door neighbor, and asked if he knew how to jimmy a lock. He did. Took about a second. (But he couldn’t figure out how to open the circuit box, either.)

Such an adventure!

I’ve been trying to connect with people. I went to a spaghetti lunch put on by the historical museum and introduced myself to a few people, spent a day with the previous house owner, (she wants me to join their bowling league, but as much as I enjoyed being with her and her friends, I’m not a bowler, and don’t really see myself ever becoming one), and had tea with my next-door neighbor. When she saw me in my hat, she donned one, too. That was fun. I’d never lived next door to someone close to my own age and, as it turned out, I’m the answer to her prayers. (She prayed that someone nice and friendly would move into this house.)

And tomorrow, I’m going to a meeting of the art guild.

Not bad for being in town just a bit over a week!

I’m looking forward to new adventures, new people, new plants. I found some green poking up through the awakening soil, a couple of lilac bushes hiding behind the garage, and a few periwinkle plants.

So no remorse! Of course, I don’t know what the coming days, weeks, months will bring, but although I miss the friends I left behind, I’m interested to see what will happen next.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.