A friend asked me if I missed Denver, and I didn’t even have to stop to think to be able to answer that no, I didn’t. In fact, although I was born and raised in Denver and lived there during my early adult years, I was done the city long before I left it.
This (my leaving) was back in the “imagine a great city” era, where the first Hispanic mayor (a transplant from Texas because Texas already had an Hispanic mayor and Colorado didn’t) bought a name for himself with the promise of growth. And grow, Denver did, but so did graft and crime and various boondoggles such as the whole mess with Denver International Airport and the Silverado criminal activity. (I’m not saying that mayor was directly responsible, but it is interesting to me that two of the major players in the destruction of the Denver that I knew and loved were both Texans.)
I definitely don’t miss the city Denver was growing into back when I left. I don’t even miss the Denver of my childhood, though back then, it was a good place to grow up. The air was clear, traffic was light, there was no skyline to speak of, and almost everywhere you went, you could see the mountains. (Oddly, the ubiquitous mountain views masked my lack of innate orientation because although I can’t feel the compass directions as some people do, I always knew where I was in relation to the mountains.)
If there would be any things I miss, those are the very things I have found in my new town, such as the feel of the air, being able to walk everywhere (especially the library), knowing people, not having to deal with traffic, and the lack of megalithic stores. (My trip a few days ago through three of the major front range cities in Colorado left me feeling exceedingly claustrophobic. There was just too much of everything; too many people, too much traffic, too many too-tall buildings, too much pollution, just . . . too much.)
Oddly, I don’t miss the mountains, which formed the backdrop to most of my life, not just in Denver, but on the western slope where Jeff and I spent most of our years together, and the high desert of California where I lived for almost a decade after Jeff died. Admittedly, it would be nice to have a distant mountain view to keep me oriented, but it doesn’t really matter. I’m gradually building a map in my head of the area I now live, and can mentally turn it around to match what I am seeing, but even that doesn’t really matter. I just follow the streets, and they take me where I need to go. One thing I have here that I never had before was a next-door friend. The neighborhood I grew up in was mostly inhabited with older folks, and there weren’t any girls my age on the block. The neighborhood I now live in is also mostly inhabited by older folks, but it makes a huge difference that I am one of them.
A major reason for my not missing Denver has nothing to do with geography or politics or population or anything else outside of me. It’s that I am not that person who grew up in Denver. Sometimes it seems as if the woman I am sprang up full grown sometime after Jeff died, but I know (as do you), that any peace I have attained, that any growth — mental, emotional, spiritual — was hard won.
I am exceedingly grateful, actually, that I don’t have to live in Denver. Somehow, despite having grown up in a large-but-not-yet-great city, I turned out to be a small-town girl at heart. And metro Denver is anything but a small town.
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.