Okay News and Good News

No workers today. Apparently, the people who had rented the jackhammer before us haven’t yet bothered to return it so the contractor couldn’t come to start ripping up the old concrete in preparation for redoing the stoop and putting in a ramp from the house to the garage. It’s not bad news; In fact, it’s okay. Everything will get done eventually. It was the garage that mostly concerned me. With hail a factor around here, I wanted to make sure my car was protected. The only hail we’ve had so far was pea size, but it’s nice to know I don’t have to worry, especially on days like yesterday when we were under a severe thunderstorm watch. The storm never got this far, but along the front range, they were seeing hail as big as a handful of snow. Even if the storm had hit us, my car was covered.

The good news is that so far, the vinca I planted yesterday is still alive and seems to be thriving, though after only a day, it’s hard to tell.

As I wrote the previous sentence, it occurred to me the good news is more that I am alive and seem to be thriving. Plants come and go — well, so do people, as I well know — but for now, we are both here, the plants and I. It’s been a long time coming, this contentment, but apparently, after so many years, even the absence of those who are gone loses some of its sting.

I had an odd thought today. I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to project myself into the future to prepare for my old age (because if I don’t make those preparations and do them now, no one will be around to take care of them, not even me because I will be too old). I worried that by thinking so much of being elderly, I was putting myself there prematurely. Luckily, the thought passed. I imagine that once I don’t have to think about fixing up the place to accommodate an older me, then I will slide back into being just . . . me.

Although the infrastructure of the yard, such as the pathways to give me an even footing and the inclined walkway instead of steps, will always remain, it’s possible that after I get the yard and garden looking lush and pretty, it will end up scraggly as I lose the interest and strength to keep it up, but that isn’t something I want to worry about. I’m planting bushes and other things that can generally take care of themselves once they’ve been given a good start. And if I can’t afford to hire someone to take care of the yard in that far off day, I can sit and dream of more verdant times.

Or not. It’s entirely possible I’ll be able to garden until the end. Some people do, why not me?

But that’s for the future. Today, I am able to do what I need to do. Today I worked outside for a bit, picking weeds and watering my plants. Today I’m grateful for what I have. Sounds like good news to me!

***

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

Better Home and Garden

I spent yesterday morning moving my tools and such into the garage. You’d think it would be an easy task, because an unhandy woman shouldn’t need a lot of tools, but I’ve ended up with a slew of things. Some I bought. Some I inherited from various folk. Some were gifts. Some came from people who thought I should have a tool collection. And so now I do have a collection. I have way more screwdrivers and wrenches than I will ever use, more hammers than I have hands, a power drill I used once, an electric screwdriver. Long-handled garden tools, of course. Oh, so many things! (I have a hacksaw and a Japanese pull saw, but I don’t have an electric saw. I might need to rectify that omission.)

Now the tools are nicely arranged in the post-WWII steel kitchen counters that apparently once resided in my kitchen and now sit comfortably in my garage. This opened up my utility/sun/exercise room. And what a difference! Ever since the old garage was torn down, all my tools and storage items were stashed in that room, so now not only do I have a garage, I have my sun room back. Unfortunately, since that exercise equipment has been freed from the confines of all the storage, I no longer have an excuse not to use it.

I spent the morning giving the room a thorough cleaning, and have mostly reclaimed it. The only thing still in the house that doesn’t belong there is my battery-operated lawn mower. (Though maybe I’m wrong here? Maybe all houses need an inside lawn mower?) Because of the steep drop out the back door, I can’t move the mower to the garage by myself, so next time the builders come, I’ll ask them to do it. And then, the room really will be mine again.

After that cleaning stint, I went out to the yard to pull weeds. It’s not a chore I particularly like doing. The problem isn’t that it’s a never-ending job or that it’s hard work or that it seems futile. The problem is that I can’t help wondering who am I to decide what plants get to live and what have to die. But I overcome my nicety and do what has to be done. For a while, anyway, until exhaustion sets in.

The tarot card I dealt myself for study today was the seven of pentacles. Some readers say the card means loss and disappointment. Others say it’s about efforts that come to nothing. Still others mention perseverance and planning, as well as affirming my long-term vision and helping to show that I am not confined to seeing results in the short term. Sounds like weed-digging, doesn’t it? I’d expected more from my Tarot studies than such mundanities.

Still, the mundanities — sorting and cleaning and weed pulling — all help to create a better home and garden (and garage!) for me.

***

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

New Friends

I accidentally made a new friend today. The woman is a friend of a friend, and she’s taking on a full time (as in 24 hours a day, seven days a week) caregiving job, so she’s looking for someone to fill in a few hours a week to give her a break. Anyone who has been in such a position knows that no matter how much you love a person, those breaks are very much needed. The problem, from what I understand, is that there are too few hours to really tempt someone who needs work, and too many hours for those who need just a bit of money because the extra income might jeopardize their main income. Somehow, my name got bandied about. At first, I said no because . . . well, because I’m out of the habit of saying yes, which has been The Bob’s main effect on me.

As I got to thinking about the request, I realized it would be good to have a bit of income to help fund some of my house renewal projects. (I just contracted for a few tons of rocks, both ornamental and practical — some will go around the house and garage to protect the foundations, some will be used to create pathways about my micro estate to make walking safer in my old age, and some will be used for a driveway.)

Even more than that, I don’t see myself going back to the senior center to just hang around once the restrictions are loosened (although I really enjoy being around most of the people I met there, I don’t especially enjoy playing games, which was our main activity), and except for the Art Guild, I don’t see myself continuing with the rest of my volunteer activities. In addition, one of these days, the contractors will be finished with all the projects that we’ve slated, and then what? Total isolation forever? I don’t see that, either.

So I told the caregiver I was willing to take the job. She stopped by today to interview me, and we really hit it off. When she found out this is my forever home, she was delighted because that meant I would always be a friend. She also approved of all that I’m doing to help with accessibility in my old age. And she said she’d be willing to be my caregiver if it ever got to that point. (She’s the second person who has offered her services. I’m not really sure what that says about me. Maybe that I really am as old as I am rather than as old as I think I am?)

One thing that’s really fun about meeting someone from a small town, especially one who has lived here all her life, is that she knows everyone I know. I think she was a bit surprised because apparently, the people I’ve become closet too are among the best the town has to offer. Special people, for sure! And somehow they gravitated toward me. Pulled in by my tractor beam of charm, no doubt. I’m only being halfway facetious with that last comment because it truly is astonishing how many really good friends I’ve made in the short time I’ve been here.

And now I’ve made another.

The final decision about the job isn’t hers, though her recommendation will be given great weight. I still have to meet the woman I will be caring for (visiting with?). And I will need to talk to the daughter. (Though that might not be necessary, because all she has to do is google me or check out this blog, and she’ll know more about me than I even know.)

But I don’t see that they will have a problem with me. I mean, what’s not to like, right? Admittedly, I might sound cold, looking at the job from a practical angle rather than a personal one, but I haven’t met the woman yet, and even if I had, I wouldn’t want to invade her privacy by talking about her. Though I will say, she sounds like an interesting woman, has lived here all her life, and knows (figuratively speaking) where all the bodies are buried. We also have mutual friends, and since I won’t know any of her stories, I’ll be a new audience, so there should be plenty to talk about. And oh! She lives just a couple of blocks away. How perfect is that?

We’ll see what happens this weekend when I meet her. If nothing else, I’ll make another new friend.

***

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

From the “Then” to the “Now”

Sometimes I worry that when talking about my house I come across as smug or supercilious or boastful rather than grateful and very lucky. So many people have a hard time keeping a roof over their head, especially now when eviction restrictions have been lifted. Even in the best of times, too many people are homeless and luckless, so it’s perhaps crass to write about my wonderful new life in my lovely little house. And yet, it is my life. My blog. My words. And especially — and always — it’s my gratitude to those who helped make it happen.

For so long, I lived on the edge — not homeless because I always had a room to rent or a place to stay, but not secure, either. One friend even made me promise that if I ever became homeless, I would go stay with her, which was truly a generous offer.

Somehow, though, I slipped through a crack, and instead of the worst happening, the best did. It seems odd, but to find a house, I had to move to a place that seemed on the edge of nowhere, and yet, now that I’m here, I’m right in the middle of . . . somewhere.

Even better, it’s exactly where I want to be.

I was talking to a new friend the other day (though after a year, I suppose I don’t need to add the “new” anymore). She mentioned that housing prices were going up around here, which means the crack in the universe that allowed me to find a home — a forever home, not just a room in someone’s house — really was just a crack. I could barely afford this house; anything more would have been prohibitive.

But here I am.

It’s ironic (and mystical) that Jeff’s death ten years ago blew my life apart, and my homeless brother’s death two years ago somehow glued it back together. If nothing else, my brother’s death put into motion all the gears that needed to move to open the crack that allowed me to slip through and into a home of my own. Then there is my father’s contribution. When he died, he left behind the small legacy that allowed me to follow through where the other two pushed me.

(I like the symmetry of the three, but in my case, there is a fourth person who was instrumental to getting me here — the brother who helped with all the logistics and practicalities.)

This scenario seems so mythic and mythological but then perhaps all lives can be seen in mythic and mythological terms if we tell ourselves the right stories.

And that is the story I am telling myself.

I tend to forget that there is another aspect to the story of how I got here — all the long years of pain and loneliness and angst that accompanied me on my journey from the “then” to the “now.” Without all the changes grief brought, I wouldn’t be this homefull person, not at all smug, but rather accepting of my good fortune and almost giddily grateful for the experience.

***

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

Paeans and Peons

I went to the grocery store today. It’s not so much that I needed things, but I wanted to start my car. It’s been so hot, that even with the car being snug in its own little house, I thought it should be exercised. And oh! What a joy! No disconnecting all the buckles that hold on the car cover, no folding up the cover and stowing it before I could even get into the bug. All I had to do was unlock the garage, push a button to open the door and presto! Magic.

When I first found out the old garage would have to come down, I felt silly realizing a new garage would cost more that the car is worth, but then, there really is no price to be put on the freedom having a vehicle gives a person in our wheeled world. Now that the money is spent, I’m glad I had to do it — if the old garage had been fixed, I wouldn’t have my magic door. And I don’t begrudge spending my travel fund on the garage. As great as one last epic trip would have been, it doesn’t compare to the convenience of a garage, especially as I get older and feebler.

But I didn’t come here to write a paean to the garage gods. A sign on the door of the grocery store geared to us peons prompted this post.

According to the sign, by Colorado law, all peons (regular folks, not people engaged in a public safety role such as law enforcement, firefighters, or emergency medical personnel) over the age of ten must wear a mask when in public places. The only exception is if there is a medical reason why a person can’t wear a mask. But no one — not individuals, store workers or “the authorities” are allowed to question those without as mask as to their medical condition, so (again according to the sign) the assumption is that those without a mask have such a condition.

Huh? What sort of law is that? We peons have to wear a mask but if we don’t wear a mask, people are supposed to assume we don’t have to wear one? Which means that despite the law, no one has to wear a mask since no one can question why a person isn’t wearing one. Still, wearing a mask is the law, and even if it weren’t, in these Bob days, it’s the safe and courteous thing to do. Besides, it’s not something I want to fight about.

The other half of this law requiring people to wear masks also requires people to remove the mask if someone needs to verify who they are, because even a half-mask can mask a person. The person behind me in line wasn’t anyone I recognized, but when he said, “Hello, Ms. Pat,” I recognized his voice — he was the builder, a person I’ve seen almost every day for the past few weeks.

I found it interesting that as soon as I got out of the store, I removed the mask and when he left, so did he, though some people didn’t. Luckily, we’re not forced to wear masks outside unless that “outside” is a public place like a bus stop. And, even though people wear masks while driving alone, it’s not required. (Wearing a mask when one is alone seems silly to me because I don’t think you can give yourself The Bob, but what do I know.)

Even if it were required to wear masks out walking, it wouldn’t matter. With a single code enforcer in town, there’d be no one to enforce the law anyway.

Come to think of it, I should have stuck with the paean to my garage. It’s a lot less complicated than trying to make sense of this law, that’s for sure.

***

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

 

Folly and Glory

Not a lot going on building-wise today. The builder/magician spent most of the morning redoing some of the electric work the professionals had done. When they put in the electric outlets in the garage, they didn’t allow for walls. Um, really? How is that possible? Originally, my contractor was going to do the electric work, but since he’s not licensed, the building inspector wouldn’t let him do the work. I had to pay a huge amount extra to licensed folk only to have my builders redo it. Oh, well. It’s done. I can be glad about that.

I’d saved the faux window I’d painted on the old garage, though I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to sully my brand new walls on my brand new garage with that bit of folly, but after all, it is a piece of art, silly as it is, and I do like the idea of sprinkling objects of interest around the yard. So today, he cut new frames for the window to match the rest of the trim on the garage, and put up the window. Seeing it made me smile, so apparently, it was the right thing to do.

The white framing around the “window” had gotten dingy, and the window had pock marks from where it had been attached to the old garage, so this afternoon, in the excruciating heat of the July sun, I went out and freshened the window. Such folly! (And maybe glory? After all, I did do something instead of just loll around reading.)

But that wasn’t the only glory. This morning, I had to smile at finding a morning glory bursting out of the periwinkle. Such a lovely surprise! It’s amazing to me how many things I plant that never do anything, and yet things I have nothing to do with grace my yard with beauty.

Ah, folly and glory! Not a bad way to celebrate a day.

***

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

Open Sesame

Oh, frabjous day! So, I’m mixing my quotes — Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and Jabberwocky — but I don’t care. My garage opener has been installed!

No more struggling with a car cover, no more sweating out storms to make sure my car doesn’t sustain any damage (as if even a bucket of my sweat would stay a single hailstone or slow so much as a gust of wind), no more announcing my away-from-home status by the absence of the vehicle. The bug is snug in its beautiful new home, and oh, how wonderful is modern day magic! I don’t have to say open sesame or crack a sound. All I do is press a button and . . . presto. The door opens by magic.

And the magic is all mine.

The wonderful magician who installed this magic apparatus understands me well — he double bolted the mechanism to two different trusses to make sure there is no way it will ever fall on my car. (Worrier that I am, that thought did cross my mind and even my lips.)

Sometimes I worry that I’m getting too caught up in the things of my current life, but how I can I not? It’s all so magical. Water comes to me with a twist of a knob. Wastes are washed away with the touch of a finger. Foods heat up without a flame. My non-nomadic abode requires no effort to put up or take down — it stays put. And the sturdy walls protect me from the elements and even provide my own microclimate.

Magic for sure!

When the installer left today, I took a short ride for no other reason than the thrill of opening and closing the door. The creepy, thieving, drug-dealing, loud-music-playing neighbor took that very moment to wander down the alley, which made me especially glad about the secure garage. It made me nervous at first, his seeing inside the garage, but maybe it’s for the best. This way he knows that he can’t easily get to anything in the building.

It would be nice if everyone in the neighborhood was as trustworthy as the rest of my neighbors, but I suppose any magic kingdom needs its trolls and trollocs, its devil toads and poison mushrooms, its evil minions. At least my nemesis is only human. But I’m straying from the point. Or not. After all, I’m talking about magic, and that includes the protective spells of locked gates and secure buildings that keep the crone safe.

Yep. Magic.

***

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

Where I Want to Be

A friend is on vacation, spending a week with her family in the mountains. I felt a twinge of envy when she told me, and then it dawned on me: I am where I want to be. I don’t need to go anywhere to find respite from life’s hassles or even from the heat. I have arrived at my place of respite.

It’s a nice realization to have made. For almost a decade, I didn’t want to be where I was but I had nowhere to go, no way even to decide where to go so I rented rooms and wandered, both on foot and in the car. I thought that’s what I wanted — a nomadic life — and I suppose, at the time, it’s what I needed.

And now I need something else.

If I were young, I’d probably have continued to embrace that sort of uncertainty because there is security to be found when one is comfortable with uncertainty in an uncertain world. There is still uncertainty in this new world of mine of course. There is always uncertainty, and it’s hard not to worry about being able to sustain this lifestyle. (I act as if I am financially sound, which is far from the truth.) But a person does need a place to live, and when one is on the cusp of elderliness, one needs a safe place to live.

That is what I am trying to create here — a safe place for the elder me. And, when I keep my worries where they belong — out of my head — I know I am doing the right thing.

Today’s tarot pick was probably the most apropos of the cards I’ve picked this month. I didn’t ask what I needed to know as I usually do. I just picked and, interestingly, it answered the question that concerned me yesterday about the wisdom of continuing to fix existing problems in and around the house considering that any money I spend now is money I won’t be able to live on later.

But the card, the ten of pentacles, says that everything I put my efforts into now will pay off in the future. It also says that everything will work out well in the end because I have always kept the long term in view. Other sources say this card is about seeking permanence, feeling secure as things are, creating a lasting foundation.

Although I’m not sure how much I believe in the cards, I do find comfort in finding this external assurance of my internal feelings.

At least it will help me keep the worries at bay and allow me to find enjoyment in creating a home for myself today and the self I will be tomorrow.

***

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

Snug as a Bug in a . . .

Snug as a bug in a rug, you might be thinking, but no. Today the saying is: snug as a bug in a . . . garage!!!!

Look at that happy little car.

The opener hasn’t been installed yet so the door has to be opened manually, and the gravel hasn’t been laid in front of the apron so there was a bit of an impediment getting the car into the garage, and there are a few other minor things that need to be done, but the garage is otherwise finished. I’ll have to move the car when the builders come back so they can put on the finishing touches, but meantime, I’m delighted to have the poor thing out of the brutal sun. And wow, it’s been brutal. I had to turn on the air conditioner at 9:00am this morning just to be able to breathe. Luckily I have an air conditioner. (And grateful am I for that comfort!)

Even though the contractor volunteered to move my storage into the garage, I’ve been feeling guilty about lolling around while other people do the work, so I got started on the task this morning. I’m sure it will come as no surprise that I overdid it a bit, but I’ll be taking it easy the rest of the day. I might be able to finish tomorrow if I haven’t redamaged my knee. Except for sorting through the conglomeration of things, it should be easy — I did all the heavy lifting today.

So, not only do I have my car in the garage, I also have all the boxes of storage items out of my house. The boxes that aren’t in the garage are in the enclosed porch, which is part of the house, but not. For as much work that has been done back there, and for as functional and attractive as the area is, it still has a porchy feel. But soon I’ll be able to reclaim even that room. Then, finally, I will be completely moved in.

And I’ll be as snug as my bug.

***

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

 

Getting Closer!

The garage is mostly painted, and the shelves built. I might have had to wait for the shelves a bit longer, but the poor worker got tired of moving the heavy shipping boxes around, and since he found out he was the one who would have to build the shelves, he went ahead and put them together.

It’s amazing to me the things that people who know how to do things can do. A connecting part was missing, and he managed to find a way to bolt the two parts of the standards together. A new part has been ordered, but there’s a chance it will never be used because if there is one thing I have learned in life it’s that there is nothing so permanent as a temporary solution.

I’ve tried not to get too excited about the garage since it’s been taking so long, but now that it’s nearing completion and the time for moving my car in is getting closer, I find myself getting excited. Who knew I’d ever want a “dream garage”? But that’s what I’m getting.

It will be good to have a home for my stuff, too. Maybe when I see the totality of it, I’ll find a way to whittle it down. On the other hand, I have shelves! I might as well fill them. I know the current philosophy is that if you haven’t used anything in a year, it should be gotten rid of, but some things make me smile even if I don’t use them, and other things are left over from a previous life (lifestyle?) and someday I might find myself back in that same mindset. I figure that even though I’m getting closer to elderlihoodness, I don’t really have to downsize for old age’s sake for several more years. I can wait until I’m a middling elderly rather than a young elderly. By the time I’m an old elderly, I should be down to just what I can use. Or not. After all, I’m not the one who has to get rid of everything when I’m gone because I’ll be . . . gone.

Odd how sometimes practicality has a rather morbid quality, and today is not a day for planning the end, but planning a new beginning. And I am getting closer to my first garage. My own garage. Surely something to celebrate!

I celebrated with a delicious meal of home-grown bacon and fresh farm eggs, a gift from my contractor. I have a hunch he’s getting excited about the project being finished, too. But, there will be other projects . . .

***

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