Holes!

I dug holes yesterday. Lots and lots of holes!

I’ve been told (and I’ve read) that one needs a plan when gardening, and my plan was to plant as many bulbs as I could as quickly and as easily as possible. There’s no real design to my holes — I just dug where it was easy to dig; if my shovel hit a hard spot where I planned to plant, I moved to another spot where the soil was softer. I don’t really care if there is any discernable design. I just want some color mixed in with the mostly brown grass. Also, once the flowers die and the leaves turn brown, the whole thing can be mowed, which seems like an interesting idea.

I’d gotten a bit carried away when ordering bulbs, and as it turned out, for the holes I dug, I got the right amount since the holes were big enough to house more than one bulb.

Of course, now my muscles are stiff and my throat sore, but it’s good to have it all done.

Now it’s a matter of waiting for spring to see what I have wrought!

***

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.

What Did You Do When You Were Dead?

I saw an appalling movie last night — the 2004 film Birth with Nicole Kidman.

The premise is a perennially interesting one: a reincarnated soul remembers who he’d been and tries to reconnect with his old life. In this case, though, the premise is the only thing that was interesting. The movie tried to be a thriller (I think), and to the extent that it was a perfect example of a folie a deux (where two people share a delusion, and in the end they make each other crazier), it succeeded. It also tried to be uber mysterious and only managed to be annoying, especially with the long, long, long close-ups of alternately Kidman and the kid. The movie might have been fun if the kid had been charming, but he came across as an incipient serial killer. Which, I’m sure, was intended.

But none of that is important to this blog except as an introduction to the question the movie poses: what would happen if a ten-year-old boy showed up at your door and claimed to be your dead husband?

What struck me is that the kid, even if he were the husband reincarnated, would not still be the husband. Do the words, “To death do us part” ring a bell? And he’s a ten-year old kid. He might have memories of being someone else, but in the end, he’s only ten, and still needs his mommy.

If this kid came to my door claiming to be Jeff, I’d probably be interested, but in no way would we be able to continue the relationship we once had. He’d be ten years old, for cripes sake. He might have the memories of being Jeff, but he wouldn’t be the man I loved — wouldn’t have the same mind, the same smile, the same thoughts and inclinations. He wouldn’t be the mature, even-tempered man I knew. He wouldn’t be an adult, and by the time he was, I’d probably know first hand what it was like to be dead.

For sure, he wouldn’t be someone I could be the old “me” with. He might be resurrected, but the part of me that died with him would still be dead.

If he truly was Jeff, we would sit down and reminisce a bit, maybe catch up on what we’ve been doing the past ten years. “Hey, Jeff. What did you do when you were dead? How did death treat you? How did it feel? Did you have fun? Did you learn anything? Did my grief bother you?” But, wait — he’s ten years old, which means he’d have been immediately reincarnated. He wouldn’t have had a whole lot of experience being dead, which wouldn’t leave us much to talk about since I wouldn’t particularly care about his experiences in the womb or being a small child, or his problems as a young boy (except to hope that this childhood was more pleasant than his previous one).

If he were Jeff, he’d be glad to know I was doing okay, but he wouldn’t put me in the position of being responsible for him. He wouldn’t stalk me. Or make me crazy. There’d be no thriller, no chiller, no folie a deux in our reunion. Definitely there’d be no creepy bathtub scene. I don’t have a bathtub, and even if I did, it wouldn’t matter. Taking off his clothes and getting in the tub with me would be the last thing on his mind.

We’d just talk, and when we finished our chat, he’d wish me well, tell me he loved me, and then he’d let me go.

***

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.

Nest Building

I’d been counting the days until it got cool enough to start planting the three hundred spring bulbs I bought. The instructions said not to plant until the highs were consistently in the mid-60s or cooler, and today was supposed to be the day. A couple of times during the past weeks I’d almost given in to the urge to start plant, but considering what a non-green thumb I have, I figured I needed to give those poor plants the best start possible.

So I waited.

After a few unexpected (and lovely) eighty-degree days, the temperature did drop today as forecast, so I got all gussied down and went out to play farmer.

And then the winds came. Severe winds.

Being stubborn, I didn’t let a little — or a lot — of wind force me inside, but I postponed the precision work of planting the bulbs for another time. Just as well. The guys who’d put up the fence hadn’t yet finished burying the bottom of the chain link fabric, and they’d left the dirt they were going to use piled in the middle of front yard where I’d planned to plant. So I raked leaves away from the fence and moved the dirt — shovelful by shovelful — where it belonged. Then I gathered up the leaves, and smashed them to use for mulch.

Such excitement!

I’m laughing to myself. A friend made a remark the other day about certain blogs that said nothing important (she wasn’t referring to mine; she hadn’t known I had a blog), and well . . . I sure hope she doesn’t read this one. Talk about nothing important!

Not important in the grand scheme of things, that is. The job was very important to me — to be outside despite the wind, to work physically, to accomplish something. To continue building my nest. And that nest building, of course, is the most important of all.

It’s taken me my whole life to get to the point where not only could I own a house but that I wanted to. And anything I do for my home is a way of honoring the house, and me, and the painful journey it took to get here.

***

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.

Light Entertainment and Heavy Thoughts

I went to lunch and the movies with friends today. Good food, good people, and a good movie — Downton Abbey. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the outing and admired the film as a period piece, I must confess I am a bit too much of an egalitarian to truly appreciate the nuances of the film.

I do realize the movie portrays the end days of an outdated class system, with everyone knowing their place, ingratiating themselves with those who rank above them and condescending to those below: the lowest servants giving way to the higher servants, the lowborn currying favor with the highborn, the highborn doing the bidding of the highest in the land.

There was no merit in any of the folk portrayed in the movie — the highborn were highborn for the simple reason they were highborn or married someone of the upper classes. They didn’t earn their exalted status. The lowborn, though perhaps good at their jobs, were actually no better — adopting, as well as they could considering their positions, the petty ways of those they served.

Admittedly, the movie is geared for lovers of the series, and I’d only seen a couple of episodes somewhere along the line. (Don’t know where because although I do have a television or two, I don’t prescribe to any television programming.) The plot was thin, a mere veneer, probably because the movie is more a showcase for the characters people had come to know and love.

Despite the hype of having to know who the characters are to understand the movie, it wasn’t difficult to figure out what was going on. Every character wanted something. Every character believed they are special. The idle rich believed they deserve their good fortune. The lowborn believed they are somehow enriched by serving these folks.

Even worse, for me, none of the characters were admirable or even charming. In fact, most were appalling. Well, except for Maggie Smith, whose appallingness was part of her charm

If I’m really honest, what we have in the USA today is rather a reflection of that same world, though we all believe we are as good as those who think they are better than we are, and that with a bit of luck, the riches will even out. (Which is why it is so hard to get people to vote for special taxes for the richest folk — most of us believe that one day we will be rich and so to tax the rich is to tax our future selves; the rest of us are afraid that one day we will be bag ladies.)

Still, such a world as depicted in the movie seems utterly wrong and phony to these eyes. Maybe it would even have seemed phony back in those days — it’s hard for me to believe that people entrenched in the system truly believed that the aristocracy was better than they were and so deserved their adulation and servility.

In the end, this is what makes Downton Abbey a good movie: a couple of hours of light entertainment, followed by a couple of hours of heavy thought.

***

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.

Accolade!

I got a wonderful compliment yesterday. One of my new friends just finished reading A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and last night when we met at a community event, she raved about the book, and me.

She told she had a hard time getting into the book, not because of a problem with my writing or the story, but she kept being amazed that she knew the person who’d written it. She said, several times, “I didn’t realize I knew someone so smart.” Eventually, she said, she was able to forget that she knew the writer and was able to become immersed in the story. And she loved it.

Admittedly, no one who calls themselves my friend is going to come up to me and tell me I am a rotten writer. (Smiling here — I wrote the word as wrotten. Sounds like it should be a medieval form of the past tense for written?)

At least one person has told me to my face that they weren’t impressed with my writing, and another complained about typos, but neither of these folks are people I have any sort of relationship with. Still, I could see the truth in my friend’s eyes — they lit up when she talked about the book, and even better, she immediately borrowed another. (Several people each bought one of my books, and they are passing them around.)

Her accolade certainly put a smile on my face, but lest you think I’m am letting the compliment go to my head, I should confess I was immediately brought down to earth by a little girl, about ten years old, who told me to get out of her way. (I did because I was too stunned by her impertinence to do otherwise. I was even more stunned by her mother who just stared at me.)

Still, it does my heart good to know that some people are reading — and liking — my books.

If you haven’t yet read A Spark of Heavenly Fire, you can read the first chapter online here: http://patbertram.com/A_Spark_of_Heavenly_Fire.html

Buy it on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0024FB5H6/

Download the first 30% free on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1842

Happy reading!

***

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.

And the Streak Continues!

It’s so nice of WordPress to let me know how many days in a row I’ve been blogging so I don’t have to keep looking it up. Though, to be honest, being able to post a tally of my blog streak only matters on a day like today when I have nothing new to say. (With today’s post, the streak will be 24 days. Yay! Well, yay for me. You might not think it’s something to “yay” about.)

As for the work on my house: the two thick layers of concrete that comprised my garage floor are gone, and the poor neighbors are no longer being subjected to the sound of a jackhammer. We found a few more bones scattered beneath the garage, but nothing earthshaking.

The workers are at another job today, and oddly, I feel a bit lost without them here — the day seems so uneventful without holes being dug, fences being erected, concrete being broken up. But that uneventfulness is an illusion, a matter of all that energy not being expended around here.

I went to the historical museum this morning for a last meeting about the murder mystery, and in a little while, I will meet people at the monthly community dinner. So see? I’m keeping busy.

I am enjoying this last especially warm day of the season. 87 degrees! Next week it will be mostly in the sixties, cool enough to start planting all the bulbs I’ve ordered — so it will be me digging holes — three hundred of them! — creating (or destroying) my own energy.

I’ll let you know how that goes.

***

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.

Social Calendar

It seems odd to have a social calendar. For many years, the only social activities I participated in were my dance classes, and from week to week, those classes were generally at the same time and on the same days. If I went to lunch with anyone, it was usually after class. Any other activity was easy to remember because it was such a rarity.

But now? After only seven months, I’m so entrenched in the community that without my calendar, I’d be lost. There’s always something coming up, such as a movie (Downton Abbey) and lunch with friends this Saturday, a meeting at the museum tomorrow to set out clues for the Murder at the Museum Night that will take place next week, porcelain painting classes, and a special note to remind me about Blogging for Peace next month.

It bewilders me, all of this. But then, much of my life bewilders me.

Was I really that woman? That woman who watched a man slowly die, who wanted the suffering to end, yet whose love was so ineffectual she couldn’t make him well or take away a single moment of his pain? That woman so connected to another human being she felt broken — and lost — years after his death? That woman who screamed the pain of her loss to the winds?

And am I really this woman? A homeowner? A part of a community? A person with a social calendar?

Apparently so, because there I was and now here I am.

It’s possible life will always bewilder me. I might never know the truth of any of it — life, death, purpose . . . me.

But that’s the beauty of a having social calendar. At least on those particular days, there are no questions or bewilderment. I know what I am supposed to do, where I am supposed to be. I even know who I am supposed to be — a pleasant companion, a kind friend, a generous volunteer.

The rest of the time? Well, if it’s not on the calendar, perhaps it’s not important.

***

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.

Bone Deep

As I’ve been updating my house, I’ve been updating this blog with all the weird (or potentially weird) things we’ve found, thinking these bits will eventually find themselves in a book.

First, there was The Dark Underbelly of Home Ownership, a post about my creepy basement, an all too trite scene for a murder mystery. Next, when the floor of the enclosed porch was taken up in preparation for putting in a new foundation, we found an old cistern that seemed to be perfect counterpart to the basement. Then, there was Something Nasty in the Wooden Shed, which turned out to be not that nasty, but it could have been.

About that same time, I found a bit of fabric in the dirt, but it wouldn’t give when I tried to pick it up. So I got out my shovel and dug. And dug. And dug. Finally, I got the thing out of the ground. It turned out to be a red-stained shirt. Although the stain wasn’t blood, and perhaps it wasn’t even a stain but part of the design of the shirt, it still seemed mysterious to me that someone would bury the shirt.

The oddities stopped for a while, though when the contractor was trying to figure out why the garage floor had a huge crack in it, he thumped on the floor and it sounded hollow. I had to laugh at myself and my reflexive “maybe someone is buried under there,” Because of course, it was just my brain delighting in the macabre.

Well today, finally, they came with a jackhammer to break up that old concrete floor.

Under the floor, they found another concrete floor.

And under that . . . bones. Just two of them, but still — bones!

This mystery seems to be writing itself, which is actually is a good thing since I am not writing anything at all.

***

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.

Joys of Planning

I still have scabs and scars from the multitude of mosquitoes that feasted on me this summer, but I’ve already made plans for protecting myself next year. For example, I bought some khaki pants (they love the black pants I normally wear) and I intend to soak them in permethrin to make them abhorrent to the little monsters. I’m also collecting long sleeve shirts I won’t mind wearing for gardening or painting or any of the myriad outside chores that come with owning a house. And even though I do not like bug killers, I will spray my yard in self-defense. I tend to be allergic, and do not get small bumps and short-lived itching that apparently are the norm; instead I get immense lumps that itch for weeks.

Despite what it might sound like, the issue here is not the mosquitoes, but the planning. It’s been many years since I could pretty much count on being in a certain place the following year. I have lived on the edge of uncertainty for so long, that it’s a real joy to be able to plan on being somewhere and to know that, with a little luck, I will be that “somewhere.”

I have planned, of course, but always in the back of my mind was the qualifier: If I am here.

This need to qualify the future started long before Jeff died. His health was iffy for so long that we never knew from one day to the next if we could follow through on any plans, never knew if he’d even be around to put those plans into action. It was the same thing when I went to take care of my dad. I never knew from one day to the next if he’d be around and if I’d have a place to live. After he was gone, I traveled, never quite knowing where I’d be the next day, and when I returned to my dad’s town, I rented various rooms, and again, never quite knew how long I’d be there. I knew I couldn’t stay in California — didn’t want to stay — but with no compelling reason to move, I just . . . stayed.

Besides not being able to plan, I couldn’t buy anything big even if I wanted to because I didn’t know if it would fit whatever lifestyle I might have. Would I be forever a nomad? Would I move to a city? Would I bunk with a friend?

Well, now I know. Now I can plan.

And I’m planning what to do next summer when the mosquito invasion begins.

***

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.

Putting the Pieces Together

Today is my twentieth straight day of blogging. So far, I am honoring my commitment to blog for 100 days straight, though I almost didn’t make it today. The note by my computer reminding me to blog got knocked over (during a wild game of solitaire) and without the reminder, it was too easy to let the day go by.

Not that the day was easy. It wasn’t particularly hard, either, just . . . well, let’s call it a rerun. When I first moved here, much of my stuff was stored in the enclosed porch, but when the workers came to redo the foundation of the porch (there were only two small columns of concrete on either end of the 20-foot room, and since that wasn’t enough to hold up the weight of the house, the porch was rapidly sinking), I had to move all the stuff into the garage. At the time, I thought it was the final move for the camping equipment, tools, and things I wasn’t ready to throw away — there’d been a huge crack down the center of the garage, and the patch seemed to hold. But then came a freeze/thaw cycle, and that was the end of my pretty floor. Now the crack is bigger than ever.

The workers are planning on coming later this week to redo the garage foundation as well as the concrete floor, and so all the stuff had to be moved. I’m hoping by the time I get it all back in the garage, it can stay there.

There are so many bits and pieces to putting together a home, it seems like I am forever moving the pieces around, trying to get it right — and to get my life right. I seem to manage not to do things I should, like exercise, and I seem to manage to do things I shouldn’t — like eat unhealthy things.

I’m sure there are also extraneous pieces that will need to be set aside one day, but that’s not a problem for today.

(I found this quite disturbing piece in a puzzle of featuring a cardinal in a cottonwood. It took me awhile to realize I had it upside down and that it was not part of the bird but a face. It took me even longer to discover that it is part of Chaz Palminteri’s face from a movie puzzle.)

***

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.