The Great Reveal!!

I had nightmares last night. In my dreams, I drove helplessly around, got lost, couldn’t see where I was going, which makes sense since my six month hiatus from driving was about to end.

Yep. The VW restoration is complete!

Oddly, I didn’t think I’d feel anything for the finished car — I mean, it is just a car — but when I went to pick it up today, I felt awed and overwhelmed at my first glimpse of the restored bug sitting in front of the auto body shop. I knew Pedro did good work, but it’s one thing seeing other old cars looking new, and something else seeing your own. He truly went over and above what he said he would, partly because he is an artist, and partly he felt bad about how long it took.

The artist who restored my Volkswagen

The artist who restored my Volkswagen

The thing shines! He polished the windows, headlights, hubcaps. Replaced all rubber parts and weatherstipping. This in addition to hundreds of hours of bodywork. No bondo for him! Sheet metal and welds all the way. And he did all the things he said he would such as replace the brake and fuel lines that I’d paid someone else to fix. (He tells me God loves me because I could have been killed in that car. Not only did the cheat not replace the brake lines he was supposed to replace, he cut the rear brake line and plugged the hole for the rear brakes on the brake cylinder. Eek.)

And his upholstery guy did a good job on the interior — new padding and slipcovers on the seats, new headliner, new carpeting throughout.

It’s still an old car, of course, with old car crotchets, but not as many as you would think. The last time I drove the car, it was a rattletrap, a junker. It didn’t really matter what happened to it since it seemed to be on its last legs . . . er, wheels. And now, it’s a near classic, a vintage car of some value. That will take getting used to!

I was worried the car wouldn’t start after not being driven for so long, but it started right up. I was worried about forgetting how to drive, but that wasn’t a problem, either. I drove for a couple of hours today to work out any kinks, but the mechanic who did the repair work seven months ago did a wonderful job. There were no mechanical problems, and the car sounds like new. (Like a new old-style-beetle, that is. Not like a new modern day vehicle.)

I’ve often wondered at my folly for going along with such a protracted and rather costly restoration. (I didn’t envision a restoration — I just wanted to get rid of enough rust so it could be painted.) After all, as people keep reminding me, it’s still an old car, and as such doesn’t have the safety features of the new cars. On the other hand, it also doesn’t have a gazillion electronic parts except for the electronic ignition I had put in. It’s mechanical all the way.

Now I’m glad I went ahead with the restoration. It’s past time for a bit of folly, and besides, it’s nice seeing the old bug looking so good.

Restored 72 VW

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

What It’s All About. Maybe.

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever be finished with weeping. It’s possible that when Jeff died, the pain dug such a deep well into my psyche, it tapped into an everlasting underground river of tears, and so they will be with me on and off for the rest of my life.

I never expect the grief upsurges. After each one, I think I’m done with the tears, but apparently, the well is deeper than I ever imagined. I should have expected today’s upsurge, though. This is the countdown to the fifth year anniversary of his death, and each day is the anniversary of a last time — the last time we talked, or hugged, or smiled at each other. Of course, in addition to the coming anniversary (the days before are the hard times — the anniversary is an anticlimax), I am still dealing with the fallout of the emotional trauma of the past couple of years, am grieving my father’s death, and am dealing with my impending anchorless and unknown future. (I’m also doing some online tasks for someone I didn’t think I’d ever be working for again, and that adds a whole other layer of remembered pain.)

Still, there are big changes. In between the days of tears are days of feeling great, even feeling sanguine about the future. I can feel the warmth and perhaps even the radiance of my smile, which I haven’t felt in many years. And I’m developing an appreciation for the macabre. (I keep wanting to type macable. What a lovely word that could be! I might have to use it sometime.)

solmate socksFor example, I lost Jeff the other day. Literally lost him as in could not find him. Or rather, could not find his ashes.

When I first got the ashes from the funeral home, I wrapped his robe around them to keep him warm. (Yeah, I know — he couldn’t feel the cold, but such is the magical thinking of grief.) And when I got here, I set the bundle on the couch in my living room, and there it stayed until a week or so ago. I had to clear things out of that room so it could be cleaned, and I placed the bundle in a box in the garage with my packed things, and somehow, I moved the box without remembering what was in it. What a scramble to find him! It truly is time to deal with those ashes. If I remember during the next windstorm, I’ll go to the top of a nearby knoll and let him decide where he wants his ashes to rest. Or I’ll take a trip to the ocean and return him to the font of life. (We are, after all, creatures of water and stardust even more than creatures of the dirt.)

Adding to the silliness someone sent me a gift and inside I found a pair of solmate socks with the logo, “Life is to short for matching socks.” “Yep,” I thought, “lose one soul mate, find another.”

There are some good things happening — I’m finally starting to fathom the way men think, which is not at all the way I think. It’s like the storybook problems of grade school arithmetic. Men jump right to the answer, leaving only sporadic hints of how they got there, and I need to see the whole dang train of thought because important information is contained in each step that is often missing from the solution.

I’m still doing things I would never have imagined myself doing. Today I went shopping for fishnet stockings, not something that had ever entered my mind, but I need them for my jazz costume.

And my car seems to be purring along, frisky and quiet at the same time. After all my plans of traveling the world and not settling down, I might have to move here permanently. Adventure can be found anywhere, but a good air-cooled-VW mechanic is a rare treasure.

Sounds like my life is purring along, too, doesn’t it? Sorrow, smiles, and silliness. That’s what it’s all about.

Maybe.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am I. Bertram is 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 Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Lady of Leisure

I knew that once there was a break in my blog-a-day routine, I’d have a hard time getting back here, and so it is. (Or was.)

Life has hijacked me, and even after the computer problem seemed to be fixed, doing any sort of blog put too much pressure on me. It was easier just to let it slide, but I stole a couple of hours tonight to bring you current with my ridiculous life.

Not only have I been on the phone late into the night on two different occasions with a computer technician, I’ve been spending most of my days emptying cabinets and cupboards in preparation for the cleaning crew who was here yesterday. (The window cleaning crew was here, also, which added to the commotion, but at least I didn’t have to do anything to prepare for their arrival.)

The ways of grief are strange. I was doing fine cleaning out my father’s stuff until I came upon a glass I had put in the cupboard. I hadn’t been able to decide what to do with the item when I was packing my own glassware, so I put it in my dad’s cabinet sort of as a joke for whichever of my family would be clearing out my father’s “effects.” I don’t know why, but it never occurred to me I would be the one for the task. And seeing that glass sent me spiraling into grief.

I emailed my siblings: This is the second time I had to clear out the possessions of someone who died. When Jeff died, there was no one else, so I had no choice but to do it myself, but this time, there are a whole slew of you. Not one of you volunteered to help. Yes, I know, you all have lives, but still it would have been nice for someone to at least acknowledge that the task needed to be done. It simply was not fair.

It’s all done except for the tears. The only thing left in the house is the furniture, but that will stay here until the house is sold.

I hope none of you ever have to deal with this emotionally taxing chore that I’ve now had to deal with twice.

Maybe that wasn’t a nice message to have sent, but I was too exhausted both emotionally and physically to care about niceties.

I’ve also had to deal with chirping alarms — both smoke and burglar; bills that aren’t forwarded where they are supposed to go, nasty customer reps who won’t answer simple questions such as if we could enclose a photo of the bill with payment rather than the bill itself, and a hundred other small tasks.

And, of course, there is the matter of my recently unreliable 43-year-old VW. Because I didn’t want to risk the car breaking down during the weekend, on Sunday I hiked seven miles round trip to the nearest grocery store to get oven cleaner since the cleaners don’t carry it with them. Add in a few comestibles, and I ended up carrying a five-pound pack on the trip back. Five pounds is not much, but it totally wiped me out. Puts sort of a damper on the idea of my taking an epic walk. Truth be told, that hike to the grocery store seemed pretty epic to me!

On the bright side:

1) My computer seems to be fixed. Even after they cleaned my caches, uninstalled and reinstalled the antivirus program, there were problems, but shutting down the computer every night instead of just leaving it in sleep mode has made a big difference. The way the computer guy explained it, the computer runs on memory, and sometimes bits of the memory get tied up and become unusable, so restarting the computer resets the memory and makes more of it usable. That could be computer speak for “I haven’t a clue what is wrong with your computer, but if it works when you shut it down every night, then do it.”

2) Except for the furniture, my father’s stuff has been disposed of. All cupboards, closets, drawers, cabinets are empty. The house is so clean it looks new, (except for the carpets, but that’s next week’s task). The windows, screens, sills, shutters are all clean. And best of all is knowing I will never again have to deal with the effects of a newly dead loved one.

4) It will give me great pleasure to discontinue Charter Communications when the house is sold. They are almost as unpleasant as Microsoft folks. (Though no one, so far as I know is as unpleasant as MS people. During my computer troubles, the computer guy suggested I contact Microsoft for help on a particular registry issue. One MS person couldn’t speak clearly enough for me to understand, and when I asked her to repeat what she said, she hung up on me; another said they would help but demanded money; and third spent more time on a hard sell for some sort of protection plan than they did listening to my description of the trouble. Thank heavens for System Restore! It made the MS people redundant.)

3) I found a VW guy who specializes in air-cooled engine bugs! Yay! I have an appointment with him in two weeks. He already knows what the problem could be — the coil combined with cheap parts from the auto parts store rather than the real thing. (Bosch being the real thing, apparently.) He’ll give my car the shake test (as I understand it, they literally shake the car), and check to see if it’s worth keeping.

Several people (well, two) have told me that so much going wrong is indicative of a major shift in energy, and that breakdowns could be a sign of breakthroughs. I suppose it’s possible, and I would like to think they are right. All I know is I am exhausted.

I still have a lot of work to do — I didn’t finish packing my stuff, just threw the stuff from my cabinets and drawers in boxes to make it easy for the workers to deep clean, and I now I can’t find anything, so now I have to unpack and repack. And I still have several unfinished projects to do before I become that fabled creature — a lady of leisure.

If all goes well, I’ll be back here again tomorrow. I hope you are doing well.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is 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 Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.