The Pat

I spent yesterday with a friend who was recovering from an operation. Her husband had to work and didn’t want to leave her alone, and since they’re like me, with no extended family in the area, we’ve adopted each other. So of course, because I’m family, he was able to go against his usual independent nature and ask me to stay with her. (Not a hardship, believe me. She is truly a delightful woman.)

While I was there, a friend of theirs stopped by to check on her. As our mutual friend slept, the woman and I got to talking. She mentioned that she’d lost her husband a year ago, and I commiserated with her. She seemed surprised that I understood, so I told her Jeff had died ten years ago.

Her eyes got big, and she exclaimed, “You’re the Pat! I have your book! As soon as you mentioned Jeff, I knew who you were.”

As astonishing as that encounter seemed (and yes, despite this being a small town, and despite the simple explanation that follows, it was astonishing), we quickly sorted out the coincidence.

Soon after I moved here, a new acquaintance mentioned that a friend of hers had recently lost her husband and was feeling bereft and alone. I gave the acquaintance my book Grief: The Great Yearning to give to the new widow. The widow called to thank me, and we talked for a while, but then I never heard from her again. I suppose I should have called her, but since I didn’t know her, I didn’t want to come across as a crazy stalker author, and eventually, her number disappeared from my phone.

Yesterday, we met again as old friends.

Life is truly a marvel at times. There we were, three women, now three friends, from three different countries. The United States. Thailand. Malaysia. (Before I knew where she was from, I’d asked the widow if she was from Singapore. It surprised her that I came so close geographically, but her accent was the same as a woman from Singapore I once knew. The widow acknowledged that the accents were very similar.)

Just think of all the living, all the stories, all the convoluted paths and journeys, all the intertwining fates and destinies, it took to get the three of us together in the same room.

Once, I craved adventure, but now, it seems, being “The Pat,” is itself a great adventure.

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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.

I am Where I Am

It’s been a strange couple of days. On Saturday, when I left the house where I was staying and headed out, I started crying. It mystified me because I was glad to leave that place. I’d been invited, and I paid rent, but I never felt welcome, felt as if the dog’s dislike of me was an imposition for them even though I was the one who bore the scars of his dislike. And it’s not as if I were leaving that town forever. I fully intend to resume dance classes once I’ve completed my journey. So why the tears? All I can figure is that with tears I express whatever I can’t express any other way.

On Sunday, I went on an arduous 4-mile hike in Joshua Tree National Park despite the incredible wind, and when I returned to my campsite, I felt as if it was time to end the journey. After all, I’d camped by myself, challenged myself with a difficult and exhausting hike, napped under the stars.

I can’t say I particularly enjoyed all of that, but it is adventure, and adventure is what I once craved. Maybe still do. But it’s hard for me to crave what I am doing. (Think about it. If you crave a pizza, do you still crave it while you are eating it?)

You’d think I’d be ecstatic to finally undertake this journey, but to a certain extent it feels . . . not empty but devoid of excitement. In one way, this is good — it means I’ve accomplished what I set out to do after Jeff died. Since he was my home, I had to find home within myself. And so I did. I am wherever I am, and wherever I am, I am home. (In the interest of fairness, I have to admit that despite what I just said, I get a bit panicky when I think of the immense distances I will be traveling, and how far I will be getting from all that is familiar.) In another way, lack of excitement is not so good. Shouldn’t I be beside myself with joy to be embarking on such an adventure? But ah, that is the key. I am not beside myself. I am in myself.

Don’t get me wrong. I am glad to be on this great adventure, glad to be able to experience this vast country, but it’s a quiet kind of gladness, an acceptance that things will not always be comfortable, not always fun.

But always beautiful.

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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.”)

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All of these photos depict parts of the trail I hiked, including the photo that looks like all rocks.