Going Home

It wasn’t until after my Jeff, life mate/soul mate, died that I understood what home meant to me. It turns out, he had been my home. Wherever we were, as long as I was with him, I was home.

And then Jeff died, and suddenly, just like that, I lost my “home.”

For me, home was definitely not a case of “home is where, when you go there, they have to let you in.” I left the house and state where Jeff and I had lived and moved 1000 miles to go look after my aged father. I’d visited my parents several times while my mother was dying, but I had never lived in that house, so it was not in any way a homecoming. And although I was there for four years with my father, it never felt like home. I was awash in too much grief, missing Jeff, feeling bereft and lost and adrift.

When my father died, the house had to be sold, so I lost that place of residence, too. And oh, I wanted desperately to go home. But my home was gone from this earth. Because he was gone, and because I felt lost and rootless wherever I was, there didn’t seem to be any reason to be one place rather than another, so I drifted.

I tried to find home within myself, and to a certain extent, I succeeded because wherever I am, there I am. I have lived on the road, babysat houses and a bed and breakfast, stayed with friends, rented rooms, camped out, spent more nights than I can count in motels. It worked because one place felt no different from any other. I was always myself, always doing my best to celebrate life despite missing my dead.

Recently, my homeless brother died, and I started thinking of a different kind of home — a house of my own I can turn into a home. A place where I can set down roots. A place where I can grow old in peace, maybe.

Such a strange feeling! I’ve never wanted to own a house. Never wanted the problems, the aggravation, the expense, the very fact of owning something so . . . big. Jeff and I were minimalists before minimalism became a fad — we didn’t even own much furniture — and yet, here I am, all these years later, suddenly wanting, needing, a house to turn into a home.

I daydreamed a house into existence — a very small, very old house in a very small, very old town. A house just big enough for one person, a house with a walk-in shower and a modern galley kitchen.

I’m now in the process of buying the house (closing is almost upon me — in thirteen days to be exact), and I am starting to feel as if I am going home despite never actually having seen the house, only pictures of it. And oh, yeah — I don’t know anyone in the area, either. I am going back to Colorado, but to a corner of the state where I’ve never lived.

I’m taking a leap into the unknown, into my future. An epic adventure!

It’s actually not as much of a risk as it sounds. An inspector and a contractor both assured me it was a cute little house, and solid. More than that, what do I need to know? I will have a refrigerator to myself!! A kitchen of my own. A yard.

If anything comes up, I will deal with it. If I don’t like something, I’ll change it. If it doesn’t feel like home, I’ll create a home within its walls. If neighbors are noisy, I’ve learned to live with earplugs.

But none of that is important. I’m going home, not to settle down (which still scares me because I am afraid of stagnating) but to settle in (which sounds comforting).

I truly have no qualms about any of this. I don’t understand it, but Jeff’s death shattered my life and my world, and now it feels as if my brother’s death is gluing my life back together. I feel as if this house is meant to be.

It’s hard leaving my dance teacher, who has become like a sister to me. It’s hard leaving dance class and my dance friends.

But . . . a house!

A home.

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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.

Dragon Myself Back to Writing

I haven’t been blogging lately, partly because I have nothing to say or rather nothing I want to say —I have been too depressed to want to share what I’ve been feeling, though depression does go with the territory of being housebound — and also because it’s too hard to type one-handed. (I fell and destroyed my left wrist and elbow a couple of months ago.) Yesterday I installed Dragon speech recognition software on my computer, so now I can blog without typing. I’m not sure if it will change my “voice” or if dragonI will even be able to think while talking, but at least it gives me something new to play with and something new always offsets depression.

It’s funny that the depression didn’t come from the injury so much as being alone in a room for days on end. It’s my room not a hospital room, but still fate has brought me to the thing I’ve dreaded all these years — stagnating alone in a solitary room. I’ve been desperately wanting to go home, but it always comes down to the same thing — I have no home except this temporary one. But maybe that’s the truth with all of us, that whatever home we have is temporary because life itself is temporary.

It seems strange that even though only the arm is injured I am housebound, but there is a whole lot I can’t do. I can’t go walking unless the day is warm and the street dry because another fall at this time would be disastrous, and I have to use a trekking pole to help keep my balance since the broken arm is in a sling. I can’t drive so I am dependent on willing or mostly willing friends to take me wherever I need to go. Mostly I’ve been reading, playing solitaire, checking Facebook for interesting articles, and trying to take care of myself.

Caring for myself is hard. I can’t cook except for simple things, so I mostly eat prepared salads and frozen dinners. Can’t even take a shower by myself. Luckily, an occupational therapist comes once or twice a week to help. I will probably have the external fixator on my arm for another three weeks, and the fixator makes doing anything even more difficult. When the fixator finally comes off, of course, it will be months before I will gain some use of my arm. I really hated the thought of not being able to write during all that time, especially since I got such a good start on my latest book before the accident, but hopefully Dragon will drag me kicking and screaming all the way to the end of the story.

I am writing this blog with Dragon, though I am not sure that technically it can be called writing if one is speaking. I suppose I should say I am composing this blog, but what the heck — it all looks the same at the end no matter what tool one uses to get there.

For the most part, I’ve been accepting of my injury. There’ve only been a few times when I panicked at the thought of not gaining full usage of my wrist and elbow, but mostly I’ve been taking things as they come. Now that the swelling is down, I can see that the doctor is right — there is considerable deformity. Depending upon the mobility I regain, or don’t regain, I might need another surgery in a year, which might also fix some of the deformity. Once the fixator is off, I will do whatever I need to do to get as much mobility as possible, and then wait and see what happens.

Meantime, there is Dragon. The program is actually easy to use. The main problem I have as a temporarily one-handed person is putting on the headphone so I can use the microphone, but so far I have managed. If nothing else I can wear the headphone around my neck.

It’s been good talking to you. I hope you’re having a good year so far.

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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.

Taking the First Step into Adventure

During the years of looking after my nonaganarian father, dealing with grief, and surviving my dysfunctional brother, I’ve dreamed of adventure. I’ve yearned go walking and just keep on going and going and going. I’ve toyed with the idea of various themed road trips — visiting all the national parks or searching out haunted places. I’ve considered taking a freighter to New Zealand and Australia. I’ve researched ultra lightweight camping gear in case I got the inclination for some sort of long distance wilderness trek.

And through it all, I’ve wondered if in fact I would do any of it, if perhaps this craving for adventure were a stage of grief I would grow out of. I still don’t know, of course. I am currently town-bound, but I have come too far — in my mind at least — to turn back and accept a settled life. And that is always the first step — making the mental leap.

It’s no longer a matter of if I will buy camping gear, but when and what. I don’t want to get anything online until I can peruse local stores, and I can’t do that until I get my car back. Besides, the first thing I need is shoes, and those I have to buy in person to get a proper fit. Shoes are the foundation for any hike or long distance walk — if you damage your feet, that’s the end of a pain-free adventure. And pain has no part in my plans.

The world is full of wondrous things — unmet friends, lovely places, wildness, moments of bliss, random acts of beauty, interconnectedness. And it’s all waiting for me to reach out and embrace.

Come to think of it, I’ve not only taken the first step, but also the second. I’ve made the mental leap into adventure and I’ve slipped into a life of unsettledness. With no place to call my own, the whole world becomes my home.

And I am so very ready to go home.

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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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Wishing I Were Strong

It’s been a hard day today. I’m not exactly sure why things hit me wrong, but there it is.

The day actually started out fine. I finished making my jazz costume in time for tomorrow’s pre-pre dress rehearsal for an audition next week. (We’re auditioning for a performance at the end of the month. — A jazz dance.)

And then things went down from there. I got a call from the executor of my father’s estate. He’s signed with a real estate agent, and the house is going on the market. He was short with me, probably because this whole thing is as stressful for him as it is for me, and his shortness, more than the thought of actually putting the house on the market, upset me. I felt as if I had no control over any aspect of the coming events. Which, of course, I don’t.

For just a second I thought, “I don’t have to do this. I can go home.” Then the real panic set in when I realized I don’t have a home. I can’t go home to Jeff, can’t go anywhere because I have yet to find someplace to live.

Although I’ve tried to be strong about having my life turned upside down once more, the truth is . . . cripes, I don’t know what the truth is.

Maybe there is no truth to anything. Maybe we just do the best we can and then . . . and then, we do the best we can again. And again.

I’ll be okay tomorrow. And I’ll be okay when the house is sold — if worst comes to worst, I can grab a couch in a friend’s house or go to a motel. It’s just today I’m having problems with.

I wish I were as strong as people seem to think I am.

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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.

Three Years and 68 days of Grief

Today is the three-year anniversary of the day I left our home behind to come look after my then 93-year-old father. I still yearn to go home at times, but not back to the house — back to Jeff, my life mate/soul mate. He was my home. Still, leaving that house was a physical wrench. It was where we had spend two decades together. It is where we were living when he died. It’s where I endured the worst day of my life.

Although I no longer have the gut-wrenching, breath-taking, soul-shattering pain of those first terrible months after Jeff’s dath, I am still amazed how many of the feelings are the same as at the beginning.

Exactly three years ago today, I wrote in my grief journal:

Sometimes I think I’m dramatizing this whole situation, making a big deal out of a natural occurrence, then grief swallows me and I know Jeff’s death and my reaction to it is real.

I’m almost ready to leave, to start the next phase of my life. Will I be happy as my sister suggested? Will things come together for me as Jeff said? Will I stagnate during this transitional phase or will I find a new creativity, a new focus?

I feel like a fledgling being pushed from the nest with no idea of how to use my wings. Whether I look forward to the change or look back in longing, whether I drag my feet or wing it, I’m leaving here. Alone.

I have many doubts and fears, but despite them, I hope I will run to meet my destiny. And if there is no destiny? If there is no happiness for me? Well, I’ll accept whatever comes, both good and bad, with courage.

Today, I still am dealing with doubts and fears, still wondering if there is a destiny to run to meet, still wondering if I will ever be happy, or if this is the way I will always feel. So far, I have not yet found a new focus, though I am trying to fish for life, trying to do new things, to go new places, to be spontaneous.

My life is bound by death, it seems. First my brother’s death, then my mother’s, then Jeff’s, and now . . . Well, my father isn’t near death, but he is declining. Death is not a good way to live. At least not for me. I don’t know how people deal with all this loss. Well, yes, I do — with courage.

Click here to find out more about Grief: The Great Yearning

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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.