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

Grateful For Numerous Choices

Although I wrote a post saying Life Shouldn’t Be So Hard, in many ways, that “so hard” arises from the many things for which I am grateful, such as relative good health, a bit of savings to indulge my whim for not settling down, and most of all, my numerous choices. For the first time in my life, I have no one to consider but myself. No one to take care of. No responsibilities. No need to be a grown-up and do the typical grown-up things like get a job, sign a lease, decide what and where to settle down. The world still beckons me, and there is no reason why I shouldn’t follow that beckoning.

As a wise person told me, “You can always settle down later if you want to, but there is no guarantee that you can travel later.”

I am currently staying at a ghastly motel, but I’ve decided to play the “Taxi” game until I find a place to stay around here or until I decide to take off again. At one time there was a horrible television show called “Taxi” starring Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, and a whole host of strange characters. One fellow lacked a good grasp of English, and he rented an opulent apartment for an exorbitant amount of money thinking he was paying for a year, though the rent was only for a month. When he couldn’t get his money back after discovering the truth, he and his friends enjoyed the luxury and amenities for that month, and then went back to their normal not-so-exciting lives.

Ever since then, Jeff and I called such a phenomenon “taxiing” and we often talked about going for broke just once, and taxiing it, yet we never did. We were too frugal, too conscientious, too responsible, too aware of the vagaries of life to lavish what little we had on such a short-term pleasure, especially since the expense would make things difficult in the future.

Now, although I’m still practical, I’m more inclined to let the future take care of itself (at least during those odd moments when I’m not worried about what is to become of me). There’s no reason I can’t stay at a nicer motel or hotel for a few weeks, and live it up. (Or down, since such a place would be a lot more relaxing than this fleabag motel where the bugs are feasting on me.)

But, whatever I do, no matter how I sound in my more frantic or desolate times, I am grateful that for now I have such a choice.



(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.”)

Nothing Important to Say

It seems odd to me that during the four years I blogged every day, I seldom found myself with nothing to say, but now that I blog only when circumstances allow, I have a hard time finding anything to say.

I suppose when one is involved in the discipline of daily blogging, it’s not the words that count so much as the discipline, so I felt free to expound on any topic, no matter how trivial or inane, but now I feel I should have something important to say.

And I don’t.

I could, of course, write about the silly book I read today by a brand-name author, where every character used “proverbial” clichés:

Capture the provesmileyrbial brass ring
Out like the proverbial light
Bite the proverbial bullet
Kick the proverbial bucket
Shining like the proverbial beacon
Deer in the proverbial headlights.

If only one character had used the word “proverbial” to preface every cliché-ridden speech, then I could chalk it up to a character flaw. But when all the characters proverbialized, then it was obviously author laziness. Prefacing a cliché with ‘proverbial” has been used so often it has become a cliché in itself. Even worse, it says that the writer is too lazy to come up with something original, but since she coyly admits she’s using a cliché, it’s okay. But it’s not okay, even if you are a multi-million dollar author.

Or I could write (again) how strange it’s been without my car, which is still being prettified. (He says I almost waited to long to have the body work done, but how was I to know the thing would still be running after 43 years?) I’ve been without my car for so long, it will seem even stranger when I finally get it back. But there’s really nothing else to say about the matter. The car will be done when it’s done, and then I might find something to say. “Hooray,” if nothing else.

I could write about all my recent insights. But . . . um . . . um . . . I can’t think of any.

I certainly don’t want to write about my loneliness. I’ve looked forward to being by myself this weekend with nothing to do, but along with the wonderful aloneness came the not-so-wonderful loneliness. I don’t want to seem as if I am feeling sorry for myself (even if I am) because I only have things to be grateful for. I’m grateful I have a lovely place to stay, even if only for a few more days. I’m grateful I have more than enough to eat. I’m grateful I have dance classes and feet to dance with. I’m grateful I have no debilitating illnesses or painful ailments. I’m grateful I have friends who take pity on my unvehicled state and give me rides.

Most especially, if you’ve read this far, I’m grateful for your indulgence. Maybe tomorrow I’ll think of something important to say.


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.

Grateful to be an Author

It seems a bit paltry to have a single holiday to give thanks when I have so much for which to be grateful. I am grateful for my online friends and for my fans. (Odd to think I actually have fans!) I am grateful for the readers of my blog, who never fail to offer support and suggestions. I am especially grateful for my publisher, who understands my books better than I do. But I am most grateful for being the author of my novels rather than being a character in them.

It’s an author’s responsibility to put her characters through as many traumas as possible. Readers want to worry about characters, they want to see how characters act when faced with horrendous conditions and dilemmas, and they want the characters to go bravely where they themselves would never go. As an author, I might give readers what they want, but frankly, I would never choose to be in any of the situations my characters encounter. And, although I am trying to be bold and brave in my own life, I will never be as bold as my characters. Nor do I want to be.

When Mary Stuart, the hero of Daughter Am I discovers she inherited a farm from recently murdered grandparents she never knew she had, she becomes so obsessed with finding out who they were, why someone wanted them dead, and why her father claimed they had died before she was born, that she ends up driving halfway across the country with strangers. That these strangers are all in their eighties might have put her at ease, but when she finds out about their less than lawful pasts, it still doesn’t deter her from her goal. In fact, she heads for Leavenworth, hoping to talk to Iron Sam AKA Butcher Boy AKA Samuel Bornstein, a hit man for the mob who might have known her grandfather.

Um, yeah. Like that’s something I would do! I am grateful that I have never had to deal with such a situation. When Mary discovers that one of the aged crooks is carrying an illegal weapon, she confiscates it and tucks it in her purse. Forgetting for the moment that I don’t carry a purse, having a gun tucked away in a handbag where it might accidentally go off is not high on my list of priorities. (Though I would be interested in firing a gun just once to see how it would feel. Strictly for research purposes, you understand.)

Sneaking onto the property of a connected guy to dig for stolen gold . . . hmmm. Perhaps I might do that, but I’m grateful I don’t know of any such treasure in real life that would put me to the test.

And that’s just one of my books. When I consider all of them, my gratitude is unending. I am grateful I never had to twice attend my mother’s funeral as poor Bob Stark did in More Deaths Than One. I’m grateful I have not yet had to deal with an epidemic so severe that the entire state of Colorado needs to be quarantined as described in A Spark of Heavenly Fire. I am grateful that I am not being held captive in an underground installation run by a quasi-government agency as are my heroes in Light Bringer, which will be released in the spring of 2010.

I am also grateful to Margay Leah Justice for inviting me to be a guest on Moonlight, Lace, and Mayhem, where this post first appeared.

So, what are you literarily grateful for?