Alone in a Stranger’s House

This is the fourth house I have stayed in since I left my father’s house, and the first one where I’ve been totally alone for any length of time. I’m tiptoeing around, feeling a bit guilty about borrowing another orangeroseperson’s luxury, especially since I don’t know the people all that well. (I know the woman from Hawaiian dance class, but I’d only just met her husband.) She assured me I am doing her a favor by being here since she doesn’t have to worry about stopping the newspaper, putting a hold on her mail, and risking the death of her plants, but still, I feel as if I’m encroaching. I suppose it’s this hesitancy to encroach that makes me an ideal housesitter — I’m not disrespectful of other people’s space and belongings.

They’ll be back at the end of next week, and when I mentioned the possibility of my leaving after the end of those ten days, she said, “Oh, no. You’re staying through Saturday, at least.” Her book club meets that day, and apparently, I will be the main attraction, the sacrificial lamb, or the guest of honor. Not sure which. With any luck, my car will be done by then, and I’ll be able to go to my storage unit and dig out my books. And if not, maybe I can find a ride. It will be nice to play author for a change.

People still tell me I need to make plans for my future, that I need to move on, but this is how I am moving on — embracing the uncertainty of life. Some people understand my reluctance to settle down, especially those who have also lost parents, spouses, soul mates, but others look at me with bewilderment, as if I am an alien species.  For now, though, I’m enjoying this catch-as-catch-can existence. It helps me appreciate the immediacy of life, concentrating on today, and not callalilylooking too far in the future. I have a comfortable place to spend this cloudy and humid night, and for several nights to come. After that, things will work out or they won’t, but either way, those future “things” whatever they might be, have nothing to do with today.

Today I had dance classes. Today I had lunch with a friend. Today, my friend and I explored my new neighborhood, peeking through wrought iron gates to see the secret community hidden within. (Lovely stone houses, so at odds with the usual bland stucco and tile architecture of this area.) Today I read a book. Today I ate well, maybe too well! Today I watched the birds at the bird feeder and the hummingbirds at the hummingbird feeder. Today I took photos of flowers that caught my eye. Today I have my computer set up, which always gives me a feeling that all is right with my world. Today I am blogging, and so I know all is right with my world, even if — especially if — I am alone in a stranger’s house.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram 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.

Different Tomorrows

I’m hunkered down in the carpetless kitchen, waiting for the carpets in the rest of the house to dry. I should open the windows to help the process along, but since the neighbors are outside burning meat, the windows remain shut. (Yeah, I know, they’re having a barbecue, but it smells like all they are doing is burning flesh.)

SunriseNo, I didn’t do the carpets myself. My dad’s “estate” paid to have them done. (Estate sounds so grand, doesn’t it? But it consists of little more than this house.) I didn’t even feel guilty lolling around while they did the work, though I did spend part of the time outside to stay out of their way. I certainly didn’t need to worry about them taking anything — there’s nothing to take. Although I still have some sorting and packing to do — clothes, computer accessories and other things I use every day — almost everything I own is stacked in the garage ready to be moved into a storage unit when the house is sold. And except for furniture, all my father’s things are gone.

I spent most of yesterday and last night getting ready for the carpet cleaners, finishing last minute projects, clearing tables, couches, and buffet to make them easier to move. When I took a break and looked around at my almost empty living room, I felt weird. And sad. And lonely. And a bit scared to realize this is really happening.

Next week the house goes on the market, and I will be one step from . . .

There are those dang ellipses again. I don’t know what I’m one step away from. Well, the future, of course, but I haven’t a clue what is in store for me. None of us do, of course, but we assume that tomorrow will like today, more or less, and for me, one of these tomorrows will be completely different.

I should be used to such different tomorrows by now. Almost forty years ago, I walked into a health food store and my tomorrows were forever changed. When the man I met that day died five years ago, my tomorrows were again forever changed. And now once again I am on the cusp of forever-changed tomorrows.

Sometimes I feel excitement at the thought of starting a whole new life, but more often than I care to admit, I feel the way I did last night. Sad. Lonely. Scared.

So many of my plans for adventure (well, ideas — I never actually got to the planning stage on any of them) have withered unborn. Although generally I am healthy, there are many things I can no longer do and others I never could do, such as walking the Pacific Crest Trail, so I am trying not to plan, but to just keep dealing with each of my todays.

And today is adventure enough for now.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire,andDaughter 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.