6 months have passed. 6 months that I felt would never pass yet 6 months that passed in an instant. Time has never felt more uncertain. I feel as if I am a recovering stroke victim. It wasn’t ischemia in a vessel in my brain but a schism in the nexus of my soul which impaired me. Rather than learning how to walk and talk again, I am learning how to live and feel again. I wake up thankful each day to be alive and thankful for my family, for Anne and for all I have, but I also recognize every day that half of me died 6 months ago today.
Anne asked me more than a few times if we would remember her if she passed away. “How could we not?” I would reply. Not only was she central to all our lives but we also believe we will be together again. Even when the pain, loneliness and loss have been replaced by the hope of being reunited as the defining trait of our feelings about her, she will be ever present in our hearts. I feel far from that future state. My emotions about Anne are complex and varied but still are mostly focused on what has been lost.
While dealing with that loss, the kids and I are putting together a second life. I am enjoying work. I have a fun and talented team and we are doing some interesting and audacious things. I am also getting myself into shape. The kids appear to be dealing with it in their own way. We each have bad days and you can tell when one of us is going through one, and needs some space or support.
Holidays, anniversaries and birthdays are especially hard. Rather than just treating them as normal holidays we are changing things up. On our anniversary I ran on the beach until I couldn’t take another step, happy to have the physical pain eclipse the emotional pain. I have not run like that in 20 years. For her birthday we looked at pictures and shared great memories of Anne. I anticipated Thanksgiving was going to be a hard holiday. It wouldn’t be hard because Anne loved it but rather because she hated it and nearly every year she would have me cook it. It wasn’t my favorite either but I was glad to create something out of the day. This year, rather than stick around and suffer through a bad Thanksgiving without her, we got out of Dodge.
The kids and I headed up the coast. Here we were, the 5 of us traveling again and it didn’t feel awkward, it felt right. It was a beautiful Thanksgiving morning and we were taking the long meandering trip along the coast on Highway 1.
I had driven that way a couple of times as a kid. I remembered the hippies in Big Sur, the opulence of Hearst Castle and the beauty of the area. It was time to share those experiences with the kids. We talked a little about Mom early on and decided to listen to one of her favorite books, “The Poisonwood Bible.” We listened and drove,. The winter sun crawled along behind us as we wound our way between the mountains and the sea. Listening to a book about Africa was a great way to remember our own month-long wondering journey around the southern part of the continent. It also is a great book to keep our own family’s personalities and trials in perspective. Although unconventional and crazy at times, the experiences we have shared have all ended up as positives in the end..
It was a unique Thanksgiving, we stopped to see and take pictures of the elephant seals. We were going to visit Hearst Castle but it was closed. We drove up to the gate and found it busy with Asian tourists taking pictures of the castle in the distance. As the sun went lower on the horizon we stopped the car 7 or 8 times to get pictures of an ever increasingly spectacular sunset.
I don’t know if Anne was there with us, I like to think she was, at least for part of it. When the sun went down we decided to leave the coast and head to San Jose where we were staying the night in hopes of finding a place to eat Thanksgiving dinner.
We found a group of restaurants which we thought would be open that night. When we arrived in San Jose the streets were deserted and the first 3 restaurants we visited were closed. I started to get worried that we might be having gas station food for dinner. That was not a tradition I wanted to start. Fortunately we found a family style Japanese place. In an odd sense of irony we had what Anne would have thought was our best Thanksgiving meal ever.
The rest of the weekend was wonderful. A friend of mine took us to the best Dim Sum place in San Francisco and the Asian Art Museum. We met another friend at Muir Woods and took the night Alcatraz tour and cruise. The 5 of us found ways to make our 2 queen bed hotel room work and for a brief moment we remembered we were a traveling family once again.
Fortunately there is still much of the world we haven’t explored, even parts that are within a day’s drive. There is also a lot of living we will need to do. With each step of each journey and over the course of each day we remember and celebrate Anne; Anne, who pushed us to explore new lands, read great books, and enjoy the company of amazing people, “how can we not?”