It’s been many months since I’ve posted in this blog. So much has happened. In the summer, our grandchildren came for their annual Camp Savta visit, reveling in all that Maine’s White Mountains have to offer and forming memories that will be part of our legacy to them long after we’re gone from this earth.
Sadly, in September our dog Spencer died. He was 12, and had cancer. It’s always tough to know when to let a dog go. On three occasions I made an appointment for euthanization after his having had a bad day, only to cancel because the next day he woke up cheery and improved. Only days before he died he enjoyed a hike (albeit shorter in distance and less strenuous than his usual) and several visits to the lake for wading and ball-chasing. Although he had slowed down somewhat and tired more easily, he definitely continued to live joyfully, with dignity, and without complaint. Then one day, it was grossly apparent that there would be no more “good” days, and I called the vet, who graciously came to our home where he died in my arms. I’m still not over it, and realize that I simply cannot be dog-less. I’ve actively been looking for the right Standard Poodle to fill the empty place in my heart, but after a dog like Spencer, not just any dog will do, so I’m proceeding cautiously (I am looking for a rescue or rehome, not a fancy puppy).
I’ve also been spending a good deal of time in my home town, far from Maine. Although I do enjoy spending time with my grandchildren there, it’s always very stressful for me to return. So many negative things happen to me whenever I’m in my hometown, it’s surreal; it’s as if G-d Himself is telling me to get the heck out of Dodge (perhaps in a future blog I will write about some of my more harrowing experiences there). But there are positive things, too: Jewish holidays shared with family and friends; time spent celebrating a very special wedding under unusual and very emotional circumstances (I’m not ready to write about this in detail); working out at a gym for seniors where every day is filled with personal stories of optimism, positivity, strength, and recovery from major illness or age-related setbacks (so unlike the typical gym which instead concentrates on competition, envy, body image and jockhood); and most important, making the decision to sell our house.
I realized that even if our plans to live elsewhere wouldn’t work out, I do not wish to return to our home town. Living in Maine has taught me that one has choices when one feels “stuck,” although change is not easy and requires a dose of courage. I do not regret settling in our hometown for our children’s sake twenty-six years ago; their childhood was basically happy and they’ve gone on as married adults with children of their own to establish deep ties to their friends, workplaces, and community. But for me it never felt like home socially, culturally nor spiritually. Enough is enough.
I’ve spent many weeks cleaning, de-cluttering, donating, selling, or throwing out “stuff.” One of the biggest surprises is my reaction to sorting through thousands of photos of family, and photos of dozens of past excursions and camping trips around the United States. I thought it would be a fun trip down memory lane, but instead I’m finding it’s an emotional exploration of the past and I can only handle an hour a day or else I am overwhelmed and mentally overloaded. I’ve been divvying the relevant photos out to my kids from when they were babies, but throwing away scenic pictures of Mt. Rushmore, the Rockies, Yellowstone, and California et al. What I can’t bear to part with, I scan, and then toss the originals.
I’ve been painting and freshening interior rooms; I hired someone to install new carpet, and am only awaiting rain-less, warmer days to hire a painter to paint the exterior, so we can put our hometown house on the market. Despite the rising crime rates, it seems that people are clamoring to buy houses in our neighborhood. It’s also kind of nice, now that I’ve decluttered so dramatically, to realize that we literally have nothing of value left to steal.
It seems ironic and pointless to own jewelry that makes me a target for mugging and therefore cannot be enjoyed because it sits in a safety deposit box. Our few heirlooms were recently bestowed to my children (most of my jewelry was stolen long ago, so there is little to impart), a process my son felt must be “bittersweet” for us. In fact, it was liberating, and it felt good to know that there would be no resultant bickering about who gets what after we’re gone from this world. And this realization: I no longer need the things that seemed so important to me in my younger days. I actually had fun buying costume jewelry to wear with a dressy outfit at the wedding mentioned above, knowing that it cost only $10 and I didn’t have to be on high alert. (Another realization: unlike my life in my hometown, the only dressy outfit a rural Mainer owns will be worn on two occasions: to his/her wedding, and his/her funeral).
While this is hardly a full account of how I’ve spent the past several months, it does signal my return to more frequent blogging. I hope that someday (until 120 in good health
, as we Jews say), this blog will mean more to my descendants than a piece of jewelry and will be a reflection of my true legacy to them.