It’s finally done. I packed up the last straggling stuff heading for the condo into a truck and left Cherry Lane for the last time at 11pm on a Sunday. The sale closed last week. The weekend before we had a crew of four movers and two trucks pack up everything meant to go east and deliver it to the new place. They were spectacular in dealing with the absolute chaos as I was nowhere near ready for them. When they were done there was a small mountain left over to clean out, donate, give away, and recycle.
My oldest did a great job of finding people to take away useful items that were just of no use to me anymore. I never could have pulled the move off, or indeed have made it through the last year without help from a small army of people who showed up when I needed them, everybody picking up a piece that was falling to the floor literally or figuratively as I tried to cope with the mountain in front of me.
I had planned to write a piece or two about leaving Amherst, as my focus shifted from the past thirty years to the years ahead , but reality intruded on my trite little plans and threw me a curveball I never expected. That last Sunday night, as I swept up a pile from the floor in the basement, I noticed something a little off among the detritus. It was a green card. At first I thought it was some instruction card for a long discarded piece of technology or some such thing, but then I realized it was a greeting card.
It wasn’t just any card, either. It was the very first one she gave me, over thirty years ago. She bought it before our first real date, and sent it out with a post-script right after. I had spent a year combing through that house collecting all the little significant things, felt pretty sure I had found them all, and then this turns up. On the last night in the house we built, the one we shared half our lives together, on the brink of moving on to my life after, I got a message back from the very beginning of us. You simply cannot make stuff like this up.
On the front of the card are a set of images of a couple dancing around and around on a hill top and wearing it away to nothing. Odd for a first card, but perfect for the last. The comments inside were cute and sincere and snarky all at once. It was full of the suggestion that something big was about to happen.
The first summer that came after that card was a time where we both felt like we were being taken by something much bigger and more powerful than either of us, a thing that took all our rational plans and brushed them aside as insignificant. It felt like magic, and neither of us believed in that sort of stuff. She was a magician’s assistant, she knew all about illusion, I was an engineer, trained to follow evidence. Over the years, that sense of magic faded as we built our lives together, but we still knew we had been forged together, that what we had was special, even if we ourselves weren’t always so special.
“…sometimes the best outcome is being able to see that there are things in life which are neither understandable or acceptable – and in understanding, and accepting that, real peace can come.”
-Alla Bozarth-Campbell, Life is Goodbye/Life is Hello
I will probably never understand what bound us, and I don’t think I can ever accept the way her last few years played out. But there, on the last day, the magic came back to make one last appearance. She never said goodbye, the last thing she said to me was “Hello, Love”. And her last gift to me was to bring back her first.