Our Own Trails

Note: This is a repost from a post I wrote on April 28th on my guy’s blog, where I contributed during the few months he was away hiking on the Appalachian Trail this Spring. Although he is home now, he is still writing and fun to continue following over there


Our Own Trails

Side note: Who would have thought that wearing your boyfriend’s socks from time to time and sleeping with his t-shirt would make you feel closer to him?

He mentioned one day last week that the next day would mark his first month on the TRAIL. A month of being out in the wilderness, with just his pack and his own two feet – exactly 7 months sober (virtual chip to you, Boyfriend!), plowing through pulled muscles, an ER visit topped with some morphine, Bojangles Chicken and walking a hell of a lot through some nasty weather, WITH.NO.JACKET. (still)

When I think about what I’ve done in the last month, it certainly wasn’t as physically taxing, but been getting life organized, worked a lot, managed to eek out some miles around the back shore and across the beaches and cried a hell of a lot over about a million different things for many reasons.

When cold, I cover myself with an electric blanket and crank the heat up to 75. When hungry, I eat whatever I want – and it isn’t by pouring hot water into a bag – my food is warm and I don’t run out (nor do I have to hang it in a tree). I’m getting caught up with work, have figured out college for my oldest – how to pay for it, cleaned my house for the first time top to bottom in six months, am painting a few walls, and ticking off some tasks that had been put by the wayside for a bit.

My sister once said to me ago, “You don’t get everything you need from just one person”…and it’s true – so so true.

I remembered it when I was caring for my mom this past year. I remember it now, as my guy is on this journey. I remember it with my mom now gone and will when my daughter escapes the coop for college very very…and then the next daughter…all too soon.

I flew to California recently with my 18 year old, while my youngest was in Spain. It’s weird not having the other point of our triangle with us for this trip – but she is one of my little world travelers, and she basked in the adventure.

While on paper, we were to scatter Mom’s ashes “at sea”, we made the executive decision to do a few things: scatter a bit at the beach below our childhood home in Pacific Palisades and in various places in Gloucester – including Mom’s garden, per my daughter’s request. She said her grandmother mentioned it a few times, as they weeded the plant beds together. What the kid says, goes…we don’t think Mom would have minded.

A few weeks before the flight, I sat in my daughter’s Jazz concert at Shalin Liu in Rockport while out of the blue, panicked thoughts built in my head and chest and heart – stabbing.

“How exactly do I transfer some of her ashes, to something to carry with me on the plane? Do I use a scoop? Bare hands? Do I put her in a Tupperware? Do I use a ziplock bag? Will they make me check her with baggage? Can I really do this?”

I ran to the car and called my family in California – I gulped out what I was needing – this simple answer. I think we all knew it was a physical reaction to something far greater than what I was asking.

If Kevin had been here, he’d been standing right there, coaching me along – even doing it for me, if I couldn’t. Kind of like when he volunteered to identify my mom for me at the funeral home. Kind of like when he high tailed it across the country in ice, snow, darkness to be with me, as I knew she was slipping away quickly.

And of course, he made it.

In the weeks following my mom’s passing, but before Kevin’s departure, I booked our flights to California – that always makes you feel better. I also spent time with my kids, girlfriends, Kevin , and some notable time with his family. Most of us go way back to a different time in my life and having then a part of our lives has been a little segment of comfort.

The battle cry that comes after is quite alarming. For me, it was an easing into things – my kids came home from their vacation, and they processed all over again – their grandma was no longer just across town. It was an expected thing, we knew it was coming soon, but nothing ever prepares you. You get together with your girlfriends who all have lost a parent, cared for them, stood in shock afterwards and grieved in similar ways. It is not a club you ever want to be in, but when you realize you have your people there for you because of it…well, thank goodness.

When your person was there for you through it, and then gets on that airplane to go away, you are never quite prepared for that either. Even though you’ve talked it through over and over again – and again – right before – when he said “I can stay longer, and walk North to South”…it is still a jump to the heart – one that asks, “can I do this alone?”

It took a force of courage for me to say “go do this” – because I just wanted him to get it over with. I also knew that there couldn’t be any compromise in this – I knew where he stood in his heart about his own trail and in the end it would have compromised mine. Prolonging the processing, the different kind that would happen when left alone to fend for yourself, would be too painful.

When there is nobody next to you at night when you come home at the end of the day to leave you those wildflowers, play with your hair, jab you with their toenails, even do the dishes : ) – you check your phone every hour, because on the flip side you have this small fear that they may not return – for any reason. That’s when you activate the courage to walk your own trail for a while.

Memory Layne