gonna eat a lot of peaches.

In the summer of 2002 we took Lissette away on vacation with us again, to Cape Cod.  This time, I stayed the entire week.

What I didn’t do was accompany her and Sandy as they rowed out into Cape Cod Bay and scattered Rich’s ashes.  I didn’t think I could handle it.  But Lissette felt that the Cape was Rich’s favorite place, and that’s where he’d want to rest.  So they rowed out together, and when they came back the urn was empty.

I think that when you lose such a big part of your life, you never replace that part.  And you never get over it, either.  It doesn’t actually heal.  The empty space is always there, and your brain learns how to live around it.

It’s like something that happened to my mom recently.  She had some damage to her eye that impacted her vision, to the point where she was seeing black spots in one eye.  The eye doctor told her that this particular type of damage is not uncommon, and that in time, her brain will learn to see around the spots.  The spots will always be there, but her brain eventually will learn to ignore them.

It’s the same sort of thing with Rich.  He’s gone, and there are times that the pain is so strong that it’s like he just left yesterday.  There’s never a point where I don’t miss him; he drifts in and out of my life all the time.  But my brain began to learn how to work around him.

One night I was sitting alone in our den, American Movie and absolutely loving it.  I was sitting there in the den, just laughing my ass off, when Sandy came into the house.

“You know you’re entertaining the entire neighborhood,” she said.

“What?  How?”

“The people in the house behind us are outside, sitting on their deck.  They’re quietly sitting there, waiting for you to laugh.  Every time you start to laugh, they laugh at you.”

Okay, so I have kind of a loud, goofy laugh.  I sound like a monkey.

But that’s not really the point.  The point was that I couldn’t even laugh in my own house without someone else hearing me.

The next morning I looked out the window in our upstairs hallway, and decided to count the number of different rooftops that I could see from that window.  I counted 40.

It never really bothered me before, but now, suddenly, it really tweaked me that we were so close to so many people.  Sure, when we lived in Lodi I could probably have counted 100 or 150 different dwellings from my window, and Boonton really was “the country” when we first moved there.  But we’d also gotten a taste of what it might be like to move to an even more rural place, and when we put the house sale on the backburner due to the problems we had with our septic tank, we never really got the taste of the country out of our mouths.

So eventually, we found a place out in the country.  Way out in the country, in the part of New Jersey that nobody from out-of-state ever sees, so it’s a part of the state that nobody can believe exists when you describe it to them.  It’s equal parts mountain (to the extent that New Jersey has mountains) and farmland, miles of sprawling and unspoiled countryside.  The towns are small, nestled in valleys just a bit too far west of the State’s suburban centers to be a sensible commute for most.

When we came upon the house, we instantly knew it was the one.  It had four bedrooms – one for each kid, and one for us.  There was a great room with a fireplace, and a nice above-ground pool.  It had a den – we could put the TV in the den, and have no TV in the great room, so we could have a gathering space that didn’t have a TV.

And it had almost 5 acres of property.  Grassy, private property, surrounded by woods on three sides with very few neighbors in any direction.  We moved in time for the beginning of the school year, and settled right into our new, country lifestyle.

Our first week in the new place, I counted two houses that I could see from my bedroom window.  Two.  And one was really hard to see.  Our yard was surrounded by woods, and the town had no street lights, so at night it was black.

Our first winter, I saw a bear in our backyard.  I was standing outside, and it walked across our back yard, not 100 feet from me.  I’d never seen a bear in the wild before – every bear I’d ever seen had been behind a wall, at the zoo.  My knees actually buckled in fear; I sat there and watched this immense, powerful thing trudge across my backyard, take a drink from the stream, then walk away into the woods.

Yeah, we live in a totally different place than Lodi.

Mowing 4 acres of grass takes half a day.  Trimming the weeds takes hours and hours.  Learning how to manage all this property was a learning experience, but also kept my mind occupied.  For years.  Making the transition from city boy to country boy was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever had the pleasure of doing.  And learning how to live with a million wild animals, from the innocent, harmless guys like mice, raccoons, rabbits, deer and possum to things more dangerous like bears, bobcats, and coyotes, was something that blew my mind on an almost daily basis.

When we first moved, we had a birthday party for Ryan.  We had a gaggle of kids over, and I watched out the window as they ran up and down our driveway.  Our driveway was nearly 400 feet long – the length of the road we used to live on, from the main street to our driveway.  Jonathan, the youngest and slowest of the bunch, did his best to keep up with this pack of kids, running back and forth, but it seemed like he was always ten or fifteen feet behind.

I turned to Sandy and said “It’s like Wild Kingdom.”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“You know when the lions are chasing the antelope?  And there’s always one sick antelope behind all the other ones?  That’s the one the lions get.”

“And?” she asked.

“And Jonathan looks like the sick antelope.”

Moving to the country seemed to work on a couple of different levels.  On one had, it was a culmination: we had grown in our careers, and in our family life, and were ready to take another step in our personal growth.  We moved into a bigger, more peaceful more quiet place to start another chapter of our life.

On the other hand, it was a beginning: we moved away to get away, to shed the remaining bits of noise that had been nagging at us, in hopes of getting a fresh start.

~ by Al on December 16, 2009.

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