Joe- There has been a family tragedy. Call me when you get the chance. It was an email from my brother Chris.
I moved to Jemez Springs, New Mexico to teach high school social studies. I managed to pack my entire house in Cortez, moved all of my belongings (except essentials like clothing, lap tops, and such). Somehow, I was fortunate enough to find a furnished small mountain cabin to live in (housing is very difficult to find in the area). Panger Ban, my cat, and I made the journey and found our way to our new home by the little lake.
Orientation at my new school would continue through my first week and into the second.
My cell phone does not work where I am living, so I rely on gmail for communication. My brother Chris knew this and after some hesitation sent the message my oldest sister Doreen was found dead in the bathtub at another sister’s house.
I cried for a good part of the night. It was like I was alone on top of being alone…if that makes sense.
The next morning, I washed up and made the drive down the mountain to my new school. We were training mostly online as my boss had been diagnosed with covid. So, I figured I could stay alone in my classroom and try to figure out how I could get back to New York for my sister’s funeral.
During our morning break, I went into the school’s main office and asked the secretary, “Who is second in command?”
When she asked why I needed to talk to them, I choked out, “I had a death in my family.” I broke down and cried. I’m not certain why, but I apologized and she said, “It’s okay.”
At lunch, I was able to talk to my boss through a google meet. He was supportive and understanding. I shared that I already had written out some assignments for my new students and that they were on my white board. I would see about flying back and all when I got back to my new home.
While feeling alone on top of alone, I also felt stress on top of stress on top of stress. I looked up a flight. I contacted my only close friend in the area to see if she would be able to watch over my cat while I was gone; she was going to be gone celebrating her birthday elsewhere.
An ongoing concern since my arrival is the long steep drive to my lake-side home. My 91 Aerostar overheats almost every time I drive up the mountain. Added to this concern, my throat was scratchy and I had a slight fever. Did I have covid?
A good friend contacted me over Facebook. I explained my situation. She shared, “You can have a life celebration anywhere in the world.” Given the many pieces involved, I decided not to fly back to New York. I would have a memorial service of my own at the lake. Doreen would approve.
So, I turned a cooler top into a mini-raft. I duct taped one of Doreen’s baby photos. I arranged my Celtic cross in front of a citronella candle. I said my prayers and thanked the Creator. I pushed the float out into the waters. It twisted and turned and followed the weedy edge along. Life is like this though- filled with twist, turns, and uncertainties.
I sent the love of a little brother. Doreen knows I will miss her. She was funny and sometimes outrageous, simple and innocent. She was one-of-a-kind.
Doreen- lots of love to you as you float to the light- Peace, Joe