Friday, May 14, 2010

Stay Tuned... to Mr. Tambourine Man

Going toward love – that’s what my 91-year-old friend and neighbor says I’m doing by moving to San Francisco. My son and daughter-in-law are there, as are all the wonderful members of the extended family I joined just 11 months ago when Joel married Patricia.

When I’m on the Left Coast, will I renounce my beloved only aunt and all her children, who are scattered in several states? Of course not. Will I tear up the connections, turn in the membership cards that bind me to the extended family I have created for myself in St. Louis? No way.

Sitting at Judy and Scott’s table over dinner on Mother’s Day, I promised everyone there that I will never forget our many holiday meals together – that when I sit at new tables, I will even repeat some of the wonderful stories I’ve heard at Judy and Scott’s table over the past 35 years.

Since the condo sold, I’ve been to the Zoo, made plans to walk through the Missouri Botanical Garden and enjoyed several lunch, dinner and coffee dates with dear friends. The next four weeks are filled with more of the same, plus a couple of parties that promise to be fun as long as we all concentrate on enjoying being together and overlook that it may be the Last Time We See Each Other – at least until they visit San Francisco, which they all promise to do.

If we get teary – and we may -- well, I have a secret weapon. When my friend and doctor of Chinese medicine asked me what he could do for me when I popped in for an acupuncture treatment, I told him I needed energy and courage: Energy to keep juggling many oranges without making juice and courage to cope with emotional farewells. I have abandonment issues, I told him. My whole family died before I was 35 years old, and now by moving halfway across the country, I am abandoning people I love.

Exactly how do I do that?

I told Michael Max that I don’t know how to do what I am about to do, emotionally, physically or financially. But as my neighbor reminds me, I am going toward love. I am also going toward a massive body of water, water filled with the song of the humpback, water that rushes in to steal the shore and then hurries away, water that offers sound that calms me and fury (nothing pacific about it) that excites me. I’ve already signed up to volunteer one day a week with the Oceanic Society – writing and helping out on whale watches, as needed!

The first big body of water I met was the Gulf of Mexico, 40 years ago. We drove along the beach, and when the car stopped, I got out and walked right into the water. Home! I tried once before to move to a place where I could live by the sea – Bandon, Oregon – but the job I was offered there required a 60 percent pay cut. I know now that Bandon offers exquisite natural beauty but not so much a life of the mind.

San Francisco is a city with a life of the mind – many minds, from what I hear – but also rich culture, startling vistas, bustling neighborhoods and endless opportunities to grow and change. So yes, I am going toward love, but I also am going toward newness, a chance to begin again, adjust and improve. My dear neighbor is certain all that is possible – in my life, her life, all of our lives.

“I am not my story,” she said at dinner the other evening. We agreed that it is important to respect and learn from our pasts, our stories, but it is equally important, if not more important, to stretch, to move beyond, to write new chapters based on new experiences. Think exciting plot twists, introductions of unexpected characters, rich new material that shakes up everything!

As I go toward love -- and give in at last to the lure of the ocean -- I have no idea what words will form paragraphs on the pages of the next chapter in my story. I have picked out some music. Sing it, Bob: “To dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free, silhouetted by the sea…”

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