Sometimes, a relationship sails along at 70 miles per hour. The engine of love is running smoothly. The couple is getting good traction and is enjoying the scenery. Jobs are good with all the workers smiling at appropriate moments and whistling feverishly. Cars are running fine. Health is exemplary. Put another coat of paint on the white picket fence and shine up the granite countertops. Enjoy the tailwind.
Other times, love is a construction zone. The wind is in your face. There’s a pothole of a bad habit here. An abrupt edge of a health concern there. The work crews are busy with repairs. Then it’s time for the couple to slow down, be patient, look carefully for signs, know that the construction zone is only temporary and when the work gets done, there will be smooth, or at least smoother, sailing ahead.
Be warned. If you try to drive too fast through the construction zone, you put the workers at risk. And you risk paying double the fine. Wonder and I are now in that construction zone, cleaning out two homes, the Mountain Cabin to rent and her dad’s place to sell. My job at the newspaper imploded, with bad stress outweighing good stress, with an intensity that was compromising health. I tell people I am not retiring, just shy. I am looking for work. That’s not an easy prospect anytime and especially so at age 58. We’ve moved in together, finally. After seven years of my commuting over the Blue Mountains in all kinds of weather, we are now combining our possessions into the Beach Condo, a 950 square foot space a half day’s drive from the Pacific Ocean. It’s like trying to place a blue whale into a kid’s wading pool.
What’s important when going through a construction zone is keeping perspective. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with details. The to-do list, both written and unwritten, stretches interminably, like the interstate across Nebraska with Iowa a distant dream.
It’s also important when in the zone to keep going. Avoid getting stuck in one place. That is especially true as we go through the grief of losing Wonder’s father and brother, all in a three-month span. Wonder’s father, 82, died in February as the result of an auto accident. Her brother, 52, died in May after a three-year battle with thyroid cancer. Their spirit lives on. Their gifts to us are now ours to share. Now there is another kind of grief, less intense but still real, about moving out of the Mountain Cabin, a humble abode yet a dream home albeit of modest dreams. My home of 20 years gave me peace, elbow room, a million-dollar view and a busy deer mowing crew.
There is a bright side. I get a chance to move in full time with Wonder, at the “Beach Condo.” Recent bouts with diverticulitus made me realize life is short and we need to live together sooner rather than later. There are guarantees we’ll get ripe, smell wise, but no guarantees we will live to a ripe age. We can defer gratification and live 90 miles apart until retirement, eight years hence. Or we can take a leap of faith. We recite the vows of poverty, hope for our ship to come in and be together for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, for better and for worse.
For the immediate future, life will be a construction zone. We both realize that. But we know that the zone is only temporary. Soon enough, when we get our homes in order, when our work lives are again percolating, or at least resemble a modern working couple’s, we will once again be up to cruising speed, whether that speed is under the posted limit or well above. We will have put the construction zone in the rear view mirror.