Time to bring you up-to-date on everything that’s kept me away from here since April 23.
Turns out that leaving Arizona a few weeks early this spring was a good idea. Within two weeks of our return, my ninety-year old mother was in the hospital with a compression fracture and three weeks later she died. With lots of help from family, we cleaned out her apartment in two days then sold the things we couldn’t keep (along with lots of my things–another good idea) at several yard sales. Her graveside service followed a few weeks later; the extra time allowed us to plan a very special service to honor her memory.
My husband and I have always said that once my mother passed, we would sell our house and move. Somewhere. That moment suddenly was upon us. We worked like crazy getting our house ready to put on the market, had lots of showings, and less than two weeks later we were under contract. That was pretty much the extent of our summer.
Except for the fantastic trip to Utah, Jackson Hole, WY, the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks that we took with our Arizona crew in the middle of July, that is! We were fortunate to take our nine-year old grandson from NH with us, for a total of twelve. He loved his cousin time and the bears, bison, elk, Old Faithful, white water rafting, horseback riding, and pool time.
Amidst all of that, we worked feverishly on plans for a small apartment over the garage of my daughter and family in a town about twenty miles north of us. When the contractor calmly suggested cutting the roof off the garage to put in a shed dormer, we knew it was time to regroup. My daughter suggested we look down instead of up. Her finished, wide-open, walk-out basement makes much more sense–it’s larger than the first house we built back in 1975 and will cost twice as much to make it into an apartment.
We are now at a point that I never thought I would be at again: picking out kitchen cabinets, flooring, appliances, bathroom fixtures, paint colors, new furniture. I’ve managed to push as many of the decisions as possible onto my daughter. It is her house.
Our closing date for the end of October fast approaches. We have categorized our remaining furnishings as keep, sell, or give away. My husband says get rid of everything and start fresh. He may get his wish. After this weekend’s yard sale (the fourth of the summer!), we may be left with just the essentials: our bed, couch, television, coffee table, and coffee maker.
Starting fresh is my new approach on Gabby, one of my Woodbury trilogies. Though I’m not scrapping everything I’ve written, I have made some major changes. I’ve moved the beginning of the book back a few scenes, setting the murder a few chapters into the book. Gabby has a new background and family. If I can pull it off, the third act will include different points of view. Borrowing a memorable line from one of my favorite movies, we think you got a lot of potential, Gabriella.
Spoiler alert, and what I’m going to spoil is your mood. But it won’t last. Our moods come and go. Like everything. We come and go. Everything we love comes and goes.
The Greeks and the Romans knew well that the goddess Fortuna will eventually take back everything she gives. Every. Single. Thing. They concluded from this that fortune is a bitch.
“He who has wife and child has given hostages to fortune,” Francis Bacon tells us. Bacon was not a nice man: his objection to giving the hostages was that they might interfere with the giver’s chance at achieving great deeds. People who quote him, though, are almost always thinking about death.
One of my best friends died yesterday. You might say he had been Fortuna’s plaything for years.
The new millennium brought him a raging case of lymphoma. It responded to no treatment. The game was over. Then the cancer, all on its own, converted itself into what they call an ‘indolent’ cancer. No one knew why it converted. It progressed, but slowly, and when it caused trouble, chemo and radiation could whack it back into invisibility.
He suffered from the treatments. His family and friends grieved for his distress. I never heard him talk about it, except technically. (He was a doctor himself.) From my point of view, the result of his disease was a vast expansion of his already great appreciation of his life. It wasn’t just gratitude. He seemed to be in a constant state of amazement at how wonderful other people were. Not just their kindnesses to him, which were many, because he was a nice man. He was dazzled by their achievements, their brilliance, their wit, their own prospects for greatness. He wanted to tell you all about these wonderful people.
He went on this way for a decade and half. Then the cancer stopped responding to treatment. He qualified for a promising clinical trial. Administrative and bureaucratic snafus delayed the trial. It still hasn’t started.
He kept on with his own work. He taught medical students about the human heart, the red one in our chests and the other one. He had grave doubts about the course of modern medicine, ‘evidence-based’ medicine, because the kind of evidence perceived by the heart could not be entered into the computer. In the fullness of time, these students will stand as a bulwark between their patients and the dullards who want to treat statistics rather than people.
And now, he is beyond our reach. The words ‘never again’ echo in our minds. I feel my words are becoming romantic, or maybe I mean romanticized. The fact is, I want to throw up.
Whether I throw up or not, the seconds tick by. I am here; Arnie is not. Every memory of him, every impact he had on the world is here; Arnie is not. The me whom Arnie taught, amused and blessed is here; Arnie is not.
You tell me: is Fortune a bitch?
R. I. P.
Arnold M. Katz, M.D.