Sunday, December 5, 2010

From the West to the East, and Back Again

Almost thirteen months after our departure on our excellent adventure, we flew east from New Mexico on Thanksgiving Day, landing in Boston in time for a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner at Keith's brother's cozy home in Somerville. With our niece visiting from Port-au-Prince where she works with the Haitians on rebuilding their country, and our nephew on break from college in Washington, DC, it was like "old home week", made even more delightful by the presence of our son and daughter-in-law who had flown from Albuquerque to Boston just two days prior to us.

Our lovely daughter-in-law Bevin and handsome son Rene
Our good friends Deborah and Nancy

Keith and his brother Ken
Having ten days to see everyone we wanted to see and do everything we needed and wanted to do, it was a tall order to accomplish it all and manage to be fully present for each encounter with family and friends without allowing our minds to wander too much to the next destination.

The first few days in New England were relatively easy, and our time in Boston and Manchester-by-the-Sea flew by. Walking on Singing Beach in Manchester with our dear friends and visiting with our god-daughters was joyful, but we were still quietly daunted by the next leg of the journey.

With our friends Maria and Vint
Keith's goddaughters, Andi and Vikki
A five-hour drive to New Jersey on the Monday after Thanksgiving delivered us to the hospital where Keith's father was dealing with some serious health issues, and we were closely involved in his transfer to a nearby rehab facility. Unfortunately, our itinerary prevented us from lingering too long, and it was most difficult to leave him in the rehab, miserable and lonely, as we made our way to Brooklyn in order to visit a very dear friend who is waging a battle against metastatic ovarian cancer.

Having only twenty-four hours with our friend was bittersweet, but we were quickly able to adjust to her skeletal body and see that her spirit is intact, and no matter her outer appearance, she's still "in there", with the same sweet smile and loving manner. Being entertained by her delightful grandchildren, the two cherubic children were an antidote to our weariness and opened our hearts for a visit that lifted all of our spirits, even as Keith became ill with apparent bronchitis and our subsequent destinations beckoned us away.

Exhausted, we drove north to Western Massachusetts and our beloved Pioneer Valley, spending the night at the Pioneer Valley Cohousing community, a stay made all the more enjoyable by the hospitality of good friends.

Once in the Valley, Keith's illness became worse, and it became apparent that Mary would need an emergency root canal. As if orchestrated by powers beyond our control (as it most likely indeed was), Mary was able to undergo urgent dental surgery by the best root canal specialist in Massachusetts, surgery that immediately resolved the pain that had been incrementally increasing over the last few months, coming to an excruciating head during our visit. (Thanks to this masterful oral surgeon, Mary was able to avoid the astronomical pain that the high altitude of the flight home to Albuquerque would have certainly caused.)

During our few brief days in Western Mass, we were able to revisit the home of our friend David who took his own life last November several weeks following our departure, as well as spend some time with an elderly disabled friend who brought a joyful lift to our spirits.

David, one month prior to his death
Amidst Keith's illness and Mary's pain, our very dear friends hosted a heartwarming and wonderful party in our honor, and we were able to spend an unforgettable evening with more than 20 friends who arrived with delicious food, drinks, smiling faces and open arms. The conversations and sharing were deep that night, and a circle towards the end of the gathering allowed many to share life updates, memories and stories with the entire group.

Finally, as our ten day sojourn came to a close, it was time to face the ultimate test: our 10 x 10 storage unit. Sorting and repacking the flotsam and jetsam of our lives in the damp, cold New England air was no picnic, but we were able to successfully fit everything into a 6 x 8 x 10 space on an 18-wheeler moving truck which will deliver our worldly goods to our New Mexican storage unit in just under a week. It was a Herculean effort, but it will bring us great peace of mind to have all of our things where we can access them, rather than sitting in a damp storage bin 2,000 miles away.

Even though it was a stretch, to say the least, dealing with our stuff now clears the way for more uninterrupted quality time with friends and family during future visits to the East Coast. We look forward to certain special things being once again in our possession, including our super-duper juicer, German vacuum cleaner, and some beloved art that will soon grace the walls of our casita.

We are so grateful to our friends and family who hosted us, treated us with such love, and who made this trip wonderful despite the physical and emotional challenges that confronted us along the way. We honestly had some trepidation that our visit to New England would engender some wistful nostalgia, perhaps triggering the feeling that completely relocating to the West was not necessarily what we ultimately desire. However, what resulted from this trip back East was the cementing of the notion that we can continue to nurture and grow the many wonderful friendships that will no doubt mature into lifelong connections regardless of geographic distance.

Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder, and this also applies to our return to New Mexico. Flying over the breathtaking mesas and mountains, we did actually feel like we were coming home, and Tina greeted us happily with a wagging tail and her ubiquitous and unending desire for treats.

It wasn't easy, but the trip was extremely successful, and we feel incredibly blessed and grateful for the wonderful people in our lives. Now we will settle in for our first New Mexican winter, and continue to allow our lives to unfold as they will. It's good to be back.

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