Friday, May 31, 2013

Ripping Off the Band-Aid

And when the day arrives,
I'll become the sea
And the sea will come to kiss me,
For I am going home.
Nothing can stop me now.
~ Trent Reznor

I'm back from a emotion-packed 24 hours in Evanston, IL, the place I called home for nearly 20 years.  It's the place where I raised my daughter since her adolescence, bought my first home, began dating Boomer, first owned my own business, became an empty-nester, moved in with Boomer, married Boomer, and moved to Florida with Boomer from.  

Of the small list I created of  places I want to visit, this initial stop is very significant in my bereavement pilgrimage (read Pilgrimage).  I elected to go here first, spend time at key locations of personal nostalgia that represent our relationship here together.  They're also, for me, the toughest ones and I'm choosing to go there right off the bat (read Tipping).  For as long as I'd lived life in Evanston, and all the amazing experiences and memories captured during two decades, a heavy veil is shrouding it all.  I am here today because I am now a widow, Boomer's widow.  Our physical life together is over, and the loving history of me and Boomer - in Evanston is temporarily trumped by emptiness, sorrow, mourning and loss.   I'm growing increasingly comfortable with just ripping off the band-aid - - get, what I perceive to be, the most emotionally difficult out of the way.  These are places I feel I must visit alone and be in solitude -- just me and Boomer -- private, quiet, reflective.  Say what needs to be said, feel what needs to be felt, release what needs to be released, and claim heartwarming historical sentiment of fondness and reverence that I desperately desire and deserve.  It is essential to my grief healing progress.  It is vital to my ability to move forward.   I know Boomer wants this for me too -- for us.  

I took the "L" train, that's the elevated electric train, for those unfamiliar with Chicago's various public trans options.  It's a short ride into Evanston from where I'm staying in Andersonville, a hip north-side neighborhood of Chicago.   It's fun being an urban commuter again.  Once I started out, it was like no time had passed - - until I crossed the Evanston-Chicago border and reached "our" stop - South Blvd.  The swell in my belly kicked in, "Uh oh, here it comes..." the self-coaching begins, "next I ride past the loft.  Can I hold on?  Yes SMO, you can.  You will.  You can always look the other way."  Of course I don't.  Who am I kidding?  I can't not look at the loft.  I'm like a gapper in auto traffic, I have to see it, I must see it, I can't help myself.  From the train, I look at the loft, the 3rd floor, NE corner unit with it's 14 foot ceilings and 9 foot wall-to-wall windows.  I look.  I also look to see Boomer, if he's there waving to me, just like we use to do with each other.  Whenever one of us were on a train, and the other was at home, we'd make the call, "Hey, I'm approaching the loft, go to the window so I can see you."  It was another way we had anticipation for each other (read Anticipation).  This loving memory flooded my brain and wounded heart as the train went by the New Biscuit Loft building.  Vivid.  Raw.  How I wanted to see Boomer from the window once more as the train passed by. 

I reach the downtown area and make my way to the inn where I'm spending the night. Walking past the neighborhood hardware store Boomer favored over the big box stores has only increased my stomach queasiness.  It's dawning on me that there's no escaping memories of Boomer in Evanston.  

Beginning with our first date and destination numero uno on today's pilgrimage.  The lakefront park on the campus of Northwestern University.  During our courtship, we spent more time in Evanston than we did in Algonquin, 36 miles northwest, where Boomer lived before moving to Evanston in 2004.  So much time in fact, I use to tease him, saying that I believed he was secretly only dating me to get to my town.  He always preferred spending time in Evanston over Algonquin.  "It's much more interesting, and there's a hell of a lot more to do here," he'd say, "plus, I know how much SMO loves it here."  Being just 1/2 mile from the beach shores of Lake Michigan was a bonus too - - for my beach loving, sailing man (read Winds).

Morning has broken - 2013
At 4:45 a.m. I make my way to the grassy knoll at NU.  It's me, my journal, a giant cup of coffee and Boomer.  I want to be there for sunrise.  I plan to hang out as long as my emotions will sustain me or until I hear Boomer say, "It is time," (read Three).  There was rain the night before, so the sky is filled with clouds this morning, suddenly on the horizon, where the sky meets the water, dawn breaks.  It's quiet, peaceful, serene, beautiful.  I am elated that I am there - - fully present and not the least bit afraid of doing what I came here to do.

I stroll the walkway of the park alongside the lake taking it all in.  Remembering our first date, when after dinner, we meandered our way to the top of the knoll;  as soon as we saw the beauty of Lake Michigan at night, we were hurried away by security because if was after 10 p.m. - - park was now closed.  On my solo stroll this morning, I see the lacrosse field where Boomer use to enjoy going to watch the champion women's team play.  Maybe I'll head over there too - - nope, that I could not do.

October 17, 2009
I stopped where I needed to, an open area amidst tall trees, the precise place where 12 years, 2 months, and 24 days, after that fateful first date (read 1978), Sweetest Day ironically enough (read Oy!),  Boomer and I were married.  Here on the grassy knoll at Northwestern, overlooking Lake Michigan.
Divinity at dawn - 2013

I stand in the very spot were we stood, my back to the lake, and take it in - - how fast the time has passed; never in my wildest dreams did I envision being back in this way.  My body freezes momentarily, then I hear, "It is time."  I turn around, look up at the sky and see how grey it is, "Now SMO, it is time. You can do this."  I bend my knees and crouch down toward the earth, reach into my bag and pull out a small container I brought with me.  Slowly I peel off the container's blue lid.  I then look up to the sky again; to my utter amazement, in this very moment, the clouds broke and the sun came bursting through with gleaming reflection on the water.  It is Divinity before me, taking my breath away, while giving me the strength to proceed sprinkling the container of Boomer's ashes across the grass.

As quickly as the sky broke, it closed up again - - just as I completed.  My oh my.  I've known no experience like this in my life - - I am without words.  I stand there, with Boomer, once more, for the last time, in awe of the beauty we have witnessed - - together.  All of it.

One down, one to go.  Next stop - - The Loft.

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