Friday, June 7, 2013

The Grieving Gauntlet

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear times’ waste;
Then can I drown an eye, unus’d to flow,
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
And weep afresh love’s long since cancell’d woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanish’d sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor’d and sorrows end. 
~William Shakespeare

Sushi. Sushi. Sushi - - was on the pilgrimage destination list.  Kuni's in Evanston to be exact.  It was our favorite place to go for sushi, just blocks from The Loft  - - at least once a month.   We became semi-regulars, with a routine order, preferably from sitting at the sushi bar:  A pair of sake boxes, a couple of maki rolls, an order of edamame, and a single sashimi dinner to share.  One time we tried salmon roe - - big mistake - - for Boomer (read Chef).  Still he tried.  I love that.  I checked off sushi at Kuni earlier this week;  my patient friends, Barabra and Tom, whom I'm staying with, joined me. Driving north on Clark St. through the Rogers Park neighborhood toward Evanston, Tom remarked how they call that strip of the street "the gauntlet."  

I've been forging my own gauntlet, a grieving gauntlet of sorts, for the last 9 days (read Pilgrimage).  I revised my initial intention of this bereaving widow road show in Chicago so that it lead directly into the culmination of Saturday's memorial honoring Boomer.   Next up, phase 4, the 43-mile drive to the northwest suburbs, at 4:00 a.m., and Boomer's old house in Algonquin.  This was the real gauntlet the first 7 years of our courtship - - amidst the ever-lingering threat that is Chicago's traffic.  The commute under absolute perfect conditions was 55 minutes - - add summer road construction into the equation and you add at least an hour - - I'm now calling it "the gauntlet of love."

SMO & Boomer - - 2003
Boomer made that trip more often than I, by his own choosing, through the spring of 2004 (read Migration).  This solo visit is simply about making the drive one final time in homage; an expression of gratitude to Boomer, for loving me so much, that he'd torture himself with that sometimes 2-hour drive, so we could be together. I don't recall a single summer in the those seven years when Lake-Cook Road, the bulk of the commute, wasn't under a massively destructive renovation.  So when I exited I-90, headed west, and within two miles, the road construction signs and merging lanes appeared - - I laughed outload, "Oh Boomer, this is too perfect."  The saving grace for me - - the time was now 4:45 a.m. - - all was still quiet on the streets.  I stopped at Dunkin Donuts in Barrington for a giant coffee and a chocolate glazed donut (Boomer's favorite) then continued to the house.

I did a slow cruise through the Glenmoor subdivision noticing how much the trees had grown - - that was the biggest change.   As I drove in front of 2226 Crabtree Lane, all I thought was how little it had changed.  Still neutral in color, moderate, neat landscaping in the front and the garage door was badly worn at the ground level.  "Well Boomer, here it is.  It looks pretty much the same.  I think they put a new front door in - - but that's it.  Even the house numbers are the same."  I drove around the block to take a glance at the backyard - - other than a couple of kid play sets, and the deck being painted, it was exactly unchanged, not a stitch of landscaping, just the way Boomer left it in 2004.   I did one more drive-by and headed out of Glenmoor, stopping at the entrance momentarily to make a memorial sprinkle of Boomer.   "There you go, Honey.  Farewell Glenmoor and Crabtree Lane.  Thanks for the memories."  

On the drive back I decide to follow the exact route I use to make when I would drive home from his house back in the day, all the while, fully aware, that I feel fine.  No tears, no sadness, no heartache, or swirling belly.   This grief stop didn't have the slightest effect that others did (read Band-Aid, and Perspective).   What was different?   For one, it wasn't ever my house, I didn't live there with Boomer, I just spent some time there with him, mowed the lawn a few times, helped him power-wash the deck and shop for a really groovy chair (read Empty Chair).  I also knew that when Boomer moved, he was ready to go, it was his choice, "it was time," to use his words.  Closure or completion, had already been achieved, this was just a nostalgia visit.

I feel the emotional momentum transforming as I've progressed through this cycle of my grief work.  Thankful that I did the hardest stuff first.  I have a rejuvenating interruption of visits with friends and a grand bike ride along the lakefront, something my body is screaming for, to help prepare me for the approaching final legs of work I'm doing here. My gauntlet is nearing completion - - just two more stops to go coming into Saturday - - Cross-Rhodes gyros and S.S.B.B...

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