Thanksgiving 2018 will mark the ten year anniversary of my move to the Antelope Valley in the high desert of Southern California (about 65 miles north of the San Fernando Valley)–I was non-plussed by this realization, when I considered that we moved thousands of miles in 1979 in order to buy a house in FLORIDA, no less, North Miami Beach–and then turned around and sold it in 1982, in order to return to California.
2008 was a major upheaval year when we found ourselves forced to move–and the cost of renting or buying property in the San Fernando valley was beyond my budget. Thanks to a girlfriend of mine, she lent me the money to make a down payment on a house in the Antelope valley–the house Kelly & Keara discovered was right around the corner from them–and for three months, with help from friends & family, we boxed up books, cookie jars, recipe boxes and a thousand other things we couldn’t live without. I also donated hundreds of books to friends of the Library in Burbank and once we had moved, I began donating books to the Lancaster friends of the library. It was simply impossible to transfer 3,000 square feet of books and belongings into 1,500 square feet!
Earlier in 2008 I met both of my Canadian penpals–Doreen and her husband Harv on Mother’s Day in May of 2008–we were given a tour of the cruise ship they had been traveling on and a sumptuous lunch–then in August, my other Canadian penpal, Sharon, flew to California and she and I took a great California adventure, up the coast, to the redwoods, Yosemite and some of my other favorite sites–In retrospect, I am enormously grateful to the powers that be that I didn’t know what was coming in September, that I would have to pack up and move from my favorite place on earth, the Arleta house.
Also, in 2009, I flew to Buffalo, NY, and Sharon met my flight–and provided me with a dream vacation–not only did I see Niagara Falls, a friend of Sharon’s was able to provide us with free passes to see everything there is to see in and around Niagara Falls. I fell in love with Niagara Falls, Ontario and met some of Sharon’s friends–often feeling a sense of Deja vu -asking myself have I been here before? Did I know these two girlfriends in another life?
In 2010 Bob completed some of his projects, rebuilding the Secret Garden and converting half of the garage into a library–perhaps he suspected something was not quite right with his body–at the end of 2010 he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Bob passed away on September 22nd in 2011.
In 2012, Doren and her husband Harv visited me and we went together up the coast to Pismo Beach, where we stayed at Dolphin Cove (mine and Bob’s favorite place) and at high tide on February 8th, I sprinkled Bob’s ashes into the ocean–that was his wish. And Pismo Beach had become our all time favorite place.
In February, 2012, Doreen and hubby Harv visited me – I went with them to Pismo Beach where we stayed at Dolphin Cove and at high tide and a full moon on February 8th, I sprinkled Bob’s ashes into the ocean. It seems fitting that these friends were with me at the time—at the place Bob & I enjoyed the most. In April I took my grandson Ethan and granddaughter Savannah to Pismo Beach, to Dolphin Cove, to see the place where Grandpa’s ashes have been sprinkled.
In May, 2012, Savannah suffered from a sudden and unexpected life threatening illness. She spent 12 days in the hospital and had surgery to remove a large – albeit benign—tumor. In June, after she graduated from high school, she and I visited Steve and Lori in South Dakota.
Ten days after our return from Sioux Falls, I flew to Florida to spend two weeks with my one remaining aunt, the last person of her generation. She is 87 and in frail health. My time with her gave me pause, making me think about life in general – how fleeting it all is, how difficult her life has been since Uncle Hans passed away in December of 2000, two months after my mother. Both suffered from lengthy debilitating illnesses.
It’s one thing to grow old gracefully, with your physical and mental health intact – something else entirely when your life is reduced for a decade to wheelchairs and Depends, Alzheimer’s robbing you of your memory—or leaving you with Aphasia, the knowledge still there inside you but no way for you to communicate your thoughts and feelings.
And so today I am re-evaluating. I am praying for guidance, for the ability to live the rest of my life to the fullest of my ability. Not to become a burden to my family. To look forward, from here on in, to the future and spend as much of it as possible with friends and family. To make the most of my ability to write, as long as I am able.
I loved Bob and have missed his presence but have decided not to mourn any longer. July of 2011 was spent in and out of the hospital with him; I think he was near death at one point and was brought back by the nurses at the chemo center. How much easier his remaining days would have been if I could have been able to help him “let go”.
My cousin tried to sell me on signing up on one of those websites such as Match.com. I told her I had no interest in meeting another man. I have spent 50 years taking care of first a husband and then a significant other. I’m not looking for another man to share my life. I have my family and very caring friends.
I am letting go of the past, once and for all. This includes a marriage that failed after twenty six years as well as my feelings of failure with a son who chose a different path to live his life, a life that ended in 2010. I have mourned all these things far too long. I am truly letting go.
–Sandra Lee Smith
First written in July 2012; updated July 6, 2018