April 12, 2016
Amy Lynn Reifsnyder
I’m not always sure why it is I packed up the car and drove, with dogs, 2865 miles away from everything I have ever known. Yes, my relationship with a man I was once married to was unhealthy. Yes, my mother and I are estranged – for good reasons. But mostly it has to do with loss. With death.
What happens when, one after another, the people you leaned on, depended on, argued with, worried about – die? No more conversations with an uncle who included you in his life memories as if, “Bob!”, she was there. No more silent conversations in the living room while the Mrs. rambled on. No more conflict about theology or forgiveness with the Reverend Condemnation or the Pain in the Ass you never understood and barely tolerated – but are learning to love now that they are gone.
No more phone calls trying to decide if she should wear the beige or the brown.
Your childhood best friend had a stroke.
Your grown-up best friend left her home and family to move in with the drunk. The last time you spoke, she told you about the cancer.
Now I live in community with dogs. I garden in soil I do not understand. I watch out for spiders, scorpions, and snakes – species I have never before lived with.
I love the cholla. I feel like the cholla. Covered from head to toe in long protectives pines that leave the appearance of grace. But don’t get too close. Don’t hold too tight. I’ll fall all to pieces and you will cry in dismay.
I am tired of tears. Tired of the pain of loss, the sorrow of good-bye. I can’t fix your loneliness; I have not yet come to grips with my own. I can not be your best friend, your guardian, your lover. I don’t know anymore who I am, where I fit. Where I belong.
My family are gone. The Touchstones of my life are buried in a hillside in a town where I once lived.
The house, destroyed by flood, is being replaced by something gaudy and out of place.
Friends are in ashes in Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode lsland, Connecticut, New Jersey, California, Pennsylvania. In the tin in my office.
I don’t know who I am now that I am not a niece, a cousin, a sister, a daughter, a granddaughter, a friend, a partner, me – in relationship with all people – so many people – I have lost.
So, here I am, 3,000 miles away, missing a woman with sharp eyes and a lyrical laugh who bought me my first Beatles poster. Who spoke with me in gentleness and laughter while we worked together to make a place clean and inviting for strangers to come and play, eat, relax. We did that. Together.
Today is her birthday.
And, even though I miss her most, she’d just as easy snap a wet cloth at me for being so sentimental, but I’d know – I know – she’d understand.