Ten years ago tomorrow, I received a call from my mom, probably late morning. "Did you hear the news? Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash."
At the time, I was living, and beginning the process of leaving, a temporary home, high on a ridge top overlooking the vineyards near Philo, California, in what is known as Anderson Valley, about a hundred miles north of the Bay Area. Vinny had just begun kindergarten, Nina had just turned three, and Joe was less than a year old.
We had moved there, four months earlier, when The Hermit took a job with a "green" company. It was supposed to be a new beginning, a remaking of our lives. But somehow I knew it from the start, we had not planned this well, I had not said enough, and the numbers were not adding up.
Some nights I sat awake, listening to the eerie human-like scream of the mountain lion. My only pleasures were the beach, and Hop Ottin' IPA from Anderson Valley Brewing Company, the local brewery. And my kids, and the white tailed kites that soared in the valley sometimes.
We had already conceded, and were on the edge of leaving, when I got the call from my mom. I had never known her to be politically outspoken, or to even express any view one way or another. My dad's family was very Republican-leaning; I had heard an uncle of his rant against "that liberal, Wellstone". But on that day, ten years ago, I could hear the sadness in her voice. I realized, somehow she identified with that goofball that rode around in a refurbished green school bus. She may have even voted for him. I did, once.
I didn't realize it at the time, but that phone call may have revealed more about my mother than anything else. We were a family that didn't talk much. I'm still getting over that.
A few days later, with all of our belongings packed up in two vehicles and two trailers, we were headed back east, to the cabin, the land that has been our home ever since. We passed through Lusk, Wyoming at dusk on October 31st, and grabbed some Halloween treats from a convenience store.
I still wonder how this world would have been different, if Wellstone had not died. I still wonder if his death, and the deaths of his wife, staffers, and pilots, were truly an accident. And I wonder, if we hadn't taken the chance out in Anderson Valley, how my life might be different. But, it works.