Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A new journey

It has been a little over a year since I declared "this blog is not over". And I had not posted since then. I guess I had been a bit unsure about what the "new direction" was going to be.

Sometimes, life events make that decision for you when you least expect it. My husband of 25 years, whom I referred to as "The Hermit" on this blog, died suddenly in his sleep in the early hours of Thursday, September 7. He was 62 years old.

The events of the night still feel as if it were a dream. Waking up, not to snoring, but to strange gasps and gurgling, then nothing. Knowing unquestionably that something was not right. Tapping and then hitting him. Calling 911. Attempting CPR on him in bed. Yelling for Joe to drive out to the end of the driveway to let responders know this was the place. Feeling a bit surprised at how calm I was. Sitting on the floor holding a confused Labrador while paramedics worked. Knowing, before they told me, that he was gone. They said he was probably already gone when I first noticed him unresponsive.

One of the fire department first responders happened to be a friend of mine. She sat with me while we waited for the funeral director to show up. I poured myself a glass of wine, then another. The funeral director happened to be one of Vinny and Joe's baseball coaches. Small town life, I would find out in the next few days, is pretty amazing.

The days between then and the memorial service on the 12th are a blur. Neighbors bringing food. My brother driving up from Minneapolis to talk, perhaps our first talk alone in years. Nina, who had just moved to North Dakota, coming home. Vinny taking time from his job to come home. My dad, aunt, and uncle hunkering down in Palm Coast, Florida for Hurricane Irma. My friend in Duluth asked if I would like to go to a Charlie Parr concert Thursday night. I did. The next night, a friend was playing at the coffeehouse where I play occasionally. I was surrounded by friends there. And Saturday night I already had bought tickets to see a Swedish music group, Jaerv, in Minneapolis. Nina went with me. Music is powerfully healing. In between music, family, and friends, I found myself sleeping late, walking around the house not knowing what to do and not really feeling like doing anything, making lists. And starting to write. Many hours thinking about what I was going to say.

The service was more well attended than I thought it would be. It was very informal, as Russ would have wanted it. His older daughter and his sister shared memories, and in between a friend of mine played songs we had chosen, by Greg Brown and Townes Van Zandt. Then I got up, still not knowing exactly what it was I was going to say. But the words flowed from nowhere, stories of how we met, his passion for the environment, and our trips to music festivals--how he gave me the gift of music when I may not have done it on my own.

After the service and all the people, I needed to be alone for a while. I drove down to a park on the banks of the Kettle River. My musician friend from the service was there. So were some other friends who had been at the service, I found out later. We all needed the peace of the river I guess. I found a secluded picnic table, drank a beer or two, and started writing the next chapter of my life.