I didn't have any of these. I was just desperately sad. I had constant thoughts of how quiet it would be at home. Two days before my flight home Steph called to say my Dad was in the hospital with pneumonia. He wasn't doing well. Wham! Another shot to the gut. I was actually more concerned about my Mom who vacillated between good and bad days and now this. Jeez. I said my silent prayers for him to just hold on. I was on my way. My niece skyped me that during her visit with him she told him I was coming to see him, he opened his eyes to make sure he heard the message, and then drifted back into sleepy silence.
I didn't make it in time. After Steph greeted me at the airport with a mega "welcome home Mom" sign she told me Grandpa had died while I was enroute. Crash landing. I choose to think that he was well aware of the discord in his large group of younguns and that is why he opted for cremation with no ceremony. And the claws and talons had already been bared so no reason to rush home to North Carolina.
Since I had told only Steph and my friend Bender of my return, arriving at my itty bitty home was eerily quiet. They lugged my bags upstairs and I just plopped down on the chaise. Everything looked the same, smelled the same but didn't feel the same. Soon the sad, sad tears were flowing silently down my cheeks as Steph just hugged me. They knew I was feeling the loneliness of missing my boys and my Dad. And thankfully they knew I just needed to be in that moment, sit with it, feel it. I just needed to be. After a couple of hours of small talk, I just wanted my own private space and they left me in my quiet. And I just sat in it. For many, many hours. I just wanted to crawl into a tight ball and continue crying.
Fortunately I had made spa appointments for the next day or I know I would have never left my house for days. But that would happen anyway. Driving to my appointment I felt disoriented in the traffic and barely drove the speed limit. Things were moving just waaaay too fast and it was making me anxious. When I arrived at the spa, everyone knew me and rushed to say welcome home. Then tons of questions. "Was it fabulous?" "Did you have a great time?" "Was it exciting?" I really struggled not to break into a huge blubbering, crying jag. I explained that those are not the words I would use to describe my last two years. Instead, I tell everyone it was "humbling."
And it was. And that is truly the only word I can use that may give someone pause to stop mid sentence and ponder what I meant. I was humbled by the experience and now contemplate how it will fit into my old world thoughts and actions. I'm still mulling that over.
But there are some interesting readjustments. I will forget to flush the toilet sometimes. I do think the colors on the tv are too bright. I forget I have meat in the fridge I can cook for dinner. I get anxious in noisy, crowded, bustling places. And I am freezing cold--all the time. I laugh at myself when I grab a sweater to go out remembering how odd I thought it was that Kenyans wore a coat on the hottest day. Jokes on me now.
My spa day was my only day outside for almost three weeks. I really wanted to just be in my own quiet space, cocoon a bit. Fortunately Bender had stocked my fridge with every possible food item. So I just hunkered down. I sent an email letting people know I was in my cave and why. I really did not want to be the debbie downer when they were all so excited to see me again. I would emerge slowly, in my own time.
After a week, I unpacked my suitcases and when I opened my bureau to put things away, I was suddenly struck by all the "stuff." For real! Who needs all those nighties, socks, leggings or shoes? More "stuff" than we ever wear! I began purging every single drawer in every single cabinet in the house. I packed it all in boxes to give away. I had lived for two years with 5 pairs of pants, five skirts, two pairs of shoes, three sweaters and rotated 10 t-shirts. I have just discovered change #1.
By the end of my second week home, with my house thoroughly purged, I'm still having crying jags but have moved on to making lists. Bender had done an amazing job caring for my place so it was just the little upkeep and maintenance things that were now on my mind. Get the a/c serviced, recaulk the tub, toss the rotted balcony chairs and replant the flower boxes. More heady items were also on the list but I kept pushing them to the bottom. Some days I would look at the lists and have a goal to accomplish just one. Then I would crawl back in the bed having done nothing. Note to self: You have a shower and can use it any time you like. You don't even have to heat the water in a pot on the stove.
By the third week I was thinking I might be ready to venture my big toe outside. I had avoided walking down to the new waterfront park because I knew it would be too sad to be there without my pups. Some people had called and I let it go to the machine. My friend Jim had maintained my Kennedy Center subscription for me and said we had tickets for a play. Okay. I can do that. So I thought. As it got closer to the time to leave, I told him I was feeling very anxious and might have to bail if it continued. We had a low key dinner out and proceeded to the play. I did have a few moments of claustrophobia as we walked to our seats but powered on. By intermission I was antsy. When it was over I bolted. I wanted my quiet again. No after theater cocktails. Get me home.
At week four, I have now begun to reach out to close friends, had a few doctors appointments and struggled with a nasty sinus infection. I surmise having so many plants, flowers and trees again has ravaged my sinuses. Didn't have those in Kenya. They had all been hewn to make firewood or charcoal. I actually returned for another show but still wanted to be back in my cocoon immediately afterward. Maybe change #2? Not quite sure yet. I know I am still grieving.
I need to have another dog. That's what's missing. Some unconditional love. A doting companion. So I found Rocky now renamed CoKa in honor of my former boys. I rescued him from a Cocker shelter. He really is the best of both my former loves. He looks like Cognac and has the quiet nature of Kahlua. He's eight, loving and docile. I wasn't sure he could bark until he let out a little "arf" at the mailman. Now he and I relish the park with its water feature and he has made many new human and doggie friends. Going outside is now something we both look forward to.
And I do miss Kenya. I hear from Pastor that Sukari is happy but still looking for me when the gate squeaks, and my friends there have sent loving emails and even called. Mostly I miss the quiet. And the inky, black of night so dark you can't find your hand in front of you. The stars twinkling like embers from fireworks in the equatorial sky. And the smiles on the faces of my dear friends there that made you feel like you were the sunshine in their world.
So I had a crash landing after a humbling two year journey. And now a new journey begins. One of new discoveries that will be just as monumental in ways I have yet to identify. I will keep you posted...