I am an expert at unfinished stories. I am the oldest of four girls, although, with a total of 4-1/2 years between us, we were very close. I left home after high school graduation for a year in Belgium as an American Field Service (AFS) student. So, I wasn’t there for my sisters’ years in high school. When I got home from Belgium, I moved into my dorm room at University of California, Riverside and I wasn’t there for my sisters’ college years. In college, I met the love of my life and, after graduation, we packed up our dog and cat and everything else we owned in a 1960s VW bus and headed off to Boston (someone said there were lots of acting possibilities in Boston)…so I missed a lot of my sisters’ young woman lives. All this is to set up the fact that I started leaving before the end of stories when I was pretty young.
Over the next 20+ years, hus and I, then hus, kids and I moved down and up the east coast on a regular basis, while hus established his career. We started a lot of short stories during those years, and left way before the end of them.
And then my 89yo mum-in-law died of breast cancer, leaving behind my then almost 97yo dad-in-law. We lived a long, 4+ hour drive away and life was very stressed…we felt we needed to be nearer my dad-in-law, who we assumed was in his last years of life. Then fate intervened, someone wanted to buy the house we owned when it wasn’t even on the market (we were exquisitely fortunate to have received and accepted an offer on our house before we even met our real estate agent). I had been gently preparing my wonderful lawyer boss that this might happen for a long time, but when I actually had to give her a month’s notice, I once again realized that I would be leaving behind good friends, a good job and a sometimes rocky, always stimulating community theater career.
And now, I’m part of another unfinished story. My sweet dad-in-law, now nearing 99yo, has been dying for a long time…a little at a time, the light in his eyes has dimmed (matching his eyesight, hearing and mobility) and his body has failed. But always there is his mind…even now that his throat is shutting down and he can barely speak, his first greeting to me is always “How are you? How is Boo (our dog)?”…he lies and listens to us talk, occasionally nodding or smiling, as well tell him about changes we’re making to the old homestead. My brother-in-law, who lives in New Zealand, just wrote him a letter, reliving family memories about dogs and arguments and long gone houses…I can’t wait to read it to Joe on Sunday. This is one story I am ambivalent about finishing. I am ready for Joe’s long journey to be over, but life won’t be the same without him.