Even if I were sentimentally disposed to drive past “the old home place” where we had lived for over a quarter of a century, I’m not really allowed to, as it’s in a guarded, gated neighborhood where I no longer am a resident. Happily, I am not tempted to do so, and I am thoroughly impressed by Mums’ new digs. Grandmommy and my Boston aunt and cousin are coming to visit for the first time on Monday, which will be the first anniversary of my Dad’s death. I doubt we’ll go to the cemetery unless one of our guests expresses a desire to go—Daddy’s not really there, after all.The layout of the ground floor of the condo is friendly and open, a welcoming space with comfortable furniture and calm colors. The master bedroom is off around a corner, shielded from noise by the laundry room and its own large closet, where Mums’ shirts are arranged by color. Upstairs is the guest bedroom, a second full bath and another large room which she has converted into an office, and a loft where she’s set up two vignettes: a sort of miniature parlor (where I am currently typing) and an exercise area anchored by the treadmill. Mums is not one for knickknacks, but there is a shelf of mementos (a mother and child sculpture, a matroshka, a Polish box and a teapot) on one wall and the sill of the dormer window above the treadmill is also lined with curios. There are hardwood floors throughout and slate tiles in the bathrooms and kitchen. It feels clean and fresh, and manageable—I know it is far more to Mums’ taste than the old house, something that can be enjoyed and shared without being burdensome. She’s already had more people over for meals in the last two months than she did in the previous fifteen years—and our old oak table and china cabinet, which my parents purchased when I was only a year or so old, has pride of place in the center of the dining area between the kitchen and the living room. I remember helping Daddy sand and re-varnish it more than twenty years ago.
From some institutional perspectives, singles like me don’t have families, but we do in fact have people who love and care about us, even if we don’t have a spouse and children, and for each of these family members and friends we are extremely grateful. Before I left DC yesterday, I attended the promotion ceremony for a girlfriend of mine, who was assuming the rank of “full bird” colonel in the Air Force. The event was a lot like a wedding, only without the inconvenience of a groom. She was proudly decked in her dress blues, her “fruit salad” of decorations like a dessert plate over her heart, and we were all hugely proud of her—she’s excelled in every stage of her career, from enlisted person to high-ranking officer, flown combat missions, trained hundreds of other pilots, managed airfields and multi-billion-dollar international programs in parts of the world where women aren’t even considered to be full human beings. Everybody was damp-eyed as she presented her two sisters and her parents silver Air Force medallions engraved with particular statements reflecting how each of them had influenced and supported her throughout her life. She’s a very cool dude, and I was pleased to have been invited to witness the event—I wish I were as disciplined and dedicated as she! …besides the obvious estrogen-appeal of being able to fly powerful planes armed to the teeth with fiercesome weaponry… Afterwards , there was cake and punch and hors d’oeurves and pictures of the blushing new colonel with various gaggles of guests. I ended up talking to another high-achieving woman about the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam—she’s writing a book on the subject. I shared my own book-publishing hopes, and then ducked out and hurried home to pack and leave for North Carolina.Paxifist and I ended up talking for five solid hours, until three AM [when we were both about to fall over, literally—I know I staggered from the shower to the futon in the playroom/office and fell on the mattress and into unconsciousness without my usual animal wiggling to establish the perfect sleeping position]. Kindred spirits are precious things. She and others have been such a witness of God’s love to me, even at moments of such severe depression that those less compassionate would have abandoned me to my fears without a qualm, they sat with me and soothed me. I am more grateful than I can express to God and to each of these dear people. The shocks and miseries that life throws at us are far more easy to bear in the company of others who know that this is not all there is to human existence, and that “behind a frowning Providence/ He hides a smiling face.” I am glad Providence does not always frown, too! Just as it is a blessing to have a whole flock of honorary nephews who give me hugs, it is awesome to have such effectual sisters in my personal immediate family. No husband, be he ever so dear, could surpass the value of these sororal relationships.