There comes a time whenever we are cut and require time to heal where we have no choice but to rip off the band aid used to stop the bleeding. Not all wounds are the same. Some require more time before enough scar tissue sets in to go about our normal activities. In time, these scars fade enough to where if we are lucky, no one, not even ourselves, notices them. Others run so deep they inevitably result in visual damage as a result of stitches. Those are usually the ones that come with a great story. And then there are those few times in the course of our lives where the damage done remains with us in some form forever.
It’s been a while since I last checked in with Los Angeles Post-Examiner readers. I have been taking time waiting to heal enough to share with you what many might feel too embarrassed to. I get it. It would be very easy for me to just disappear and create a new life, leaving behind a secret I hide from the people I go on to meet. But all that would do is just force me into living a lie because something in my past holds me back from being completely honest. If we are never honest with ourselves, we can never be honest with anyone we might want to relate to.
The last time I wrote, my wife and I made it to Tennessee. The dream home was beautiful, the area was shrouded in trees, and there was much to get used to living on the other side of the country. Unfortunately, my marriage came to a crashing halt three days after we arrived. Before we left, neither my wife or I saw this coming which is why, for me, this feels like a death. The suddenness was like being told a loved one was just killed.
Since our new home was purchased by my wife with the money she made from selling her house in southern California, it was up to me to pack up whatever belongings I could fit into my truck and find somewhere to live. I ended up leaving far more things of mine behind than I was able to take, including my two dogs, Peanut and Mini, who have loved me unconditionally for the last seven years. I miss them dearly, but I know it would not have been fair to drag them all around with me until I found a place to hang my hat. My wife can provide them with a wonderful home, will love them like they were hers, and keep them with their two step dogs, Betty and Toby.
I returned to California, not because I love the state, but because I sought familiarity during a time of crisis. I can move anywhere, but I know enough to know now is not the time to make such a decision. I needed a place to chill and figure out some things about me, so my instincts said to return to Ventura County where I have doctors and therapists who already are familiar with my chronic pain. Maybe in a year, I will move elsewhere, but for now, my choice is to be here.
There is no way to put it, but finding a place to rent in Ventura County sucks. There is such a shortage of places that most have waiting lists longer than my arms. The ones that don’t are pretty much not fit for living. At almost 65 years of age, I am not interested in being a roommate, and there are not many folks looking for one who is twice their age.
Prior to arriving in the Ventura area, I spent four days at my daughter’s home in Temecula which allowed me to see her and my granddaughter. Glued to the couch, I scoured the internet, sent off emails and text messages to landlords, and received nothing much in the way of replies. While waiting, I then spent more time comparing what rent out her way would get me in case my search in Ventura proved fruitless.
Elle, my granddaughter, was not too sure about this man she has not seen all that often. Neither was Hank, their little dog who went into a barking frenzy anytime I did so much as cross my legs. Thankfully, all it took to win over Elle was a balloon, but Hank was not budging about how he felt about my intrusion. My daughter and son-in-law were too nice to say anything, but I knew after four days it was time to move on so they could enjoy some normalcy.
Driving back across the country provided me with ample time to come up with back-up plans. If Ventura County fell through, perhaps the Temecula area would suit me. However, I also had time to think about moving back to the north state. Maybe settling back in Chico or up in Redding would be better. Rent would be cheaper and maybe I could find a spot with enough land to make it worth another drive to Tennessee to get my dogs before I became a distant memory to them.
We never really know how people feel about us until we are in a time of crisis. Siblings reached out to me after I informed my oldest sister what happened and asked her to let the others know. I could talk to her about things, but I just did not have the energy to talk to the others and rehash the same events. My college roommate and an old high school friend of mine provided wonderful ears and encouragement and a few others were there for me to message with on Facebook and kept me going when I had no clue where life was taking me.
I have never been much for travel. When I do, I prefer going to places where I stay for a week or two. I do not enjoy living out of a suitcase and having to adjust to all that goes with it on a day-to-day basis like some do. It makes me more than frustrated. So far, it has been three hotels and briefly at a new with everything in boxes. This was followed by three more hotels, four days on a couch, followed by two more hotels over a ten day span. All I can focus on is finding a place as soon as possible so maybe, just maybe, I can create some normalcy and routine into my life while I sort out its mess. Until then, I realize there is no time for me to really deal with all my emotions.
For many, they never have to deal with this until their later years after the loss of their spouse. It is then they are forced to decide what little to keep and what is left to sell or donate to others. For them, they realize their time is short and they often feel like a burden to the loved ones tasked to look after them. I’d like to think those days are another 20 years or more away. However, the reality is, my life now fits neatly inside ten plastic milk crates, two larger tubs, my travel bag, and a backpack.
I have asked myself plenty of times whether all of this is karma or if it is just some series of random events that created a perfect storm. Most likely I will never know. I learned this when I crashed my bicycle in 2007 and nearly died while laying nearly lifeless in the middle of a residential street. Why me? Why did a driver slow down and drive on by instead of stopping? Why did I survive what doctors and therapists said should have killed me?
There are some questions I have that I hope to get answers to once I resume seeing a therapist. She might be able to help me understand my role in all of this, but I won’t know what, or if any, role my wife played. It won’t matter, because I know enough to know I cannot change her, I can only change myself.
Change. This is what my entire future has in store for me. Over the coming year or so, I am in for plenty of it. Right now, it is on a daily basis. Hopefully, soon, it will be weekly, then monthly, and who knows? Maybe someday I will evolve enough to fully put all of this in my distant rear view mirror and look forward to the days before me. For now, it is almost 9:00 a.m. and time for me to call someone about a place to view before others find it.
Today is a new day, and if I can slow myself down, it might just be the day where I finally begin the process of creating a new life. Perhaps, I am able to rip off this band aid and find out the path forward is not as dark as it seemed just a few days ago. It’s time to find out.
Postscript: As it turned out, that apartment, a one bedroom loft across the street from the harbor, spoke to me. My new place should serve me well while I contemplate my next move forward.
Jim is a life long resident of California and retired school teacher with 30 years in public education. Jim earned his BA in History from CSU Chico in 1981 and his MA in Education from Azusa Pacific University in 1994. He is also the author of Teaching The Teacher: Lessons Learned From Teaching. Jim considers himself an equal opportunity pain in the ass to any political party, group, or individual who looks to profit off of hypocrisy. When he is not pointing out the conflicting words and actions of our leaders, the NFL commissioner, or humans in general, he can be found riding his bike for hours on end while pondering his next article. Jim recently moved to Camarillo, CA after being convinced to join the witness protection program.