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Free to Leave


Laura and Erma left. Their condo’s empty. After a tearful goodbye to my sister, I broom swept for the new owner. Erma’s in Kentucky and will join Laura in North Carolina soon. Okay, this sounds like writing, not like truth. Let me try again. When I swept that place, those rooms, I cried. It’s as if they vanished. As if the 16 months they lived down the block were just cushioned in my imagination, except for cat hair—evidence of the sisterhood.

And I’m not sure if I’m staying or leaving.

When the real estate agent said my buyer might need an extension, I reacted with, “Don’t we all?” The more I think about that, I don’t know. I need a flotation device. I’d like to float.

A fellow traveler in Without World (a space for those whose spouses have died) suggested a gypsy life.

I replied:

Put all these boxes in storage of just give them away–like grab bags. Change the labels. So nobody knows what he or she is receiving. It doesn’t matter anyway. And then buy a rec vehicle. Have no plan. Decide once [you’re] on some main road. Go left, right, or straight ahead.

Went on to tell him I’d taken a long walk, observing the contrasts. Warm inside my place, insulated by an apartment above and one beneath. Cold outside. Happiness vs. misery. Life vs. death. Kindness vs. apathy.

During that walk through the Kingdom of Cross Examinations, I wondered how many more walks I’ll have here in this acreage of angst, fits and starts, signs that say CAUTION SPEED BUMP and STOP, where many of my neighbors are displaying their “I Voted” stickers, proud accomplices to savagery. My sticker, worn by the Lesbaru, says, “NOBODY FOR PRESIDENT.” They, these people who inhabit my community, don’t GET (or do they?) that my frown turned upside down masks recognition of bloodbaths, empire’s export and that presidents’ tenures are murder-for-hire positions, a slice and dice of other countries as well as this one that opens with United—not only the tired, the poor, the huddled masses, but also the middle class and those voicing dissent—though too few are dissenting. (Run-on sentences acknowledged.)

But wait, I’m not finished. “Liberals” and “progressives” punch screen their approval of carnage every election cycle. Glomming on to some single issue or two, gay marriage, right to choose, selection of the Supremes (GASP), they vote for a mass killer. Oh, and when there’s some tsunami or tsunami-like disaster, they write a check, “Here, Red Cross, take care of this so I won’t have to think about it.”

What’s another drone attack, maimed or dead children, expanded war when Kirstie Alley’s revealed the white-hot lust she and Patrick Swayze shared years ago? What’s so awful about Fascism’s signature on the deed to this nation when a couple’s about to be eliminated from Dancing With the Stars? Or that Taylor Swift has the top spot on the chart?

I need to calm down, breathe deeply, and relate an episode from my little life to help frame my personal panorama/drama. Yeesh, I just realized this is as bad as seeing Alley, Swift, and Dancing with the Stars among Top Stories in the “News”.

And I do beg your forgiveness, but a reader expressed disdain for my personal essays recently, asking when I’m going to write about my hemorrhoids. I replied in vivid detail about the banding procedure, followed by emergency surgery years ago. He’s been emailing since with links to articles. So, G, some of this is dedicated to you.

I awakened one morning this week with a burning knot in my stomach. I grabbed my running clothes, tied my shoelaces, and made a cup of coffee. But the coffee’s aroma, usually so yummy, made me queasy. I couldn’t drink it.

Called and cancelled a routine doctor’s appointment. Was afraid I’d have an “accident” on the way to his office. A couple of hours later, I felt better and phoned to ask about keeping the previously scheduled time.

When I saw my doctor for the flip-flop look-see, he said, “You cancelled because you had food poisoning and then decided to come in?”

“Yes, I felt better after several sprints to the bathroom.”

“Lie on the examining table.” He palpated my tum. “It’s not over.”

“Then I’d better get out of here.”

I told this physician, so supportive during my husband’s illness and through my grieving, about the plan to move—that this is the first move for me without Charles in over 35 years. He said he’d just seen another patient who nearly collapsed because she had to endure storming Sandy without her husband, dead 15 years.

For weeks, I’ve been indecisive. Selling my condo, the place where Charles died. Moving to NC. What’s right for me?

As I handed my paperwork to the receptionist, she said, “You’re free to leave.”

There—it’s official. I’m free to leave.

Missy Beattie is busy in Baltimore.  Email:

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail:

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