Disassociating

“It’s not them, it’s us,” Bob said, stepping from the shower on October 20, 2004. “We need to leave.” We had been living on Maui for four years. George W. Bush was up for reelection. 9/11 had happened, the administration had cooked up the whole “weapons of mass destruction” fiasco, and Bush had ordered the bombing of Iraq.

The recycling advocates we had thrown in with weren’t all that they seemed. In a telling moment, one of them scoffed at our frugal idealism, saying, “What we do here has no effect on the people of the third world.” The turning point came when some of our colleagues showed open support for four more years. Sadly, we began to see that they were not in the minority. The war monger actually had a chance of winning!

After Bob stepped from the shower, we thumbed through our latest copy of The Caretaker Gazette, and targeted a job on a tiny Caribbean island. We were packed and gone in two months. So, when people ask, “Why would you move from Maui?!” we inhale and say, “We left for political reasons.”

A couple of nights ago I dreamed I was dying. The sensation was not unpleasant and it came in stages. It felt like letting go. Kind of like when you sink into a tub of warm water. I could feel my life force evaporating, and things that had once seemed important were disappearing from my mental lists. I recall standing on a platform looking out over the landscape, big sky all around, and feeling my molecules dissipate.

When I told Bob about my dream he said, “You were disassociating.”

Up north in Pennsylvania, my parents are disassociating. This year my father wasn’t up to joining our annual family get together, and we weren’t sure my mother would feel up to it, either. At 86 and 92, their energy has dwindled to a low flame. Although my mother is still engaged with family, she is largely preoccupied by her schedule at the nursing home. When I call her on the phone she only has a few minutes because she is eating breakfast, or about to be weighed, changed, or put to bed.

When Bob and I were in town, I joined my brothers John and Joe for a short drive to one of their beloved mountains. We picked up three sandwiches and parked near a fire tower. Joe went to the top, leaping like a goat, while John and I laid out a picnic on the wooden platform. We ate amid the sounds of the woods, letting our thoughts drift into the trees.

After lunch, I climbed the tower, peering down from each landing, mostly as an excuse to pause and gather my strength. It reassured me to see my brothers down below, but I had mixed feelings about seeing them growing smaller and more distant.

Back home, Bob and I settle into our routine. We putter around the yard, mowing and weeding, growing food, cooking, and eating. We don’t have as much energy as we did when we first got here ten years ago. Back then we were in the thick of things, hosting potluck every Thursday, playing crokinole, and collaborating with our friends.

The neighborhood has changed. A few young families with children moved in. Haruka and Jason closed down their farm and went traveling. Bob started buying produce from the farmers market. Our next door neighbors walled off their borders, disappointed when their low ball offer on the farm was rejected. For a time there was a school and a healing center. Potlucks became sporadic and spontaneous.

I have changed. I don’t work as hard as I used to. I spend more time in our hammock, and not as so much in other people’s living rooms. It came to me while I was washing dishes the other day, that I am more of an observer than a player now. I walked off the playing field and climbed up into the bleachers. When I tell Bob my thought, he says, “That’s fine with me,” and we both smile.

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