Life got a bit confusing for a while, and I needed to stop blogging while we sorted it out. I still wrote, but in a private journal. We’ve spent the winter planning our next move, now that my husband is working from home and we can live anywhere we want, as long as it’s in the northeast. It’s funny how something can sound so freeing yet still be so complicated. There were many factors to consider: homeschooling law and opportunities, tax implications, cost of living, access to nature, distance from NYC, Boston, and an airport. Then we realized the one thing that was non-negotiable and surprisingly challenging once we started looking to head into the more rural parts of New Hampshire: high speed internet. It’s not available everywhere, and we had to have it.
We considered moving to either New Jersey or Connecticut (the only two northeastern states besides Maine and New Hampshire that have a good homeschooling law), but ultimately I got cold feet. If we had to be there, I would have done it, but it seems a little silly to live in congested and expensive areas if you don’t really have to. We love Vermont and Maine of course will always be “home” to me (although Scott disagrees), but both states have high income tax rates and New Hampshire has none. Property taxes are higher in New Hampshire, something to consider if we want to buy a home, but they vary a great deal by town and are not too bad in some places. And Vermont also has an oppressive homeschooling law, sadly.
Then I decided I wanted to buy a house, that after five years of renting I was just done. Of course it was too late to make that decision, since we have to be out of our current rental this week and I only decided I wanted to buy in May. We’d been looking at homes for sale on and off all winter, but not seriously. Turns out the real estate market is a little crazy in New Hampshire right now, at least for moderately priced homes. And after a few hectic weeks of looking, I realized the time wasn’t right yet and that we needed to focus on finding a rental.
Rental homes aren’t so easy to find either, not with all the things we need. After a winter in an 1100 square foot beach home. homeschooling two boys and my husband’s office in our bedroom, our belongings in storage because there was nowhere to keep them here, I was ready for enough space. For once, I wanted a big enough house that we could all spread out and perhaps even entertain or have house guests. I love the idea of welcoming others into my home, and want my boys to feel free to have friends over, but as an introvert I get a little weird about my space. At this point in my life, I think it’s okay to acknowledge that and be grateful if I can have a big enough home to keep everyone happy. I’ve paid my dues in tiny homes.
It was getting a little tense for a while, trying to find the right spot. We could go to another state if we had to, but we didn’t want to. We were even starting to consider temporary options if the right place didn’t come through in time- I was also very afraid of making a mistake and spending a year waiting for something to change. I’ve lived like that too many times and I’m more careful now, about the choices we make. Life is short, and I want to feel good about where I am.
June was upon us, we had three weeks to find a place, and things were tense. Then I went in for a skin check at the dermatologist, knowing I should but hating to go. I started going to the dermatologist three years ago, and it’s not much fun. I am very fair (something I didn’t fully realize until I was older), grew up in Florida at a time when no one wore sunscreen, and have spent most of my adult life as a stay at home mom, able to be outside with my kids a lot. And I chose not to protect myself much as an adult, figuring it would be okay. I’m paying for that choice now. I regularly have to have precancerous spots (actinic keratoses) frozen on my face, and this visit I also had a biopsy for a spot that she thought might be a basal cell carcinoma.
I came home with my face a mess, feeling scared. Of course I googled basal cell carcinoma on face, and was horrified by the stories I read. It may not be life- threatening, but it’s not a pleasant thing to have done, and the healing process is lengthy. Summer was coming, we were going to be moving to a new community, and this was something that would be hard to deal with. And then I had to simply wait.
A week later, on the 9th of June, my mom tried to call me in the morning. I didn’t answer- I’m not much of a phone talker and my mom is too old to text, so I usually call her back when it is a convenient time for me. My husband called me around 11 am. He was in NYC, on his way home. He delivered some terrible news- my sister Esther was dead. This news wasn’t completely unexpected, as she had been ill for many years, and I knew that she probably wouldn’t live to a ripe old age. But I didn’t expect it to come so soon, and if I had known I would have tried to see her, or talk to her, to bridge the gap I put between us many years ago. I don’t know what I thought, that I had time? That somehow it would sort itself out? You just don’t know, until someone is gone.
I don’t have it in me to tell all the history, the long and complicated story of her life and why I chose not to be a part of it any more. I love her children like they are my own, and I am very sad about what was a tragic and premature end to a complicated and chaotic life (these are words I wrote to another sister in a text, and they sum up my feelings). I will share here what I wrote on Facebook when my niece sent me her obituary, because I am emotionally drained and it’s hard to write (or talk) about it.
My sister passed away last week (the date is a misprint). I hadn’t seen her for nine years, and that is something that I am going to have to live with. But she was my big sister and I loved her very much. My heart is broken and my grief, guilt, and sense of loss are profound. I am especially sad for my beloved niece and nephew, their children, and my mother. Death is so hard to comprehend.
She was good to me when I was young- as a child I was blessed to be mothered by my older sisters as well as my mom. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the love that she showed me, the music and books and ideas she introduced me to. She loved without reserve, and was unique in her kindness and generosity of spirit. I pray that her soul is at rest, in a place where there is no suffering.
And then life moved on, very quickly. We got some good (great) news, all in a row. A wonderful rental home, Scott landed some big jobs at work, and my biopsy was not cancer. I was still mired in grief, but our annual homeschool camping trip was happening and Nick had been looking forward to it for weeks. I had to go, put on a happy enough face and make the best of things. Here is what I wrote on Facebook when I came home from camping~
So I’ve been pretty cynical about social media lately, trying to minimize the role it plays in my life… But I just want to say that the condolences and expressions of sympathy over the recent loss of my sister have helped me a great deal as I’ve been grieving. I wouldn’t have had that support otherwise, and I appreciate it.
I was able to spend some time in the woods, taking Nick to our annual homeschool camping trip. Being in nature and catching up with some old friends has helped too. I’m very familiar with bringing life into the world and nurturing it, but coping with death is so much harder. Grief is a pain that takes your breath away, but also a reminder to live each moment fully and love each other while we have the chance.
It’s been a little over a week now, and the raw grief has become sadness, acceptance, and also something more that feels like it will mark a new chapter in my life. My sister’s death seems to have rubbed off my sharp edges, made me feel more compassionate, less judgmental. I feel softer somehow. I can be very insular when I choose to be, content with a small circle of people around me, reluctant to put myself out there or let too many people in. If I don’t feel the need to see someone, I won’t. And now I realize that isn’t always the best way to move through life, that maybe I need to be more willing to say yes to things, to see people and talk to them because you never know when it might be the last time you have the chance.