It has been a while since my last post. Since that time I've checked off a few more items that I needed to complete (unbeknownst to me) before I could go back home. One big thing is that I needed to be here apparently when my niece's maternal grandmother died. I was the only one in the family at the time who was available to drive her up to North Carolina to the funeral. When my mother told me about the woman's passing, I knew right away that this was one of those reasons I was in this place at this time. So I dropped everything, drove to Orlando to pick up my niece, and we took off on our first road trip together. Everything was timed perfectly for me to leave the day after I had to tutor, so I would have nearly a whole week for this task until I needed to be back to tutor again. We didn't need that long though, since my niece wasn't interested in being away from home for that long. I managed to get to my mother's house the next day around noon, and we were on the road in a pickup truck I'd borrowed by early afternoon. I drove all the way from south of Orlando to Florence, South Carolina that day. We ended up stopping there for the night at a hotel near I-95, right at the juncture of where we needed to get off the freeway and start our trek on back roads until we reached the small town in North Carolina where my niece's family lived.
After a decent night of sleep in a comfy hotel, and a continental breakfast, we launched ourselves into the second day of the journey. We had plenty of time to get to the funeral, so we stopped for lunch at a family-style diner and had lunch, which for me was a second breakfast in truth. We knew we were now very close, but for some reason, we had a ridiculous time trying to find the little town from where we we had gotten off the freeway. We finally found the place after a phone call or two. At the point we didn't have a lot of time to spare, so it was a good thing we had left that morning with plenty of time available to us. It ended up taking us nearly an hour to find our way to a town that was only five miles from where we'd stopped for lunch. When we got there, everyone was delighted to see us. They were even delighted to see me, and I was shocked to figure out that I had met most of the family at my brother's wedding more than two decades earlier. I didn't remember most of them at all and the rest of them only a little bit, but they recognized me from the wedding and welcomed me as though I were a close family member as well.
We spent a couple hours with the family, but my niece was not interested in staying for a long time. She loves her family dearly, but in some ways she's just not really sure what to do with them. I'm more experienced at social interactions such as the one we experienced at the family's church, so I tried to help smooth things out. I have to admit that as exhausting as the quick trip was, I'm really glad I made it with my niece. We got a lot closer on the drive, and I got a good reminder of what a good community can do during times of loss and sorrow. I reconnected with part of the family I'm not close to at all, and I got to see my late sister-in-law's grave site, which I had never seen before. I had been living in North Carolina, on the other side of the state, when she passed on, but I was either in graduate school at the time, or I was working. Whatever the case, I wasn't free to pick up and leave, so I didn't. I got really choke up when I saw her photograph attached to the tombstone, but it was good to get some closure on that all these years later. I felt as though I was finally able to say goodbye to her. She was a good woman, and my niece reminds me of her sometimes with her mannerisms. She had been so young when her mother left this world that it shocks me to see my niece do something with her hands that is exactly the way her mother used to do it.
Since I've been back in Florida, I've gotten to reconnect and get even closer to my youngest nephew. I've had opportunities in the past to catch up with my older nephew, but not so much with my younger one. So it's been great to deepen and strengthen the ties with both my nephew and my niece. I've also gotten much closer to my sister during this time. We have come to a very new place in our relationship. Even without a lot of overt communication in the past, we always slip right into a smooth groove when we do get together again. I feel closer than ever before to her now though. Part of this has been us bonding over going through peri-menopause at the same time. Even though she a few years older than me, we are neck in neck in the pace at which we are transitioning through this time in our lives. It has been a godsend that we have, because our experiences have been so similar that we have been able to comfort each other and even laugh at ourselves and our similarities. I'm thankful to have gone through the most difficult stage of this time with her in such close proximity. That may seem like a small blessing, but in reality it has felt huge to both of us to be there for each other. We have also been doing a lot of spiritual work together. Spiritual work that makes sense to the two of us who are so psychically connected, but perhaps not so sensible to someone on the outside. We both know that our relationship is stronger for it, and I know that in the future, even if I'm thousands of miles away, we will remain close and in more frequent contact than previously.
Not a whole lot has happened with my brother, but the fact that I was here to take his daughter to her grandmother's funeral meant a lot to him, and that strengthened our bond too. I've been close to my mother all these years, even while I was living in Seattle, so that may not have grown a lot, but we have been able to spend a lot of time together. That is always a good thing. Our family is a family of deep psychic connections, and it's also a family of mirth. We laugh so much when we are together that I'm sure other people in restaurants think we've been imbibing liquid spirits, when in reality, it is simply Spirit that draws us together and makes our hearts light and joyous.
I've definitely gotten even closer to my best friend. We've never spent so much time together as we have these past months, which will be nearly two years by the time I leave here to return to Puget Sound. I'm glad I could be here for the health challenges she has faced these past couple of years, and I'm equally glad I could be in a safe place where I could deal with the physical and emotional challenges I've been dealt the past couple of years as well. Very different issues, but we've been able to take care of each other, strengthening our lifelong bond as well. The value of this time together has been truly priceless. We've done a lot of laughing, and we've done a lot of serious soul-searching and talking. Again, I could only describe these times as priceless, and I am endlessly grateful for them.
I have, however, come to the place when I know it is time to pack up and move my kitties and myself back to the place in the world that feels most like home. I know that I will never feel as much as home anywhere on this side of the veil as I do on the other side, but it is not time for that just yet. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, my oldest boy kitty had to be put to sleep two days after I arrived here. While that broke my heart, watching him suffer broke it more. I am so grateful that he returned to me as a new kitten six months later. It was much longer than I would've liked, but given the state of my health during the interim, it was definitely for the best. I was doing so poorly health-wise that I wouldn't have been able to care for him properly. He returned to me as soon as I was well enough to take care of him. We are enjoying our reunion every day of our lives, and he surprised us all by adopting a kitten that my best friend had brought home from the vet one day. The kitten was supposedly for her, but Li'l Grey adopted her immediately, so now she will be coming with us when we leave. While I wasn't planning to adopt any more kittens or cats, since I already had my three soul mates with me, I can't deny that she is completely bonded with my three cats, since they are the ones who stay inside all the time with her. They are her siblings now, and tearing them asunder would be something neither of us can do. We agreed that she would be mine now, so I have an adorable little silver tabby girl to add to the herd of kitties in my care.
One last thing that has happened since I've been here is that once I started recovering my health enough to work, I started tutoring children in the school district here. I've been tutoring for over a year now, and I honestly can't fathom why I didn't do it sooner. Of course, it hadn't been the time for it, but now even when I go back, I plan to start taking in students to help them particularly with reading and writing. That is my passion, so what better way to give back than to share that passion with kids. A lot of the children I tutor just seem so grateful to have an understanding soul to sit down with them and give them undivided attention. I don't have other kids of tasks pulling at my attention, so I'm able to focus on them and their needs. Growing self confidence and self esteem seem to be the gift they receive more than any other, although their grades improve too. It's truly a joy, and it's a very healthy activity for me since I know I have a tendency to become much too hermit-like in my existence. I've already started making in-roads towards gathering students to teach once I get back to Kitsap County, Washington, my home away from home, where friends and former co-workers have become like family to me. I'm pretty lucky really to have my hometown,where my family of origin lives, and my adopted family in Washington. I find that I have been blessed indeed by this sojourn back to Florida, which I really did not want to undertake two years ago. I'm glad I did, but I'm also glad to going back to Puget Sound to live for a time. I don't know how long I'll stay this time, but I'll take it for granted even less than I did before and cherish it more than ever.
Beth Mitchum is the author of six novels, one collection of poetry, one collection of biographical essays, and one music CD. Her works are available at Amazon.com through the following link: http://tinyurl.com/bethmitchumbooks
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