And the stories we had with regards to moving… Almost as crazy as the numbers themselves.
There was one time that I had left a couple bags of soil on our loft’s balcony for a few months beyond the summer. Then when I went to move them at around 1 am, I accidentally killed a few little squirrel babies that a mommy squirrel had cleverly hidden between the two bags, perfectly insulated. When I moved the bag all I saw was a large tuft of hair moving and so I naturally freaked out and threw it back. This sad day for the squirrel family proceeded with an hour or more of momma squirrel scurrying back and forth between the tree she was hiding the survivors in and the struggle to free any remaining babies from between the bags. Some of her babies were lifeless and some were ready for a new home. We took pictures of the angry momma and guiltfully laughed.
Then there was the time that we moved to Virginia. I had to drive a 24 foot U-Haul from Marlton, NJ to Lynchburg, VA and we decided to travel through Lancaster, PA in order to avoid the always lovely Washington DC beltway and Baltimore, Maryland. She followed me to make sure everything was okay.
Lancaster was harrowing and I narrowly escaped going under an overpass in a situation that I should not have been able to fit through. Like an overweight person who wants to go on the rollercoaster and tries to close the chest harness over and over and over again to no avail, and then right before the guy comes to check they hear that joyous *click* sound as they gasp for air.
The Tangier outlets are always busy as they are where the old world charm of Lancaster meets the new world of shops and clothing. We had actually been out there a few years previous when our Pastor friend and his wife bought us the honeymoon we never had. I wish I had more pictures of that crazy room we stayed in or the places we ate or saw. Gosh do I miss her. On this particular move however, the Tangier outlet traffic poured off of the main road and onto little side roads for those wishing to get away from the throngs of people in their sardine-like cars.
It was like, when watching National Geographic and the lone diver floats in the middle of a huge vertical column of those silver fish that make spirals so well you’d think it was the only thing they ever do, or that they have a compass and protractor on fin. And then all of a sudden they see a predator and they all funnel into a smaller area. That was this road. While maintaining the old world meets the new world. Therefore, not a spot to lose it’s historical dignity, there was a little cobbled overpass that I inevitably had to pass under, with a clearance of 11′ and a truck that I thought said 13′.
I looked around me and as soon as I saw the clearance measurements I freaked out. Palms sweaty, fingers slipping across the steering wheel, calling myself an idiot for going this route. I couldn’t stop in the middle of everything and just back up. What kind of moron would I look like? How long would traffic be backed up? How bad would it be? So I did what any rational man would do in that situation… I floored it. Thinking that if I damaged the vehicle at least I’d feel good because I damaged the bridge too. Thankfully, I made it under and we went on our way.
This was followed by driving through the mountains of Virginia as the sun kissed the horizon and the roads became enveloped in the shadows that once just crept across them. The views were stunning. However, Lancaster was nothing compared to this. The worst part was driving up the steep slope of the mountains. I saw my life flash before my eyes many times, being that even with my foot touching the floor I was climbing at a jaw dropping pace of 5 miles per hour. And as the local drivers buzzed passed me like a swarm of angry bees, they held their one wing up at me while buzzing on by.
THEN… After what seemed like an all night mountain climbing expedition, coming down was even scarier as my 24 foot U-Haul loosely held to the turns at 45 degree angles and me standing on the brakes as I have never stood before. I was a line of soldiers at attention, all standing on my brakes. I was that point of no return during the trust fall game. The point where you suddenly are no longer able to pull yourself back up using your abs and you just have to fall backwards and hope for the best. I was on the brink of that position. I could literally look out the window and see the gorge my tires feared they were about to slide down into. Brake pumping on my way down was more for my own psychological comfort than anything as my brakes simply refused to do any work after they had seen the severe strain I put the gas pedal through.
Needless to say, even though the stories were pretty funny when told in person, moving always had it’s difficulties.
My wife sure made it easy though. She made life easier. She was the tupperware that organized my edible and cold universe. She was the lazy Susan that kept my kitchen from becoming the mess it was destined to be without her. The glass jars that kept all my spices in delicious order.
She would pack the boxes meticulously. She would wrap the fragile and write in her always lovely handwriting exactly what was in the box. It always amazed me how well she organized everything. And though I complained about the way she taped boxes together, I secretly adored it and even more secretly envied her abilities when it came to maintaining order in the chaos that was a direct consequence of being my wife.
We never really argued. We talked. We disagreed. We withdrew on occasion. But we never argued. We loved each other too much to get heated. Or at least that’s how I like to look at it. And we had our strengths and knew what those were. She was great at the small stuff and I was excellent at the grunt work, as is typical of any husband and wife team. I knew where everything in the truck was and I had a way of organizing each trip so that by the time we reached the end there was just enough room to close the doors. We worked well together. Very well.
And oh how we laughed. So many nights were spent picking food up and sitting on boxes chatting and exhausted. She always did such an impressive job of taking care of our needs. She knew it all. She monitored. Her brain was always working to make my life easier even if it meant hers wouldn’t be. I’m surprised she lasted with me for so long. And I’m even more surprised she didn’t kill me sooner or me accidentally kill her. Billy Graham’s wife was once asked if she ever considered divorce. She replied “divorce no, murder yes.”
And the irony is something I was so good at just a few years ago, I suck at now. Here I lay, on my wife’s birthday. January 13. And I’m not well. I know that someone else is getting to celebrate with her. I know she is with someone now. I know she has moved on. I know she doesn’t cry over me like I still do over her. For two years I’ve wept. Today I wept more than I ever have before. One of those weeping fits that make you almost dry heave. In my car, so wet that I thought my contacts would just slip out of my eyes like a slip and slide. Like a water main in Philadelphia just broke and everything is soaked through. And I attempt to move on, like the moves I’ve made before, but this one isn’t like those. I don’t have her for this one. She can’t pack my emotions up and gently pack them into boxes and tape them poorly like she used to. She doesn’t write on my heart anymore like she used to, in that almost floral handwriting. I don’t have her ever comforting smile anymore after a day of choking the tears back. I don’t get her hand in mine or her embrace against me. I don’t get her anymore.
But I really never did I guess. She was never really mine. She did give me her heart however and I damaged it beyond repair.
God… I’m so sorry for squandering the gift you had given me in her. She was the brightest ray of sunshine I had ever seen. She was the most vibrant flower in the garden. She was your strength and your love and your radiance packed gently in a delicate frame with the sweetest of lips and the most genuine and lovely of smiles. Her eyes were fields of sunflowers burning my world down. Thank you for her Lord. Please, today I have but two prayers. One, that you would forgive me for the pain I caused her. And two, that you would bless her birthday beyond what I ever could. That the new guy you have blessed her with shows her the love that I squandered. And that you remind her that she is your daughter and that you are her Father. And when all else fails, your love remains. Bless her and give her peace this day I pray, in Jesus name.
Amen. And Happy Birthday.