I woke up September first, and after getting out of bed, I literally jumped for joy. After making myself a cup of coffee, I went to my desk at the downstairs study and called both Alexandra and Brooke. Looking past the geraniums in the window boxes and the roses, out at the harbor, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. My message was identical to both of my daughters: “I’m alive! I’m here! I made it to September, the month Peter died. We had a hearty chuckle, and reflected on how quickly the time seemed to flow. Couples who are as close as Peter and I, historically, when one spouse dies, the other one, more often than is comfortable, dies within the first year of a broken heart. No one knows just how we’re going to feel and react about anything until we experience it.
I remember writing about grandchildren in a book about “Mothers,” and, at the time, I felt reasonably qualified. After all, I was a grandchild, but not yet a grandmother. The two happiest days in my life were when I gave birth to my two healthy daughters. Nothing in my life could have prepared me for the flowering of love I felt for my children and how that love would continue to blossom each day since. Now that Alexandra and Brooke have their own children, and through this magical process have made me a grandmother, the joy of their presence in my daily life is profound and grows in all kinds of interesting directions.
When Anna was five, she held my freckled hand and asked, “Why are you so old, Big Mommy?” I explained that I had to be old enough to have a baby – her mother – and then her mother had to become old enough to have her own babies. Alexandra’s twins, Anna and Nicholas, will be fourteen on October 5th. Brooke’s daughter Cooper will be seven on October 16th. We’re making fun plans to celebrate.
Starting September 1st, I chose to celebrate everyday as I wrote on the last days of Peter’s earthly journey. Rather than having a broken heart, I feel a deepening of joy because of the accumulation of extraordinarily happy memories over so many rich and wonderful years shared in tender majesty. Our love is eternal, and nothing can change the beauty of what we shared. There is no way on earth I could have written about my feelings about Peter’s transition until I experienced it physically, emotionally, and spiritually, twenty-four hours a day.
I’m now alone. The cottage is quiet when family and friends leave me to live their own lives in their own homes. Other than their visits, I’m alone to rely on my inner resources in the most beautifully, colorful, flower-filled atmosphere imaginable. This cottage has wrapped her loving arms around me as my sacred sanctuary in my solitude. I light candles, play pretty music, tend to my flowers and plants, read and write in long productive uninterrupted hours of intellectual stimulation and pleasure. I have some minor adjustments here and there, to spread my wings as I move onward and upward. I’ve taken over both of Peter’s writing desks, I bring out of closets and drawers, memorabilia; more and more photographs are now in old silver frames I’m happy to polish. I’m surrounded by triggers that bring to mind happy memories of earlier days together.
As I deliberately celebrated every day in September, playing things by ear in order to be spontaneous and follow my bliss, I was studying for a presentation I was to give to doctors and student doctors at an art and humanities program on September 23rd on “Happiness” at the Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, New York. This opportunity added some passion to my work, providing incentive to my chosen work, inspiring me to renew my dedication to embrace happiness at all of life’s inevitable stages. I took a train to New York the day before giving my talk, and spent a sentimental afternoon and evening alone, deliberately choosing to be in my own company, revisiting old familiar haunts where Peter and I loved to go, and soaking in the Indian Summer weather, walking around the city that was my home since 1959 until eight years ago. Now that I go as a tourist, I realize what an amazing blessing it is to know and love this city and feel so comfortable in my rituals there, providing a balance of urban life to my tranquil paradise in charming Stonington, our seaside heaven on earth.
The end of September was most beautiful. Family and friends sent me letters and flowers in memory to Peter, and close friends came to pay tribute to “the great man,” “Sweet Pete.” Sunday night September 27th we took a quilt down to Dubois Beach, lay on the sand under the stars, looking at the solar eclipse, the pink moon. We all agreed the moon was the color of sparkling rosé. What fun we had in an unrepeatable natural event. We were there. We were here. We showed up. We were in awe. We looked up. I remembered Neil Armstrong’s trip to the moon. These big historical ah-ha events we remember in vivid memory that time and distance doesn’t make pale or fade in our mind’s eye. I have a strong feeling that this 2015 super pink moon solar eclipse will grow in symbolism each year as we remember Peter and the sparkling rosé moon that will be the inspiration for songwriter’s lyrics. Beyond Blue moon, and Fly Me to the Moon, we’ll have fresh new tunes to remind us of an unforgettable evening. Just before Neil Armstrong left the earth to orbit the moon, his adoring grandmother told him, “Neil darling, if you don’t like it there, you can always come home!” So cute!
My heart is bursting with gratitude at the sweet attention so many of my friends have paid to me during this first anniversary of Peter’s transition. The outpouring of love and appreciation for all the inspiration and wisdom he has given to us so freely for so many years is really remarkable. Peter touched so many of our lives. He lives on in our hearts and minds in his ability to continue to bring out our best, to inspire, encourage, and challenge us to strive to use our potential, to find ways to give back for the remarkable gift of our life. Just as Aristotle's wisdom and uncommon common sense continue to guide the course of my life’s journey, helping me to understand how incredibly exciting it is to be alive, awake, aware, to be able to use our minds to contemplate life’s deepest mysteries, and through our discipline, dedication, and devotion to the higher good, we can reap the rewards of becoming enlightened, one thought, one act at a time.
Another exiting event is coming up Friday, October 16th, when several houses in Stonington Village will be open to the public for private tours of exclusive collections, sponsored by The Stonington Historical Society. At 10 AM and again at 1 PM, limited availability. Our cottage is one of the houses open, “Beyond Stonington Doors.” For tickets and more information, visit: www.stoningtonhistory.org. I intend to be at the cottage, in and out, during the day, and would embrace the opportunity to see you and your friends. The next day, Saturday, “Behind Stonington’s Doors, A Walking Tour of Village Homes” is opening seven houses from 10 AM to 4 PM.
My children and grandchildren are coming to see me to have a “faux” birthday celebration for Anna, Nicholas, Cooper, and my birthday, November 8th; we’ll also celebrate the day, one year ago, we spread Peter’s ashes in the Stonington harbor. On my actual birthday, I’ll be in Concord, Massachusetts, at the Colonial Inn from 1-4 PM for a charitable affair in support of our wounded veterans at an afternoon tea, where I will give a talk. We have donated Peter’s book Village for sale. Peter, a WWII veteran whose book contains special excerpts on the history of Concord, Massachusetts, and his ancestral roots to the town’s colonial days. All proceeds go to Wounded Warriors. You can reserve tickets in advance by contacting my good friend, Kerri Kennedy, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m excited to anticipate some fun events that will raise funds for good causes, while I’ll be able to see some friends who will come and make a fun family outing, enjoying the glorious fall foliage in historical towns in enchanted villages in unspoiled New England.
These next few months will be concentrated on my writing. When I finish, The Main Gate, I intend to do an entire new draft before letting anyone see it. I’m in no hurry. This is my one chance, and because I’m writing this book for myself, I’m not under any pressure to rush the process because I’m experiencing so much pleasure from the actual process of the act of putting black on white, trying to articulate what I’m learning, how I’m not merely adapting to all the changes, but how I am literally embracing them. When I’m mindfully living in the moment, aware of what’s going on all around me and also inside me, I’m aware how deeply blessed I am in every aspect of my life.
Other than my family, the people that bring me my greatest joy are people I’ve met and who have become friends through my writing. Every few days I’m reminded of how vitally important my readers are to my happiness. With great humility I want to thank you for the continuous gifts you shower on me with your insights, your stories, your generosity of spirit and your openness to learn, to grow, and to evolve.
This September’s end, celebrating the deepest learning period of my life, is teaching me about what is really true, good, and beautiful, what is sacred, and what is important. I have no idea what the future will bring for any of us, but I’m certain we will have an exciting run.
Happy October. Onward & Upward! Great appreciation to you – I hope to see you along the way!