The Movement of Another Year

Dumpy, balding me; staring down the future.



It's been over a year since I posted anything. How did that happen? 

Oh yeah, life.

My brother died in April of 2021 and something changed, or paused. Whatever that "something" is, is still on hold. I think it circles around grief, or the lack of it, and the guilt that comes with getting on with life.

But maybe getting on with life was what was needed. I spent a year staring at the hole where my brother was and feeling little but anger that he couldn't put the brakes on his addiction; but he'd be the first to tell me that was his problem not mine and he was living the life he chose right to the end.

So I got back on the bike, dug out my tools, started sending out resumes and leaned into the reality that life was not going to work itself out without some direct action.

It actually went pretty well, as my late father-in-law would say. What follows reads like a Christmas letter. I'm sorry about that but I can't find any way around it so bear with me.

In November of 2021 I got a job! 

I know, lots of people have them. The retail world would have taken me on in a hot minute. That was on the table, as was going into business as a home handyman or trying to get that bicycle repair job I've always dreamed of. After much soul searching, I realized I really wanted to do what I had been doing. After two decades, web work was what I was most qualified to do and it always made me happy. So I sent out a bunch of resumes, hoping for the best. I wasn't optimistic. The web is fading as a platform, replaced by newer technologies that 62 year old me was not going to come up to speed on. More to the point, it was hard to imagine anyone wanting to hire someone so old their college transcript came off a dot matrix printer.

Well I was wrong. 

A few months in I got called for a couple of interviews and on my second try I was offered a position. I'm over a year there and I love it! It's close to home; actually, it is home, I'm fully remote now. The team is fantastic, and the work is right in line with my skill set (custodial work on a website so old, support for its scripting language was discontinued in 2012). It's the perfect job for someone with no career aspirations. 

Who I work for is a little complicated. I collect my paycheck from SUNY Research Foundation. I have a .edu email address and everything. SUNY-RF oversees grant applications and fund disbursement for SUNY faculty and grad students, as well as monetizing research results. 

I don't do any of that. 

Somewhere back in time, they took on managing a few state websites. That's not really their jam so they contract with Professional Development Program - a company that develops teaching modules and programs for a variety of clients. State websites aren't really their jam either but they keep a small division that manages that contract and that's where I live. I spend most of my time working with PDP folks on the website for Temporary and Disability Assistance for the State of NY. The website is a complete antique. It's perfect for me.

The steady paycheck is a big deal. The money helps as we lean into fixing long neglected parts of our Albany home. Last June Carolyn turned 70. I'm 63 now. We are getting actually old. We need to get our home stable and comfortable ahead of our declining ability to do things like roof repair, sleep on the floor, have 5 margaritas and show up for work the next day, or live with saggy, uncomfortable furniture that might make a college student wince. 

To that end be bought a new sofa. This will be the third sofa we've actually paid money for in our time together. The first two both came from City Liquidators in Portland. They cost less than $500 a piece. They were great if you lived on 10 acres in the mountains and the boundary between indoors and out had been breached by a dozen cats. We're city folks now and our Finn Rd. sofa is so soft we can barely get out of it. The new one is super firm with a very shallow seat that will allow old people easy egress.  We spent a lot more on this one, just like grownups do. 

We bought a new mattress too. It came in a tiny box that weighed as much as a refrigerator. They come vacuum packed now. You set them on the platform and carefully cut the plastic and they expand like an emergency life raft, which is really cool though as ours expanded I realized it was unfurling at a 90 degree angle to the bed frame. What followed would have been very funny to watch if you weren't me.

We just finished getting the flat part of our roof replaced, which is about 2/3 of it. It leaked. It probably had for years. The contractor found between 7 and 9 layers of roofing material going back to 1928 when the house was built. Based on truckloads, he must have removed 20,000 lbs of material from over our heads. Now the back 2/3 of the house is water tight and we can go to bed secure in the knowledge that we will probably not be crushed by our own house the next time it snows. We still have to deal with the front third of the roof which is tile and also leaks, but every contractor who used to work on tile roofs in Albany is dead, so we're still pondering that. At least now we can stand in the dining room and be dry while we're thinking.

Carolyn has whipped the yard into shape. I've always admired her professionally tuned pragmatism about plants. They are not her babies. If they under perform, they're bound for the yard debris bags. She hates lawns too. Sometimes I'll catch her expanding the edges of her garden beds just to shrink ours. Under her strict care, the front yard is a showpiece and the long-neglected back yard is a small paradise. 

I marvel at her ability to make the land work. I added a deck around our hot tub which really helps tie the back of the house to the yard. I guess we both have our skills. She can make tomatoes grow in a heavy felt bag. I can make the Instant Pot work. The deck is nice but on balance I think Carolyn is more impressed with my Instant Pot skills. 

It still feels good to work with my hands. I don't have the energy I used to, but I can still figure things out. I have a lot of my brother's tools now and it's comforting to put them back to work.

It's two years since Sam died. I think about him every day. That's not quite right. He's just there all the time, like something left unfinished or a path not taken, or someone you loved that you left behind when life took you or them elsewhere.You wonder what "now" would feel like if you could change the outcome.

But we can't change the outcome. We can just keep living with what we've lost. Or not. I choose the former. I am grieving. I will always be grieving. But I'll be living too.


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