The conventional wisdom is often wrong. Crime didn't keep soaring in the 1990s, money alone doesn't win elections, and--surprise--drinking eight glasses of water a day has never actually been shown to do a thing for your health. Conventional wisdom is often shoddily formed and devilishly difficult to see through, but it can be done.I know some Chicagoans may have a hard time with his point about money and elections, but that's beside the point. Just like in the story books, or from my mother's mouth, when I met the man I would be with, I knew him at first sight.
I had known Hadj "virtually," online and on the phone, since October 2007, but didn't get to meet him in person until Memorial Day weekend of this year. He was at the beginning of his "Free Now" retirement tour. His twenty years as submariner behind him, he is now learning how to be a civilian adult while I learn how to civilly share a bathroom. His stop in Chicago was one in a string of visits across the country to see friends and family. It lasted twice as long as he had originally intended.
The truth is that Hadj and I have similar behavior patterns. Neither of us seem to allow things to be to easy. People have called both of us "intense" more than a few times. We wear stripes with dots and our hair asymmetrically. We acknowledge the knit brows of our friends and families, who worry about the strength of our hearts, and move on into our horizons anyway. We fall in love like comets, long strings of star dust trailing in the wake of our blaze. The echo, of "burning out," on the collective consciousness's tongue is that only; vapors of fears we do not hold. We cannot tell the future, but we can plant seeds for love.
Within two weeks we had agreed on the mutual desire and need to be together, not across the nation. Eventually we opted for his city, Seattle. It is one of our dreams that we'll have a place in the city and country some day, but for now beautiful little Belfair, with its trees and salt marshes, will most certainly suffice.
I think part of why I frequently wind up on the winding path, instead of the direct one, is that I am an idealist to the nth degree. Ideas take up more of my time that I care to count, and one of my long-standing ideas was of renovating the house I grew up in. Years of watching "This Old House" and HGTV had wormed in to my being. By the time I graduated from college I was itching to do something with the potential locked in that 1920s Masons' cabin on the Fox River. When, on the phone, I mentioned my dreams for the house to Hadj, he was in a jam over something. He was trying to figure out how to satisfy his need to have his dogs accompany him when he came to Chicago for the requisite "meet the parents and family" event. He had had a summer on the run, using his home as a crash pad between epic art works and traveling all over the west in his car. His ten day stay in Black Rock City for Burning Man proved nine point five days too many away from his beloved "doglies" and he couldn't stomach the idea of taking off without them again. He heard my sweeping dreams for my parents' house and took a look around. He could do the things I talked about! He could do them all while meeting my parents, donating his skills, keeping his dogs close, and visiting his family near by! He was practically packing his truck with all the tools he could while I called my mom in a frenzy to pitch the idea to her. She was surprised.
The idea I pitched was this: Hadj and I would live...somewhere while Hadj renovated...whatever needs the most attention and I would do...something... I have not recently asked my mom for her verbatim thoughts on my proposal, but I imagine they were something along the lines of "Who? What? When? Where? How?" My mom though, is nothing if not a good sport. She said, "no," then thought about it, made up her mind, thought about it again, got opinions, made up her mind, got more opinions, asked me what the hell I was talking about once more, thought about it, and eventually said "yes" - we could do something for them, despite her probably more sane inclinations. She wanted the only full bathroom in the house redone, if Hadj was sure he could do it. We didn't have any clear plans, we just knew something would happen and we would do our best.
Hadj arrived in Chicago late the night before a party my mom was throwing. It was originally going to be my "going-away" party, but then--when Hadj couldn't leave his dogs and I couldn't keep my pipe-dreams to myself--it became a "come meet Shana's new man slash belated surprise 50th birthday to you Aunty" party. See what I mean about Mom being a good sport? I still had two weeks left in my apartment in the city and a week left to work at my job. I thought about staying at my job, because that would be the sane, and possibly responsible, thing to do, but I couldn't. I had to get ready for my leap into the unknown. No! I had to leap already! I had to be free! I had to have time!
Really what I had to do was find a way not to collapse into insanity when I looked and realized I had just willingly moved into the craziest situation imaginable to me. My mom and dad. My brand-new boyfriend. My first time living with any partner. My cats. His dogs. A three bedroom house that was described as being a "good starter home" in 1986. No working shower for four weeks and hollow core wooden doors that act as sound enhancers for all the bedrooms, I swear. My sport of a mom rubbed her magic off on all of us though by repeating the phrase "relaxed and easy going" half a dozen times a day. Hadj and I also picked up her habit of covering conversational silences by saying, in the most enthusiastic of tones, "isn't it a beautiful day?"
We did it. My parents now have a bathroom so sleek it could be at luxury hotel. We did it and hit the road stat. We moved on for the eminently more spatial location of Hadj's sister's house where we would prep for our cross country drive.We left on Friday the 13th. It was agreed that Friday the 13th is a good luck day for those of us that were standing in the kitchen that morning. We had been concerned about the weather at first. Then we grew concerned with the vitality of Hadj's truck which was 30%, he estimated, over-loaded with the u-haul trailer tagging behind and all his tools packed in the back.
Over all the eccentricities we've encountered in our baby-aged relationship, we've decided not to fear. We laughingly repeat JFK's famous words and stare whatever is rushing at us with wide open optimism. I knew it would be a beautiful ride. Friday brought little action. Highway 80 in Iowa boasted the World's Largest Truck stop, whereas Nebraska's excitement was found only in the Ho-Ho packages and Doritos I was munching. We found our Best Western for the night, ordered Pizza Hut, and crashed out while the animals snorfled whatever creepy scents that could be found in the motel carpeting.
Day two took us into North Central Colorado. Once my i-pod battery died I was following NPR all the way. I was utterly shocked at how engaging it was, hour after hour on the road. I look back now and guess that the familiar voices helped keep me center as I drove further and further into the unknown. My radio karma was good too. This American Life did a show on New Beginnings and A Prairie Home Companion saved me from too much Garrison by putting on a pre-Thanksgiving medley show. Family and friends had been fretting for us over the weather for weeks and I'm still happy to report that the only weather we saw was in our last hour of driving in Colorado that Saturday night. The snow was doing its special hypnotic vortex thing and I was glad again to have lived and driven through five winters in the U.P.
Days three through six on the road were spent doing some marathon visiting with Hadj's family. Hadj's family seems fantastic to me. I think I really enjoy getting to see new versions of the precious family quirks that each of us holds. We heard stories late into each night and slept surrounded by the scent of his Mom n' Pop's leather shop. The drive through the mountains, days seven, eight, and nine were exhilaration lived. I will happily travel overland, back to Colorado whenever the opportunity comes again. With the exception of an emergency trailer-hitch welding job somewhere in Utah, the drive was perfectly uneventful. Truth be told, my butt is still tingling from all the time in the seat. I'm bringing a donut next time, and not the edible kind.
So that's it! That's the kit and caboodle, up 'til now, story of how the hell I came to be suddenly living in Seattle with a man named Hadj. Simply put, I was ready and so I was provided for. We have determination and patience on our sides. When the conventional wisdom creeps up on me I keep still. Only time will prove our affair long or short, and for now, we're all doing our best with our hearts put forward brightly.