Most days there are two, maybe three neighborhood cats who traverse the yard frequently and loudly claim this as their territory, should the need arise. The long grey squirrel that passes through the fence at eye level immediately outside the kitchen door seems to be able to time his visits so that he doesn’t challenge any of the cats.
Suspended in this profound silence and with so many entertaining scenarios unfolding as if produced especially for me, it’s hard to believe that we’re wedged in the middle of a great city packed with an amazingly diverse and increasingly blended population. Neighborhoods are less and less separate -- except for Chinatown. Around us, so near Mission --the Asian, the Indian, the Italian, the South American and Mexican businesses are scattered like confetti along the street, with concentrations here and there.
There’s so much to explore in just the immediate blocks that I almost forget to miss sitting on our big front porch in Petaluma and hearing the neighborhood chickens, cows and sheep sound off just before the sun went down. Here there’s a different chorus. Yes, there’s the occasional siren and construction noise, and there’s no way around occasional reminders that the walls are thin and very close to other people’s walls -- but right now, again, I’m saying to myself in amazement: “It’s so quiet!”
I do sometimes miss grazing in my own vegetable garden.
Lee and I have found our corner cafe hangout. New Alternatives is less than a block away. Don’t let the name fool you. It’s not a New Age vegan/gluten-free haven. It’s a cozy, personal little place leaning towards Mexican in the cuisine, towards Petes in the designer coffee and towards just plain-good-coffee-shop in the rest of the menu. The proprietress is a friendly, accommodating woman named Luz.
Is it really cool and windy here most of the time, even when there’s no fog? Yes, Lee in particular would like the air to be still and the temperature to top the 60s now and then.
I’ve always found fog to be somehow cozy permeated with a mysterious sense of time slowing like the heartbeat of a master meditator. Fog has always intrigued me, but in the middle of July? Still, I much prefer this kind of weather to the kind at the other end of the thermometer -- better for walking and cuddling.
Everything we need -- groceries, pharmacy, UPS store for larger mail, at least a dozen intriguing restaurants -- all are within a block or three of where we live for now. We have no vehicle here, but proximity and Uber take care of all our needs.
There’s something wonderful about being suspended in time the way we are now. For now, we don’t know how long we’ll be exploring here in San Francisco. We don’t know when Lee will be offered a new heart, or exactly how long the recovery will take. We’ve heard stories about people who received their hearts within days of being on the list and recovered quickly in 2 or 3 months. And we’ve heard stories of people that lived on the LVAD (the “pump” in Lee’s heart) for years before initiating the next step. My math tells me that there’s a range of a very few months to years from diagnosis to recovery. Lee and I both believe we’ll be taking the quicker but careful road back to mobility.
Suspended, but not inactive. It seems we fill every day with the inevitable responsibilities -- like driveline dressing changes, medications, blood tests, weighing, blood pressure, battery changing and a long list of other medically required activities -- but also with adventures like walking somewhere new, dining in China Town after our insurance meeting, presenting a training in our downstairs studio to 7 or 8 Kenyan gentlemen, and more and more frequent visits from family, long-time friends and new friends.
Suspended but supported -- by the people who pour out their love for us, by the people of at least a dozen different faiths who pray for us, by the cardiac team that is incredibly dedicated to Lee’s very best outcome, by our ever-evolving love for each other, by our shared belief that our lives are like an epic movie and we have great things yet to accomplish.
In fact, today I heard Lee express to a dear friend that they are both still around -- despite dances much too close to their respective ledges -- because they still have people to help.
Lee comments that we won’t miss it here when we move on -- just like we don’t miss our idyllic home in Petaluma -- because we know it’s just another moment in time, another scene in our movie -- ephemeral like all the homes, all the scenes, all the moments.
I believe this San Francisco episode is a pivotal one for many reasons. The top two are because Lee brushed so close to being “written out of the script”, and because it’s a surprise -- a twist in the plot. We didn’t plan to camp in this particular “resort camp.” This episode stands as a beacon flashing the truth that we’re alighting here for a moment, and that’s all we really ever do -- alight in one space and then move to another, whether we’re someone who lives in the same shack in the mountains or in some desert town most of their lives -- or you have 53 past addresses like Lee. We’re alighting in our present life, and then our intention is to touch down in another reality -- another scene -- in a few months.
When we talk about this, Lee and I always remark that we’re so fortunate to be in sync -- to agree, as Lee says, that we don’t want to just endure change, we want to embrace it. Embrace it and find the joy in each pause. Even if sometimes it’s merely the joy of gratitude that pain is decreasing and energy increasing.
My earliest distinct memory: I was two-and-a-half or three years old, all bundled up and standing in our driveway in an unremarkable suburb in Redwood City. I was so enfolded by dense fog that, for the first time in my life, I felt completely alone -- even though a parent was undoubtedly a few steps away. I felt thrillingly autonomous and entirely alive in the moment.
Time is crystallized in the moment like that for us now. We don’t have the sense of being alone -- Lee and I have never been more unified. It’s the indescribable sensation of creating our personal movie from moment to moment. Our movie has all the twists and turns required by good drama. There are most definitely mountains to climb and painful obstacles to overcome. Maybe you remember sliding down a grassy slope on a piece of cardboard? -- We love those scenes! No one’s movie is always easy or fun, but we are dedicated to allowing the play and laughter to find it’s way into the script.
Our personal Oscar will be awarded for clarity of purpose. We know why Lee’s heart held out this far, why he made it out of surgery, why we’re living suspended in time in the fog. It comes down to three things:
Live it now.
Live it well.
Give it away.