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Saturday, January 25, 2020

Change and no change

I’m in a new house in a new city, and so, in a totally different situation. And yet, things are both different and the same, something I think will be repeated many times in the months ahead as new experiences and routines take shape, even as the old ones linger. That’s just the way it works.

The move itself was stressful and exhausting, and gave me a sore back from both what I did and that much of the time I had nothing to do. I moved around a lot of boxes, often at a fast pace, and the rest of the time I sat around, often in places with no back to rest against. Combined, that meant backache.

The problems started on Monday when the packER showed up: It was supposed to be a team to pack up most of the house to be finished the following morning, and then the truck loaded. However, because there was only one person packing, all that was completed that day was packing most of the ground level (my office, with all our books, the laundry area with its massive cupboard, and the rumpus). That left, basically, the entire rest of the house to be packed on Tuesday, with the truck to be loaded the same day. That was always going to be a big ask.

Tuesday morning I checked Facebook as I got up and saw a notice that a couple people had posted on my timeline. “What for?!” I wondered to myself. People usually do that to check on me because of an earthquake or volcano in this part of the world, but in this case it was, of course, birthday wishes. I’d forgotten it was my birthday, and I didn’t care.

It wasn’t all that long after that I had a meltdown, triggered by my inability to get everything from the fridge and freezer into the chilly bin because, it turned out, I’d put two of the frozen blocks the wrong way round. After my meltdown, I went back into the kitchen and re-packed the chilly bin, emptying some bottles and jars that wouldn’t fit, and then rinsing them out. When I was finally done, and the chilly bin was latched closed, I took the newly empty bottles and jars up to the kerb and put them in my still unemptied recycling bin.

By this time, I was calm again—but still totally exhausted. I’d later describe the day as “the second-worst day of my life”, because that’s how bad it felt at the time. Dealing with the death of a close loved one and moving house are two of the most stressful things a person can do in life, and I chose to go through them so very close to each other, the second because of the first. Clearly I was a little bit nuts.

A team of four arrived a little after that, and they got right to work. I finished packing up Nigel’s office (having taken down his computer already), then I gathered together some bits and pieces as I found them, especially in the master bedroom, and put it all in the en suite so they could totally ignore that room.

My original plan had been to take a carload to Hamilton on Monday, but the packer didn’t finish until 6pm, and I was so dog tired I decided to stay in Auckland. That threw my plans totally off kilter. My brother in law stopped by on his way to a meeting and took me out for a birthday coffee, then we put some stuff in his car—some of the stuff I was going to take because I wanted to be able to find them as soon as I got to Hamilton.

I put stuff in my car to fill it up again, but I took stuff I’d planned on taking that day, not the stuff I’d planned on taking the day before, and that meant I left behind some things I actually needed or wanted right away, but didn’t have.

The movers finished packing the truck at 8pm, so I didn’t get to Hamilton until after 9.30pm that night. I hated the trip down because I loathe driving at night, but the worst part was that I missed my own birthday dinner.

The movers came pretty much on time Wednesday, a little while after I’d emptied my car. One of my sisters in law had taken the day off to help me, and arrived a little bit after me with some milk, and some ice to keep it cold until the fridge was brought in (we needed to be able to have coffee and tea!). Another sister in law came round to help when she finished work, and then my brother in law arrived, too. He noted that there was still room in the garage, and the movers could have put a whole bunch of boxes into there, so he moved them there for me. “You need to have the house more like your home,” he said, which was actually the entire reason I had the movers put all the boxes in the garage in the first place: I didn’t want to trip over boxes.

We all went over to my brother in law’s place for some fish and chips, and I finally got my birthday cake. My brother in law took me and the dogs back to my house, and stayed there the night so I wouldn’t have to be alone the first night. The dogs, meanwhile, ran around and sniffed everything, but with the house filled with our stuff, they settled right away. They especially loved running around—and peeing in—the yard. They had no trouble sleeping that night, though I did: I kept waking up for some reason.

Thursday I wasn’t originally going to leave the house, but I wanted to get baby gate to stop the dogs running to the front door—and potentially out of the house—every time someone came round. Nigel and used to have one that was metal, with an actual gate that swung open when unlatched, but that broke as we were moving from our previous house, so we threw it, and an extender, away.

I went to the home centre and bought a new gate, similar to the one we’d had before, calculating which one would fit the best the opening that I hadn’t actually measured (because I left the tape measure in Auckland) and not require semi-permanent installation. I brought it home and set it up—and it was too short. I’d need an extender, like the one we’d thrown away nearly three years earlier.

I also went to the supermarket to begin restocking the fridge and pantry.

Thursday evening, the sister in law who’d taken moving day off, stopped by for a visit after she finished work. She was my first impromptu visitor to the new house—and, I’m pretty sure, the first one since Nigel and I lived on Auckland’s North Shore.

Yesterday, Friday, another sister in law came to help me for the day, and Nigel’s mum came by, too. A lady arrived to give me a quote on window coverings, and the sister in law who was coming specifically to help me choose coverings arrived a few minutes later. We selected, and agreed on, options (though I’d have stuck to what I wanted if I wanted something different). They said it would take about four weeks.

The sister in law who is my decorating consultant helped the lady carry stuff out to her car, and then, she later said, she “pulled the dead husband card” to try and get the lady to do everything she can make sure my window coverings are installed in four weeks. She explained my story, that I’d recently lost my husband, and I’d just moved to Hamilton to be nearer to family, so I’d been through a lot already, and it was important that they tried to stick to the promised four weeks. My brother in law also played the widower card on my behalf when I put my offer in on this house, so this isn’t unprecedented. I think it works much better when someone uses it on my behalf, actually, and so far it’s helped, maybe because it’s been used so rarely.

After that, we went out and I got the extender for the baby gate (and it now fits perfectly), and something to give me some drawers in the en suite, since the vanity only has doors. After lunch, we went back at the house, we unpacked a little bit more, and then my sister in law headed back home.

My mother in law stayed with me for a while longer, and I ended up making us scrambled eggs and toast: AFTER I found the toaster. And a whisk. And I read the instructions for how to use my new induction hob (stovetop). So, appropriately enough, the first meal I made in my new house was one I made for me and my mother in law. Under the circumstances, it was about as elaborate as I could get.

Today Nigel’s cousin (my cousin in law?) came round to help me, and we ended up going to Auckland to pick up a carload of stuff, much of which is stuff I planned on having here already, mainly Nigel’s computer and mine, plus some other stuff. I feel better having it here, even through there’s a bit more still to move down here.

And that’s my story about moving. Now, the aftermath.

I didn’t feel weird being alone (apart from the dogs…) in my new house like I thought I would. Partly, I’ve simply been too tired to feel much, despite finally getting proper sleeps, especially because the dogs are with me again. But I also realised that I feel calm for the first time in months. That figures: All the hard work is now done, my stuff and my furbabies and I are now in Hamilton, close to a lot of family, and in a new location. Pressure, largely self-inflicted, is now gone.

Having said all that, I felt a little weird leaving the old house after it was all packed up and I was about to leave as its resident for the last time. I walked around to all the empty rooms, and first I talked to Nigel. “Well, bub, this is it,” I said. Then, for no particular reason, and despite the fact I don’t believe in anything supernatural, I talked to the house. I thanked it for giving us shelter, and safety, and a home, and I said my leaving wasn’t the house’s “fault”, it was because I couldn’t stay there any more. I just couldn’t.

I often said that everywhere I went in that house I saw Nigel—not literally, but merely because I’d seen in him in every room, some more than others, so I couldn’t pass a single spot without remembering him being there. That meant that every single day I was reminded of my great loss, and my sadness was renewed, in the sense of a wound being re-opened when a scab is ripped off. Those constant reminders of the life I’d lost, combined with my loneliness and isolation, meant leaving that house was the only rational thing to do (even if talking to the house perhaps wasn’t…).

So, the work of creating this change is now mostly done, and I’m slowly manoeuvring into position to begin whatever my new life will become. I’ve managed to bring about so much change in such a short period of time, and I feel really good about that. But the underlying sadness and depression of grief is still there, of course, and my learning to live with the reality of having lost the love of my life is nowhere near complete. But now, in my new home, I feel for the first time I might be able to begin to learn to live again. And that would make Nigel very, very happy. I hope one day it does that for me, too.

Yesterday, January 24, was the eleventh anniversary of the civil union ceremony and party that Nigel and I had (we also celebrated my fiftieth birthday that day because Nigel didn’t want to be the centre of attention all day). It was a good (and very) hot day, and while it was later legally superceded by our getting married, that civil union ceremony was the time we publicly made our committent to each other with family and friends watching, and it will always be special to me for that reason.

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