Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Moving forward

When a spouse dies, there’s always a list of things that must be done. There’s also a list of things that would be nice to get done quickly, but that probably can’t be done fast. In between those two is a list of things that are achievable quickly, even though they’re not necessarily urgent. This weekend I made progress on some of those mid-list items, and they’ll help me move forward.

Yesterday I talked about some of what happened this past weekend when I was in Hamilton, but there was more to it, as I said in that post. There was even stuff that was emotional, but in a good way.

On Saturday, as I said, I went to Open Homes in Hamilton. Before that, though, we stopped for a coffee, which I love doing. Our first stop after that was actually to buy a new MacBook for me, and there is, of course, a story behind that.

When Nigel was sick, we talked about preparing me for the future after he was gone. “We need to get you a new MacBook so you can do your work anywhere.” He wasn’t done with instructions. “You also need a dock so you can connect a bigger monitor when you’re home, and a bigger keyboard.”

The reason he insisted that I get a MacBook was, first, that what I use now is a “Hackintosh”, basically a PC he built from very specific components so it can run the MacOS and software. Actual Macs are all made with components that are always compatible, obviously, but those machines are also really expensive. Trouble is, updates to the MacOS may make it incompatible with a Hackintosh until the hardware is tweaked (like updating the BIOS or whatever), and I’d have to hire someone to fix it for me every time that happened.

That’s because Nigel always took care of all computer stuff for me—he built me a LOT of computers over the years, and built a lot for family members, too. I don’t know how to do any of that stuff myself, where I do fully understand Apple products. Logically, and because of all that, an actual Apple product made the most sense for me, and Nigel knew that.

He wanted me to get a MacBook rather than a desktop Mac because then I can take it with me and work wherever I am. I’m glad I listened to him because there will be times over the next few months where I’ll need to work when I’m away from home, and for the first time in years, I’ll be able to (the last time I could do that, more than a decade ago, I was on a PC and had a PC laptop—which Nigel also had to maintain).

So, I went into the store knowing exactly what I wanted, picked a dock, as Nigel suggested, and an external hard drive to store the files that don’t need to travel with me, along with my back up, that sort of thing. That’s exactly what I was talking about yesterday when I said that Nigel “was part of the decision making process”. Basically, I just put our plan into action.

We also looked at a few cars on Saturday, because while getting a car had been on the “non-urgent” list, it had to be moved up. It had actually been on the list of things to do for Nigel and me for a few years, but it recently took on increased urgency.

The car (a Honda Civic) was originally Nigel’s back in 2001, and I took it over in 2004 or 5 (I think). So, it’s an 18-year-old car, with none of the typical features in a modern car, including safety features. Nigel knew we needed to upgrade it, but months ago he joked, “I’m not sure you deserve a NEW car!” I didn’t rise to the bait. “I never said it had to be a new car; it just has to be newER”.

When Nigel was first diagnosed, and we thought he’d be getting treatment, I said we needed to get a car he wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen being driven to appointments in (his car was a lease vehicle, an SUV that was too big for me, and due to go back in a couple months, anyway). He laughed—but I wasn’t wrong: He’d grown to really dislike that Civic.

A couple weeks after Nigel died, I took the Civic to get a new Warrant of Fitness, a certification all vehicles need every year. The car failed its Warrant. The repairs aren’t structural, but they are required, and the problem is that the car is worth so little now that it didn’t make much financial sense to repair it.

To shorten the story, on Sunday I bought a car. Naturally, it has all the modern features—safety features in particular—that everyone else takes for granted, but that I’ve never had before. I feel all modern and junk and stuff. It also has the benefit of sitting a bit higher than most cars, which is important for a tall person like me getting into and out of—especially when my lower back is being grumpy. My old car will be bought for a bit more than what I’d get as a trade-in.

So, that was two things checked off the list.

On Monday we met with a home building company (the biggest in the Waikato, the region that Hamilton is in). They offer house and land packages, which means a new house on a section (“lot”, in Amercanese) that I choose. This is at a very early stage at the moment—they’re just doing concept drawings and coming up with options, so I haven’t paid a cent. If everything goes perfectly, they’d probably begin construction in January, so they’d have a few solid months of good weather. After they start building, the completion will take maybe seven months-ish.

What this does for me is ensure that I get exactly what I want in a house, like purple walls. I’m kidding, of course: I’ve watched enough home shows over the years to know to keep an eye on resale value. Fortunately, that coincides with my taste and what I want in a house.

Another advantage of this option is that it’s a staged process with progress payments along the way so that I can start it all now without needing to sell my current real estate. If I bought a used house, I couldn’t even look until I’m all cashed-up (because they sell so fast), and there might not be anything suitable at that time, anyway.

One thing I was adamant about is that I don’t want to go backwards: Nigel and I worked too damn hard for too damn long for me to have to settle for less than what we had. This is a way to ensure that I get exactly what I want and at a good standard. That’s what Nigel would want for me if he could choose, and he’d be excited about this idea because he and I always talked about building a new house one day.

But, then, there’s no contract at the moment, and this could still change, though I think it’s unlikely to do so. Once I make a decision, I don’t usually second-guess myself. I simply know when something is right for me, both intellectually and—equally importantly—because it feels right.

What all this means is that I’ve checked off my list two of the things than were important to building my new life, and I’m working on the third. Which is why I’m pushing to get the real estate in Auckland on the market, another necessary part of this process. Even so, I at least feel like I’m making progress toward being able to move to Hamilton full-time, and into my own home, and as important as that is to me, I know it’s also what Nigel would want for me.

My brother-in-law said something to me this weekend that’s very true. “I know this is all hard, and not what you wanted to do,” he said, “but it’s okay to be excited about it, too.” To be honest, it hadn’t occurred to me to not feel excited about some of this stuff (new computers and cars are always fun, after all). And yet, I know that some people in my position do feel guilty about being excited about some of this sort of stuff (like a new house). That’s just not me.

The reality is that I miss Nigel more than I can possibly ever say properly, though I’ve no doubt made my reality pretty clear in these posts. I think about him every day, and every time I do anything important—and often even not so important things. I still cry about having lost him, and that he’s not at my side anymore. I don’t think most of that will ever change completely.

However, I must now create a new life for myself, one I can be happy in. I can be, and am, excited about the positive changes I’m making because each decision brings me closer to moving into that new life, which Nigel wanted me to do. I want that, too. Because we were so connected, I know that Nigel would have approved of all of my decisions so far, and he’d be both happy and excited for me—though if he was able to feel those things, he’d miss me as much as I miss him.

There’s a difference, I think, between moving on and moving forward. To me, “moving on” implies leaving the past behind, even forgetting about it. I can never leave Nigel behind in that sense, but I can move forward in my own life while carrying him in my heart and in my memories. Life goes on, after all, and plans must be made and acted on. Not all of them will be as exciting—or worth talking about—as the ones from this past weekend, and it could be quite some time before I have any more big ones, but I’m moving forward, and that’s a very good thing.

This weekend I made progress to help me move forward. Damn right I’m excited about that, not the least because I know that Nigel would be excited for me, too.

Originally published on my personal Facebook Page on October 22.

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