Home: The Islands Provincial Park
Today is August 4th. Rett has survived for a year with an empty hole in the place where her mother, her best friend, should still live. Yes, dammit, Sue should still be here, to answer Rett’s calls. To send her a text. To buy her the perfect accessory that would be stylish and work on the bike. To revel with pride and joy in all the magical places her daughter has seen in this last year. To cheer her forward. To instinctively know the root cause of Rett’s recent bike troubles (and how to fix them). To love her. But all that has dwelled in that space for the last year, and all that will be there for every year to come, is an empty hole.
In my way, I make stabs at filling that hole, but it’s pretty clear that I am a square peg. There is no replacement, no easy solution. We both agree that the approach of this anniversary, this anti-versary, has likely contributed to Rett’s increasing frequency of unhappy moments with our chosen lifestyle, and perhaps even bled from the emotional domain into the physical domain and contributed to her body’s unwillingness to move the bike, and herself, forward.
Of course, moving forward is all we have been doing for the last year, at a rate and consistency neither of us has ever lived. In the short term, it has possibly been the best option, the easiest way to cope, but outrunning the emotions over the long term is a race that can’t be won.
So Rett wisely knew to set aside this anniversary day, keeping us off the bikes in order to give as much space as possible to deal with the emotional, mental, or even physical unknowns of the day. Originally we figured we’d move into a motel room in Shelburne, just a couple miles away. But the natural beauty of the campground (combined with the poor motel reviews) had Rett willing to take the risk of a less-cushioned, more-public place to face her grief.
The first opportunity for distraction was moving our campsite. I’d learned the day-campers would be returning, making our existing site completely untenable. So last night we had walked the entire campground, and selected the best of the open sites shown on the on-line availability calendar. Site #43, on the cooler side of the peninsula, with all-day shade, a giant rock behind the fire ring, and enormous space down to the water, was the winner. The previous night’s tenants were out early, allowing us to move over well before official check-in.
The next step was to acquire a painkiller. In this case, in this place (“Nova Scotia”==”New Scotland”, you know), a bottle of Scotch was the prescribed medication. So I rode back to the NSLC (it seems the grocery stores can’t sell any alcoholic products (though they have such an impressive selection of non-alcoholic beer, I first interpreted it as a really oddly- and poorly-curated selection of regular beer!), but often there is an NSLC right next to the grocery). While camp was comfortable, the short trip confirmed that the Heat Warning for Nova Scotia was continuing. In the grocery store shade my thermometer topped 90°F, and that was only half a mile off the water!
Last night’s scallops maybe would have been most-appropriate for the day, but, inspired by that seafood, we did a store-bought but still from-scratch chowder. Not quite at yesterday’s level, but still an excellent meal that Sue would have been thrilled to join us for.
Blessedly, the firewood burned almost immediately, giving us time to focus on the Scotch while staring into the flames, simultaneously reliving and burying our days from a year ago. A “year” is just an astronomical artifact, and very little in our biology or psychology is tuned to that particular timeframe. But it’s a timeframe we nonetheless regard as important, so even if it’s clear that Rett’s emotional state won’t significantly change between yesterday and tomorrow, it’s worth taking the time to note time’s passage. It’s still far from healing all wounds (or even any, really), and we’re under no illusions that anything will be different tomorrow (beyond that random-seeming differences of between any two days), but simply surviving this year is a fact important to absorb.