As soon as the calendar turns to January, June 1 has traditionally been a magnet for my attention and emotion since it became the day Ken died in 2011. But this year May 1 leapt out at me. And I was surprised to realize that May 1 marks ten years since Ken and I moved back to Chicago from Los Angeles.
As impossible as it seems that Ken died at all–let alone five years ago–it seems even more so that it was ten years ago we packed up and raced from the West in three days in order to keep up with our movers and meet them at our apartment; that on the way our friend Kim called us to tell us she’d been in our future home and told us it had been left a pig sty by the previous tenants and that there was no way we could possibly move into it upon our arrival; that on our drive Ken and I had pulled off the highway in search of a hotel that we never found in Arizona only to pull over, cry in exhaustion then step out of the car on a cloudless night and forget our troubles as the starry night rained upon us, and pulled us up into it. It was an etherial moment that I’ll never forget.
So much of our drive–from leaving our apartment and driving down Magnolia Ave. to drop off a plant on the front porch of our friend Rebecca; to driving on the 5 (all expressways in SoCal are prefaced with “the: the 101, the 405, the 170, yet back in the Midwest “the” drops effortlessly: 65, I90, 88) to the traffic jam anyone driving from LA to Las Vegas hits on a Friday afternoon. It’s as vivid as the details I remember from our drive moving to LA in 2002.
Leaving our family and friends was difficult and I recall so clearly those difficult conversations Ken and I had in telling people we were moving back to Chicago–each one painful in its own right. But in the end, we were met with great understanding…for the most part.
Chicago has always been an easy place in which to live in a way that LA isn’t for me. (Maybe that was the problem. LA was too much like me. That’s for another blog.) Returning to the familiarity of home felt so good. And before long we were back into groove that we hadn’t had the chance to hit while in LA.
Little did we know what was lurking in the shadows waiting for us–though it would have been lurking wherever we were. It would have never occurred to me that ten years after that epic, emotional 36-hour drive that Ken would be gone and I’d be alone in a way I thought had ended the moment I met him in 2001.
On the other hand, I would never have imagined that I would have survived losing Ken in the way that I have; that this blog, my journal and the book I’m writing would have propelled my passion for writing; that losing him would have focused my writing in a way that may not have happened otherwise; that he is still with me–in my head and heart–in the important ways.
Here are some images I remember from that time (with awful descriptions).
Also published on Medium.