Monday, August 07, 2017

Time and Distance: The Physics of Love

In 1970, when my twin brother and I graduated from high school in New Jersey, my parents sold our home and moved the family to southern California. They wanted us to go to college in California, and they liked the idea of not having to put up with New Jersey winters anymore. So, my twin brother, younger sister, and a friend of our older brother's drove one of the family cars across country to start our new life. We had never been further west than Pennsylvania! We had never even gone camping before. It was quite a journey, with well-planned campsites in Ohio, Illinois, and Kansas and a lovely stop over in Longmont, Co at a beautiful hippie commune. We made it to southern California and our eyes began to tear from the smog. Seriously. We had never experienced anything like it. That was in July. I applied for a job at some hippie art shop that was in Topanga Canyon half way between the San Fernando Valley and the Pacific Ocean. I hitchhiked to work. I trusted the world. And you readers of this blog know how that turned out for me. My experience of southern California was not a pleasant one. By May of 1971, I decided to head back to New Jersey and spent the summer trying to figure out what to do with the upheaval of my life. Then, I drove back to California, spent the winter of 1971-2 with my parents and left again moving north to Portland, Oregon. I never lived in southern California again. Why is any of this relevant? Because my parents stayed. And now, I have not lived near my mother for more than 45 years.
My dad helping build the cabin in southern Oregon
My parents and I visited each other every year, sometimes more than once depending on how close we were. They came to see the 10 acres of land I bought in southern Oregon in 1974 and even helped a bit with our little home-made cabin. They visited me in Boulder, Colorado many times, when my then-husband was the videographer for the CBS affiliate, and I was a student. On one road trip, they went on to Mount Rushmore and then across country to see the east-coast family.  A few years later they came to see me in Rhode Island when that same then-husband had a job at the university and I was in graduate school. I like to think that my restlessness helped them see our beautiful country.
Roger's mom, my parents, and us in Capitola 1991
In 1988, I moved back to California and conveniently moved in with my twin brother and his wife in Santa Cruz while I nursed my broken heart after that crazy marriage ended. I met Roger on New Years eve that year, and we stayed in Santa Cruz until 2004. That was the longest I had stayed in one place since I graduated from high school. Sixteen years. An amazing thing for me. This blog has chronicled our moves since then. Santa Cruz to Port Townsend (2004-2008). Port Townsend to Arcata (2008). Arcata to Santa Cruz (2008-2009). Santa Cruz to Grass Valley (2009-2014). Grass Valley to Arcata. Here. Now. Happy. Not moving.

Still, even with all the distance and moving, there is something about love that seems to have bridged all of it. I often think of my grandmother when I am lamenting how far I live from my mother in this waning time of her life. My grandparents came from Germany to this country in 1921. My grandmother left her mother and two brothers and their families in Leipzeig. The only communication they had after that was letters written that crossed the Atlantic. They never saw each other again. There really are things that we can do with pen and paper that carries the heart as far as you can send it. When I think of my mother, I think of all the cards I have sent her in the past three months. Once a week, a love letter and a photo of something beautiful. They were all in her room when we visited last month. She looks at them and re-reads them. Letters are tangible love. Love, love, love in the land of time and distance.


33 comments:

  1. "They never saw each other again. There really are things that we can do with pen and paper that carries the heart as far as you can send it. When I think of my mother, I think of all the cards I have sent her in the past three months. Once a week, a love letter and a photo of something beautiful. They were all in her room when we visited last month. She looks at them and re-reads them. Letters are tangible love. Love, love, love in the land of time and distance."

    Yes. Carrying the heart.

    Love the beautiful photo from 1991. Photos carry love, too. Thank you!

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    1. am-- Thank you for such kind words. Yes, I think photos carry love too.

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  2. staying away from mother is quite a Courageous step that requires quality of being brave and confident enough to be self dependent and making right decisions .
    you had those qualities my friend to survive successfully .

    I belong to place where people hate moving or you can say they avoid taking risk in life .
    but in our life as a family we travelled lot from one corner to another of my country and thank God it went right for us.

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    1. baili-- Some of us are born to wander a bit, I think. What underlies our steps may be different, but I like the idea of courage as one of the factors. Thank you for that.

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  3. Fascinating post! Since I am a relatively new follower, I did not know most of this. It is SO hard to be far away from family. I left home around the same time you did, and never looked back. But I still miss the day-to-day connections of living close to family and old friends. Letters sustained me for many years. I know your cards, photos and love letters are filling your mother's final years with love. Wonderful old photos!

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    1. Colette-- It is hard to be far away from family, and my siblings and I are spread out coast to coast. An older brother in Virginia, my twin in Santa Cruz. Our youngest sister is the only one who stayed in southern Cal. We have not lived near each other for more than 45 years now. In case you missed the reference in the post to what actually happened that made me not want to be in southern Ca, here is a link that explains it:
      http://newdharmabums.blogspot.com/2015/09/it-was-45-years-ago-today.html
      So glad you liked the old photos!

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    2. Robin, I had no idea. I hate thinking that you, one of the kindest people I have come across, encountered such evil.

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    3. Colette-- It changed my life. Thank you so much for your very kind words.

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  4. The majority of my family lives in Maryland. I left back in 1974 when I join the military. I don't go back as often now as when my mom was still alive. I miss my brothers and sister, but I never missed living in Maryland.

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    1. Dave-- Yes, exactly. I miss my mother and my sister, but I don't EVER miss the chaos that is southern California.

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  5. In some ways I envy those who can free themselves from parental expectations and live the life they choose. I didn't do that and kept close to mine with the feeling they needed me. When we bought this farm, we let my parents put a mobile home on it and they lived out their lives here-- my dad not so many years but my mother 20 years. It's a choice we make and I wonder if we don't, any of us, end up regretting in some ways the cost and what we left behind whichever way we chose.

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    1. Rain-- I think you are so right about those choices and that there is a cost whichever way we go. Ah life, it is so richly complicated.

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  6. A beautiful post, Robin. You've had many adventures. You've led your life and gone on many a crooked journey (don't we all?). Not one to be chained to the assumed necessity of staying close to family. Your love and connection to both of your parents is evident. And it is so incredibly kind and beautiful that you send your mom cards weekly. You know what she needs, and it makes your heart glad to create these paper jewels for her.

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    1. Tara-- I love the idea of "paper jewels"... that is so beautiful and perfect. I have certainly moved around more than any of my siblings, and I have seen so much of our country. I can't even count the number of times I've driven from coast to coast anymore. “There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars,” (thank you Jack Kerouac!).

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  7. You certainly have done your share of checking out this wonderful country we live in. My family is all over also but thanks to phones, mail and the internet, they are just a click away. I think it is so sweet that your Mom has kept all your cards and photos. It shows just how important they and you are to her. Keep em coming.

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    2. Patti-- It's so important to keep in touch as we get older. I literally have over 500 emails between my siblings and me just in the past 2 months that are conversations about our mom. I haven't deleted them... I'll use them as "evidence" someday. LOL!

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  8. I was a wanderer too but not much of a letter writer. When going through my Mom’s things after she passed away I found that she had kept every letter and little postcard with hand drawn pictures I had ever sent her along with those of my two sisters. She even had someone knit beautiful matching sweaters for me and my daughter who was 3 at the time with depictions of those drawings. Alas mine was the smallest bundle as I was as I said not much of a letter writer. I’m so glad for your mom that you write her every week. She gets to have something to look forward to. And that’s so important. Love, love, love and more love shared. Thanks for that post.

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    1. Jsk-- I wasn't much of a letter writer when I was young. I called my parents every Saturday morning from wherever I was... on the road from a phone booth, or just at home. I started to send cards to my dad when he was dying. It's so important for them to have something tangible, and not just the silence after the phone call is over. I love that your mom saved all those letters. It truly is love made tangible. Someday, we'll sit and talk about all the roads we took.

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  9. Also I loved hearing of your travels. Makes me want to hear more someday.

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    1. Jsk-- Yes, someday we will share the stories of our travels.

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  10. Robin, I didn't move far from my parents in 1979...all still New England, but it was very different from being in the same town. When I moved from Boston to Memphis, I read and re-read every letter from my parents, and there were scores of them. I brought them south with me, and there they sat, untouched, in a box for 15 years until this past October when we moved again. Oh, those letters...what they mean to me. My sister recently sent me back letters that I had sent to both Mom and Dad, since they are long since gone (1995 and 2006)and she thought I'd like them. They're sort of like a diary, and I am able to match up some with the response letters from my folks. I love to write and receive letters. I recently was given a lovely fountain pen by my brother. It has rekindled my love of letter-writing. I'm rambling. I could have said all of this with two words: I understand. XO

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    1. Yankee Transferred-- I love your story. It's amazing what holding a letter in your hands does for us. So different from a phone call that can hardly be recalled. There is something about holding a letter that they once held, a connection that transcends time.

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  11. Wow! This makes me think I should write letters to my mom. We've communicated for years via e-mail but she's lately been not so great about using the computer. Maybe she would appreciate paper more. (She is responding well to the iPad, though!)

    I haven't read your previous posts about your adventures in SoCal. In the early '80s I yearned to live in LA, and I even lined up a job canvassing for CalPIRG one summer, but my parents were convinced I could never survive on minimum wage in LA (which is probably true) so I never went. I remember those smoggy old skies, though, from visiting in '83!

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    1. Steve-- My mom was pretty good with computers, but that skill started to decline a few years ago. Then, she had a iPad, and it was good for her for reading novels for a few years. Then, that skill declined and she couldn't swipe the screen and get anywhere she needed to be. Letters and cards, back to the old way of the world.

      Oh yes southern California smog is truly memorable stuff! My adventure in LA was a terrible life-changing encounter with a sexual predator who picked me up hitchhiking.

      Here's a link to a blog post about it:
      http://newdharmabums.blogspot.com/2015/09/it-was-45-years-ago-today.html

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  12. What a journey, Robin. Makes me realise how vast and diverse your country is.

    When we were living for several years in Africa in the 1980s, phone calls were complicated, we had access to a telex for emergencies and once every few weeks we collected our mail from a post box. Reading letters was just the best thing for us, something to do slowly and together and with a great sense of closeness to whoever wrote to us. And of course, writing back was equally important and wonderful.

    Now, our daughter lives 18,000 km away from us but we often joke that we are in such close contact because of this distance (and who needs to write letters when we have instant access).

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    1. Sabine-- I love imagining you reading letters sent all the way to Africa, holding them in your hands and feeling all the love that came with them. It's the BEST! Instant access is a wonderful thing, but there's nothing like words written down and sent from the heart.

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  13. Letters a lot art, long time since I wrote a letter to anyone. I used to remember my mother writing letters home to her family in Ireland. About all I do now is write Blogs

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    1. Bill-- Letter writing really is a lost art. I like committing something to paper. I understand about the blogging... me too.

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  14. It was interesting to read your summary of moves. Although I have read your blog for years, I'd forgotten that you were at Grass Valley for so many years. It's wonderful that you are keeping a line of communication flowing toward your mom. Although I am here with my mom, I miss our daily emails and skype calls. I feel that it will be like losing a year of correspondence even though I am here. Instead, I've been taking quite a few photos. Sort of sorry that I did not shoot more video clips, but really, I did that a bit with Don during his last year and I find them too hard to watch, so maybe it is just as well. Anyhow, so wonderful that you have managed to stay a part of each other's lives for four and a half decades in spite of the distances!

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    1. bev-- I've lived in so many places, it's surprising trying to remember them all. I may try to come up with a list of places I've lived for longer than six months. You remind me that there once was a video of my dad taken maybe three months before he died. He danced for us. It was so sweet. He and that video are long gone. I'm not sure I could watch it.

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  15. Sigh. Making my heart ache, lady.

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    1. isabelita-- Sometimes the story of life does that.

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