I’ve been thinking about affairs lately. When a person is diagnosed with a terminal condition, you are advised to “put your affairs in order.” I never really quite understood what that meant. Financial? I always took care of the family finances, so nothing much had to be done here, and little could be done ahead of time. His name is still on my checks (I’m too cheap to order new when the old ones work just fine), I had to get a new credit card, remove his name from titles, and have a 15 minute meeting with my lawyer to update my living will for a new beneficiary. Finding a replacement for his classroom? Not his job, and besides, the U of I cranks out great science teachers every year. Planning a memorial service? Jim did this in an afternoon with a trusted friend…and then tried to do it over and over and over with me when his short-term memory failed. Leaving instructions for your stuff? This is something Jim flatly refused to do. I’m still dealing with it…and, again, not something that could be done ahead of time.
The only affairs that Jim took care of before he died were the things he was most passionate about. He worried about the future of the trails on Moscow Mountain, about the continuing work of MAMBA. That meant handing the leadership off to a trusted friend, making sure the next trail was flagged, and permission for the one after that was granted. Last summer, on our anniversary, he obtained that permission…and then was too tired to even go on a hike with me at sunset. I cried….but I understood. Jim handed off the leadership to Scott Metlen. He knew that Scott had the work ethic and the maturity not to throw his hands up after a year, and say, “I quit.” Scott was out-of-town last weekend, so I showed up for a trail work day. We had over 15 volunteers including a group from Pullman’s Center for Civic Engagement. MAMBA is in good hands. Trails are being built and maintained. Scott gets frustrated sometimes with the care and feeding of volunteers. He’s new, still learning…..but he won’t quit.
The other kind of affair that I have been thinking about (and I can guarantee an increase on hits on this blog if I tag that word) is, of course, a love affair. When Jim finally realized that the cancer was gonna kill him, he said to me, “Not right away, but in 6 weeks or 6 months….you should find somebody else.” Sweet of him….but kinda clueless. Brain cancer can be like that. A love affair is much more complex than finances, or job duties, or activities surrounding stuff, or maintaining a legacy. Surfing the net a few nights ago (I was bored), I ended up on a site advertising, “How to attract a man”. Feeling pretty out of practice, but certainly willing to learn, I delved in a bit deeper. This site was all about body language, “Never stand with your feet apart, keep your arms tucked in by your sides, lean back…appear approachable, and vulnerable. Always dress like a girl.” Now….I’ve spent the last 30 years of my life trying to keep up with the boys. A wide stance is essential when hoisting a 50# bag of concrete…or a 90# student. How do I swing a pulaski while keeping my arms by my sides? Dresses are fun for dancing, but though my daughter gets lots of compliments from girls when she is wearing a pretty sundress, she gets the most second glances from Montana boys in her Carharts. I got one thing right. I lean back. I’m short. If I want to see if someone has kind eyes, I have to lean back. I did not bookmark the site. I learned that I am not willing to change who I am to attract a man. So be it.
I am having an illicit affair….and it has been going on since long before Jim died or even got sick. When my running partners bail, or forget to set their alarms, or are both out of town….I load the dog into the truck and I head for the mountain. If I know they will be gone, I make minimal attempts to line up other folks for safety, but am secretly relieved when they decline. I have run Headwaters in total darkness on a late Fall am, and seen many a misty sunrise through the cedar trees in the summer. I love the mountain in the early morning. There are rarely others up there, and like an illicit love affair, I can pretend that she and her trails exist solely for me…I am her only lover. The cool morning mountain air on my bare shoulders is certainly sensual, and almost better than sex. Running on mountain trails is a dance, and my partner is always willing.
So….Jim did “put his affairs in order.” Seeing MAMBA thrive means the legacy of trails on Moscow Mountain will survive….and I will continue to have access to my illicit affair. Perhaps his brain wasn’t so foggy after all.
PS: To whichever other lover gave Gemini her recent hair cut, Thank You. She looks real pretty.