I’ll See You Down The Road

The view from my bed…

“Mother is a word we use for an angel with wings of love.” Apollo M

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After watching an arresting movie last night, Nomadland, which left me feeling hollow and hallowed, I laid down with these intimate notions who spooned me as I dreamt, they were still with me in the early morning when the dew was fresh, and the light sublime.

Hollow and hallowed are strange bedfellows but as I see it people can both struggle and remain upbeat simultaneously, “through even the most soul-testing of challenges,” says Jessica Bruder.

I’ve spent time with these emotions, especially after the death of my parents, I was completely wrecked, but somehow comforted by a community who rallied around me as if numbers on a clock, reminding me minute by minute that I am not alone, that I am loved, that I can allow joy to spend time with my sorrow without feeling like a traitor.

“I don’t ever say a final goodbye. I always just say, “I’ll see you down the road,” Bob Wells.

It was much the same when my sister struggled through the unexpected loss of her husband, I watched family and friends move in, uninvited, we boarded her ailing vessel until the skin of our arms brushed up against one another, and although nothing can relieve this sort of pain, we rode those damn rapids together, and believe me when I say it was a class five river.

The most daring thing we do with our lives is create community, this is our Great Barrier Reef against the waves of loneliness that can wash over us as if a tsunami in times of despair but also when life is jubilant. It’s a risk, you could be rejected, and if I were honest I believe that is my deepest and most profound fear.

The premise of the movie Nomadland has to do with choiceless choices because often we are forced to make important decisions in the throws of acute grief. We don’t always participate in the circumstances that we find ourselves in, as in loss of a loved one, a marriage, job, friendship, pet, health, even our integrity. Grief shows up without solicitation, it lingers like the smell of cologne on a borrowed jacket, the soundless cry in the back of ones mind, estranged in the same body.

Having experience in each of these areas I can empathize with the loss of a loved one, a fraught marriage (we all have our rocky moments), the ending of a job or career, a friendship that went south, a beloved dog that died, the ache of arthritic joints, and the loss of integrity that can springboard off any of these deprivations. A poverty of spirit and hopelessness sets in especially when we’re anchored emotionally and financially to the past.

It’s the people who show up in times of crisis that give us hope, the person who has the courage to sit with you in the darkness, not shedding light, or speaking of their own loss. “The greatest gifts of all create space for the greatest sacrifices imaginable. For if we simply receive something that does not press us to give something in return, we will die fat with possessions but starved of meaning,” says Craig D. Lounsbrough.

Love is a wonderful feeling but the most basic form of love is action.

For me a hero doesn’t jump tall building or wear flashy capes, their superpower lies in their ability to be present, someone who honors relationship over selfish desires, these are our first responders when tragedy hits. You know who you are and I thank you.

I remember when I was just a young girl, maybe four or five years old. I was at the park with my mom. I decided to jump on the merry-go-round with the older kids but they didn’t want me to join in. I got one leg over the bar when the kids started to push the merry go round faster and faster. I had to hop on one leg, or get thrown to the ground and stomped on by the mean girls. I was panicked. Just when I thought I was losing my grip, the merry-go-round came to an abrupt halt. I turned around and found my mama grasping the bars with both hands, dragging her body across the rough gravel, using all her strength to stop the momentum, so I could get off safely. I remember her bloody knees, her dignified anger, the way she stared down those mean girls until I was safely off that contraption and in her arms. I witnessed sacrificial love that day, I watched my Mama become a warrior woman, and it changed everything.* 

The woman in this movie, Fern, decides to take her life on the road after the loss of her husband, her career, even the town she lived in had died. She started following a group of nomads around the country as they vied for seasonal work, as if modern-day migrants, “many of the workers I met in the Amazon camps were part of a demographic that in recent years has grown with alarming speed: downwardly mobile older Americans,” observes Jessica Bruder.

Of course, this made me think about my sister and my Mom, both widowed at young ages, both struggled to figure out how to live alone in a world designed for duos, but fortunately they were anchored by homes and financial stability. For this, I am ever so grateful. According to 2015 census figures, among older women living alone, more than one in six are living below the poverty line. I am enormously happy my sister remains seven minutes from door to door, not wheel to wheel.

Jessica Bruder says, “there is hope on the road. It’s a by-product of forward momentum. A sense of opportunity, as wide as the country itself. A bone-deep conviction that something better will come.” According to The New York Times Magazine living in a van or vandwelling is fashionable.

The things we will do to escape from empty futures are as vast and creative as our human capacity to envision an alternative fate. You know what I mean?

Life on the road is physically taxing, the living space is claustrophobic, driving long distances can be challenging especially when you’re alone, and the gas is expensive. But there is something appealing about the open road, stopping on a whim, taking time to really see this country up close, and enjoying the eccentric community of nomads you encounter along the way.

“Bleary-eyed, they find places to pull off the road and rest. In Walmart parking lots. On quiet suburban streets. At truck stops, amid the lullaby of idling engines. Then in the early morning hours—before anyone notices—they’re back on the highway. Driving on, they’re secure in this knowledge: The last free place in America is a parking spot.” Jessica Bruder

As I opened my bleary-eyes this morning, spooned between hollow and hallowed, I’m transfixed by the window framing my view of the patio, twinkling in the morning sun is a divine set of angel wings.

I whisper, “I’ll see you down the road Mama.”

Annecdotes:

  • “We’re facing the first-ever reversal in retirement security in modern U.S. history,” she explained. “Starting with the younger baby boomers, each successive generation is now doing worse than previous generations in terms of their ability to retire without seeing a drop in living standards.” Jessica Bruder
  • “It’s strange. How hollow i feel. Like there might be echoes inside of me. Like I’m one of those chocolate rabbits they used to sell around Easter, the ones that were nothing more than a sweet shell encapsulating a world of nothing. I’m like that. I encapsulate a world of nothing.” Tahereh Mafi
  • “I’ve learned that sometimes, when you’re afraid but you keep on moving forward, that’s the biggest kind of courage there is.” Cynthia Hand
  • * Merry-Go-Round, an excerpt from Living in the Gap.

51 Comments

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  1. Incredibly thought provoking post Cheryl. I connected with it on many levels. I have an aunt who married a migrant worker who was picking cherries in my grandfather’s orchard. My grandfather never spoke to her after she left home at 18.

    Thanks for the movie suggestion!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Gail, so good to see your name appear in the comments and that this post resonated with you. The movie was incredible and very thought provoking for me. The ache from this woman’s grief was palpable. What a difficult outcome for your aunt because she choose love over cultural standards or at least your grandfathers standards. Hope she lived (or lives) a wonderful life? Hope you are well too, warmly, C

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  2. ‘Nomadland’ won four British Academy film awards last week. I have yet to read a bad review of it. But it seems to be a very American phenomenon, easily explained by the vastness of your country. In Britain, you would find it harder to travel around without ending up in the same place after a week.
    You express your feelings about the events in your life so well, Chery. Once again your excellent writing demands an immediate reblog.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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    1. Hi Pete, it was a powerful film/documentary, and yes, very American in it’s plasibility. Fern was a made up character but most of the supporting cast were real people who played themselves. Her circumstances tugged at my heart and of course drapped me down memory lane! Thank you for your kind and supportive words, after several years of blogging I still worry when I hit the “publish” button that my words will fail to resonate with others. It only takes one person to say this hit home and it’s all worth it. Thank you Pete, C

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    1. Oh my, Fraggle, the anniversary of an important death is always a poignant day, hopefully your memories serve to sustain you. I’ve come to believe what you remember lives! So obviously letting go of the bad and hanging onto the good let’s the unrest RIP! Thank you for your kind words, I’ll be keeping you in my thoughts today, warmly, C

      Liked by 1 person

        1. That means a lot to me Fraggle, creating space for our deepest thoughts to meet is always my underlying intention. I love that Rumi quote, “out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.” C

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  3. Your paragraph, “The most daring thing we do with our lives is create community, this is our Great Barrier Reef against the waves of loneliness that can wash over us as if a tsunami in times of despair but also when life is jubilant. It’s a risk, you could be rejected, and if I were honest I believe that is my deepest and most profound fear.” makes me wonder if the communities we join and build online serve as a barrier against the waves of loneliness as the communities we create with the people we physically interact with. A large number of the people in my communities have passed. I was aware of their passing at the time, I have grieved them and still do A few people online have gone silent. I wonder if they have passed or just gone off line. When do I know?
    Your writing is amazing, Warmest regards, Ed

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You bring up such a good point Theo, the comfort and support we sustain from both our physical and online communities? Of course I have a story. About a year and a half ago, right as the beginning of the pandemic, I found myself in a creative writing workshop hosted by Seth Godin, it was my first, and unusual because thousands of people from all around the world were part of this seminar and we were all dealing with the same nemisis – COVID! Seth had us form small groups and as of today my group, the Geckos, continue to meet weekly, I feel enormous support and encouragement from these people I have never met, almost none of us are in the same time zone and we’re dispersed around the world (4 different countries). So I think online communities can be a barrier against waves of loneliness! But the physical ones are my priority, my children, husband, grandchildren, sister, extended family and friends have my full and undivided attention. I’m sorry about the passing of meaningful people in both your communities, that is difficult to manage, but remember there are always new people looking for company and engagement. I consider you my community now. Thanks for the kind word, warmly, C

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  4. Brilliant and powerful writing neighbor. To comment more fully would be somewhat of an uninformed response until I have seen “Nomadland” so as to gain a fuller context of the depth of your prose. . .
    On a different note, at least up to now, being on of those cursed car culture types that relates so much to mechanical contraptions with very little redeeming value other than nostalgia, I always thought that “Nomad Land” was somewhere in Virginia, as seemingly all the old ’55-’57 Chevy Nomads eventually turned up there at this old car graveyard, awaiting either resurrection or the fate of the destruction of their very souls (i.e., their unique VIN code plates):
    http://www.nomadsrus.com
    😉🥂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Chris, I think you’ll appreciate the movie as you are planning a nomadic journey soon, leaving behind the pitfalls of home ownership and modern society. I think that’s part of the appeal of the movie, the nomads are not tied to mortgages, careers, expectations. They have structured a new way of living and it’s gaining some traction with the mainstream. Let me know your thoughts when you see it. All my best, C

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    1. The loss of a parent is stagnating Kim, “and we both stand there,… a few metres apart, kicking at the snow. As if they were kicking a memory back and forth…,” says Fredrik Backman. You were so young, I imagine you have kicked that memory back and forth a time or two, it never gets easy but for me envisioning our physical separation as only temporary makes it easier to accept. I’ll be holding you in my thoughts Kim, warmly, C

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You should write about those memories, if not for anyone else, it would be meaningful for you. Although, I admit, I’d love to read about your New England adventures! A series! C

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  6. Cheryl, first timer here courtesy of Kim’s reblog. This is well done. It is interesting, I would have likely not selected those words, but “hollow and hallowed” resonate. As for the “choice less choices,” I think so much of what we do is habitual. We need a more conscious effort to avoid being a passenger in our own life. Those folks who come to our aid in times of need are, indeed angels, or as Gordon Lightfoot called them “Rainy Day People.” My wife is one of those people. Keith

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    1. Welcome Keith! So glad to see you here. Yes, my word choice was a little strange but those are the emotions that accompanied me to bed. I empathized with Fern as a woman alone in the world trying to find a place to be. It was both heartbreaking and sacred? I totally agree much of what we unconsciously do is habitual, you strike gold with the observation as if ” a passenger in our own life,” with a self driving car. You are so lucky to have married a “rainy day person,” someone who shows up and holds space for her loved ones. Love you comment Keith, thank you, C

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  7. Ok…wow. I don’t even know where to start. First. Great post (see how eloquent I am.) I saw this movie too. The thing I couldn’t get past was the characters relationship with her husband. I kept wondering if she was actually really pissed if at him, not fir dying, but for not allowing her to live I guess. And I know I’m the only person who watched this movie and saw it more as a relationship movie than anything else. But…I love all the thoughts you had surrounding this film. It was a very thought provoking movie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Okay, I was stumped at the beginning too! I’m like who was this guy who left her all alone, penniless, but she does wear his jacket all over the country, so there’s that. Then the sister? It was about relationship but I found it focused on our connection primarily with ourselves, as others try to break into her world. Thanks for joining me in the chat LA, C (together we spell lac, a substance secreated by bugs to make varnish, hum?)

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  8. Great post, Cheryl. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but my gentleman of a grandfather “road the rails” during the depression for two years. He never talked about it. He must have loved the life, because my granny was waiting for him with a ring on her finger back in Pennsylvania! I did a bit of bumming around, hitchhiking wherever the road wanted to take me, in my teens. It never for a moment occurred to me that I was in danger…well, until I was! As for the finances of baby boomers wanted college for their kids plus a week at Disney World, also extravagant weddings for their kids. Not saying there’s anything wrong with that; I would have done all those things too if my husband had agreed. Instead he saved & saved. So boring then, so grateful for it now. xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Cynthia, you definitely have the vagabond spirit in your genes! I have only hitchhiked once, it was to get from one side of a ski resort to another, and I was scared out of my mind! You’re a brave one. I love how grounded your husband is, mine is middle of the road, we did the college and wedding thing for the kids but on a tight budget. My husband’s all about the savings too and I’m ever so grateful. xo, C

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  9. I am here from Pete’s reblog…such powerful words all the more so as like everyone I have lost people dear to me and hope to join them on that road one day…I have downloaded Nomadland based on your recommendation 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Carol, welcome to Living in the Gap, so pleased to see you here! Thank you for your kind words and may both of us see our loved ones down the road. Let me know what you think of the movie! Love to hear your thoughts. Warmly, C

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    1. Hi Rebecca! Thank you, I was in a wee bit of a maudlin mood after watching Nomanland, and didn’t allow this malady to pass before sitting down to my computer and hammering out a post! I’ve been rescued many times in this life but that one with my Mom takes the cake! She was a wonderful Mama and oh how I miss her. Warmly, C

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