It was just before the landlord died. The lady from next door, two females EMTs, and I wrestled all six feet, six inches of him in his wheelchair through the snow and into the ambulance. We hurt him dragging him onto the stretcher and he cursed us, but “Uncle Dale” would never return to his tiny one-room studio apartment over the septic tank at the end of our old rented adobe. A few weeks later his heart gave out in Taos’ only nursing home. In the spring there was a ceremony with a medicine man, and a small group of us threw his ashes in the acequia at the bottom of the hill.
I rented the place alone, after my honey moved away to Iowa to find a job and take care of her mother. We were separating from necessity, not lack of love, but it was still the worst day of my life when she left me crying in the parking lot, holding the cat like he would save me. I bawled for hours afterwards. The worst part of cleaning out the condo was taking apart our bed.
The old adobe, minimally renovated by my landlord forty years before, was fine for a beat-up lonesome fool. The next-door neighbors weren’t rich or entitled yet and life rolled on. I was so poor, I had to kill our health insurance. At least I had the Internet and credit cards. The ’87 Ford truck ran well enough to get me around with little maintenance. My health was fine except for teeth. Credit debt ballooned. I almost made a living building websites and let myself buy clothes again, writing and publishing online the whole time. The primitive house was solid, warm, and large enough for one so long as I kept the storage unit full. There were many splendid days.
My wife flew down for visits when she could. I drove the truck to Iowa. Our weeks together saved my life and also scared me. (The underlying if-she-loved-me-she’d-come-back was mean). When she was in Iowa, we phoned and emailed constantly. This lasted maybe three years. After her mother died, it came down to deciding and she jumped back in. I fixed up a neighbor’s little building so she could have a studio—installed a wood stove, hung curtains, painted the floor, etc. The last trip down here from Dubuque in her daddy’s Dodge was one enormous high.
We’ve shared this spot for a dozen years and wanted to leave for five. My sister died. My mother died. My brother died. There were mobile homes in Tucson to be emptied and disposed of. I wrote and loved the demons all I could.