After Ralph died, I went to Scottsdale, Manhattan, Atlantic City, and Las Vegas (twice). I painted walls and furniture in my house, cleaned closets, and returned the downstairs furniture upstairs and the upstairs furniture to its rightful place downstairs. I perused farmers markets and street fairs, attended readings and spoken-word events. I took my niece and nephew to parks, museums, and Berkeley’s Iceland. I watched them perform wobbly somersaults at Head Over Heels and throw themselves, joyfully, into the plastic ball pit at the Emeryville Public Market.
On New Year’s Day I drove over the Bay Bridge and met my friend Katie at the Dolphin Club. Together we jumped into the San Francisco Bay. Katie swam to the end of the pier and back. I waited for her on the deserted beach and made a firm resolution not to repeat this particular activity again.
I visited Jernee’s school several times and met with her teachers and the principal. I fixed my bicycle so I could pedal to the Berkeley Bowl, purchased new climbing equipment because mine was outdated, looked for my rollerblades in the garage, but couldn’t find them. I went to Karim Cyclery on Telegraph Avenue and bought a used pair, then skated down to Eastshore State Park, and bladed over to Richmond. On every bump my teeth rattled and my knees vibrated. I went home and got into bed, then got up the next morning and tried it again.
My friend Sue convinced me that an Afro Rhythm and Drum class could change my life, so I signed up for ten sessions at a studio on Ninth Street. Once a week I skip around a huge drum, slapping, thumping, and shouting Oh Yeah and Unh Ahh in harmony with my fellow dancers.
But I still think about Ralph everyday, often at unexpected, odd times. Caught off guard, I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and wait for the moment to pass.
I went to the San Francisco Ballet, (Program 2), the Julia Morgan Center, (Word for Word’s Strangers We Know), and the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, (Joe Turner’s Come and Gone). At the Paramount I saw the Oakland East Bay Symphony perform Black Suit Blues, the “Prelude” and “Liebestod” from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, and Schubert’s Symphony Number 9 in C Major. I recently saw The Tubes sing at The Independent, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
One Sunday I sat on a folding chair at the East Bay Church of Religious Science and listened to a service that involved fish, bread, miracles, and resurrection. I was encouraged to forgive and love myself, which I did.
I bike to Ironworks fitness center and take classes in abdominal conditioning, core strengthening, sports training, palates and yoga (Hatha Flow, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Iyengar, and Power). I plant bulbs, pull weeds, meet friends for coffee, lunch, and dinner. I swim hundreds of laps at Temescal Pool, hike up and down Claremont Canyon, think about getting a job, a pet, and a new attitude.
I’ve experimented with different forms of meditation, prescription drugs, and deep breathing exercises.
I’ve baked cookies and muffins, cupcakes and brownies. I’ve mended holes in socks and reattached buttons. I’ve pruned back the bushes and vines, sharpened the scissors and knives, changed light bulbs, and replaced the rubber washer inside the leaky kitchen faucet.
But the house still feels cold and empty, despite filling it with music, flowers, friends, and a rebellious teenager.
“Give it time,” advise relatives, the Yoga teachers, and the preacher at the East Bay Church of Religious Science. “Take another walk, attend another class, breathe deeply, stretch fully, stand up straight, roller blade carefully, pedal mindfully, beat the drum softly.” And so I do.