I spent a week away from where I now call home, New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment. I went back to Kansas City, the land of sweet flavored barbecue and all that jazz, where I watched my granddaughter graduate from High School, and spent time with my family. I am torn between places now. The place I love, my spiritual home, is here in New Mexico. Kansas City is where my family lives. After my father and several years later, my husband, died, I am completely on my own, like I have never before been in my life. Decision making is sometimes harder and then often easier with no one to disagree with me.
Ken and I were on a spiritual journey together for the eleven and a half years of our marriage. Barbi and Ken. Our relationship began in Kansas City where we married, a proper wedding in a Church of Christ, second chances for both of us. I was 60 years old, and Ken was 64. We were hurting from past betrayals and were determined to make our last chance at marriage a success. A love of the Word was deeply engrained in Ken, my cowboy from the Texas panhandle. I was a New Yorker by birth, raised up with a grain of cynicism and a natural tendency to cuss when frustrated (from my father), but when I met Ken I knew immediately he was inherently good in a way I had not known before in a man. A keeper for sure.
We stayed busy in Kansas City with our work and our church, my family with young grandkids, and his crew who traveled from Texas and Alabama to visit. We went to movies, barbecue and steak restaurants, the Rodeo, theater, baseball and football games, listened to live jazz on Country Club plaza, enjoyed anniversary dinners at the revolving restaurant on top of Crown Center. And then we both retired and planned for life’s fourth act.
Fourth Act, scene I New Mexico. My father lived alone in Rio Rancho. How he got there from Long Island, New York is a long story. In short, at age 74 he took a trip, looked around, and fell in love. When I visited him I understood his enchantment with this windy, dusty, brown and oddly beautiful place. By age 96 he was beginning to slow down. After two trips in a year from Kansas City to Albuquerque to bale dad out of the hospital, Ken and I realized we had to move here. And since we both liked New Mexico it was not a sacrifice to pull up stakes and move to the Southwest, except for being 900 miles from my other home and four grandkids.
We took care of dad and enjoyed his company for 10 months when he passed away one Saturday morning at the retirement home. I am grateful for the time we had with him. I am eternally grateful he was my father. Ken and I continued to live in my father’s house. Such a beautiful time filled with trips to see family, day trips in the mountains, church activities; Dad’s home was filled with happy times especially when Ken’s family came to visit.
Ken’s health declined so slowly and steadily for two years; I noticed it, forgetting his wallet, misplacing keys, staring blankly at someone trying to recall a name; and then I didn’t notice it because I was afraid. It was the medication, I thought. He’ll be fine when he gets off of it. But he needed it to stay alive, the doctor said. Twenty pills a day. He stumbled often. And then a heart attack, stents, pills, physical therapy, alzheimers. I was losing the love of my life and could do nothing to save him. Fourth Act scene 2, May 16, 2016 has come and gone twice now. The grief hasn’t left me yet though it has changed form. The fourth Act is still playing out. Yesterday I bought a new car. My first car purchase as a single old lady, another experience for another chapter.
This RAV 4 will take me and my dog Pippa to Kansas City to see my children more often. My friends already plan on riding shotgun for short vacations closer to home. The things I wanted to do with Ken by my side I shall have to do alone or with friends. It is hard. Reminders of him are all over the landscape.