The options: that was something I never considered on my way here. I knew there was a destination, but I never gave it much thought. Grandfather Bill had come across after he passed, and his presence was unmistakable. That goofy grin I’d seen a hundred times as a kid. A serious dude of a stockbroker Monday to Friday, on weekends, at least when Rosemary and I visited, he loved to play the clown with us as grandma baked pies and polished her skills in the new greenhouse. At six and seven we were ripe for their huge walled in garden.
But like all happy days they had to end. Dad got a long-awaited promotion and we had to move away. New home, new school, new everything. It wasn’t so much of an adjustment, everything worked out by Christmas. At least that’s the memory and now that I’m here, long past aging and into the new life, it’s just another scene and Bill can make that grin come alive any time I ask.
His visit after passing, well it cured me of any doubts, although I had to convince the rest of the family who were sure it was a just a nice dream. But like I say, the destination was never in doubt, not for me, but as the complexity of the life here gradually made itself apparent, I felt something other than relief, redemption, buckets of joy, or whatever you’re supposed to feel.
Maybe I just wasn’t ready. It’s a big shift and maybe I should have been packing my bags but the shock of it quite took the wind out of my sails. A merger I’d been working on for ages was just about done. In months I’d have been able to retire, sell up the house in town and move to the cottage that had been calling to me for more summers and autumns than I could count. I collapsed getting out of the car in the cottage driveway. The massive stroke had made its move with what now looks like precision, although in the first few minutes of floating about through the trees, wondering if I’d fainted, it seemed more of an annoyance, some kind of a dirty trick played by fate. I’d had a touch of angina the year before, but the doc said nothing serious, take these and go about your business.
Mum and dad were relaxing on the dock in the Muskoka chairs like they owned the place. Which they did before handing it over to me. Just in time as it turned out. Saved me all that paperwork and lawyers. Not that Rosemary was interested. Preferred hotels in luxury resorts and had reached that career level to sustain the choice. As siblings we’d reached a mutually satisfying non-aggression pact long before. She’d always been the more successful of the two and I’d given up pretending otherwise, my default position being admiration for her fearless rejection of all that glass ceiling mythology. She used to say when we occasionally met for dinner, Imagine it not there. When she detailed some of the moves, I accused her of black magic. To which she sipped and chuckled. Oh, you know, enigmatically.
I was more of the rational, analytical bent, playing by the rules to reap the rewards of hard work. Which I did, eventually. Scoring points and applause from my contemporaries. Way to go Alex, you deserve it you really do. And the like. I’d made my mark and even got a small column in the Report on Business in which I got to use my favorite line, “Fifty-six and still not indicted!”.
I gazed at mum and dad, wondering if I should offer them a drink. Here you are at last darling, we’ve been waiting. A third chair magically appeared, and I was invited to seat myself. Neither of them stood to hug. Son, it’s wonderful to have you with us. We’d been hoping.
Not exactly. You kept showing up during our golf games, like you wanted to join in but then faded away.
First, I’ve heard. Dreams were never my strong suit. Say, is this a dream?
You could call it that dear boy. Conceptualize it as you see fit. Mum’s prof days had left their mark. Not that I minded. She retained a sharpness after retiring and could slice up folk like Jordan Peterson with aplomb. Called him the mouth. Public intellectuals she thoroughly disapproved of. Simplifying every issue into slogan, jargon and sound bites. History had always proved them wrong and would continue to do so. No issue could be so simplified unless your ambition was to teach fairy tales to five-year-olds, which admittedly was the game of electoral politics. I could listen to her for hours. Today she seemed quieter than usual. Later she confessed to staying quiet and calm for my benefit. The shock of sudden transfer you know. They’d been warned. Not that they were strangers to it themselves: the collision had taken care of that.
They smiled at me, waiting for something I thought. I wondered what. An admission? Okay so I must be dead then. I looked at dad, stood up and shook his hand. Well, you feel as real as could be dad. That I am Alex, that I am. Nothing insubstantial about this world or those of us who find ourselves here. Mum added, and don’t even think of asking me, dear boy, I’m already contemplating a history of the afterlife. An abundance of research materials in libraries here, and the main issue is where the heck do you start. Everywhere seems like the middle. You can resort to any respected source and benefit from their long-considered opinions. But then you find out you’re looking at very convincing holograms and there’s not only one of each. Plato, Aristotle, Goethe, Machiavelli, Spinoza, Shakespeare, Einstein, there’s several versions, all seemingly legit, and all with changes of mind. I was never averse to the view that all history is debate and argument, but I was hoping for an end to it all. But enough of me, let’s focus on getting you settled.
First though Alex, we’re going to have to find a way to alert your neighbors. You don’t want them to come up in a couple of days and find your half-eaten body surely. The prospect was a shock, but I was up to my neck in shocks right then. Sounded good, but what could be done? What can ghosts actually do? I threw that one out and Dad assured me they’d had enough time to learn a few tricks. Come with us, he smirked, and off we went to the other side of the lake, where Dan hung his hat. Dan who had helped me with my troublesome outboard just last spring. He was up to his neck fixing something in his shed. Dad instructed me to put a picture of me collapsed in the driveway into his mind’s eye. I said you are kidding. He said no give it a go. Then I realized I hadn’t actually looked at my slumped body. Dad said Okay then I’ll do it. Dan stopped what he was doing and looked out the shed door. And then back to his task. Dad said let me try again. I knew that Dan had recently given up his luddite status and purchased a smart phone for the sake of his grandchildren. What surprised me was that it was actually there nearby.
Did he have my number? Looks like he did. A puzzled look came over him and he began walking away. Into his pick-up and onward. We three followed dutifully, ghosts on the wing. I was soon to discover this was the main mode of transport hereabouts. On the gravel road around the lake Dan slowed when he saw Wally who was on his way into town for supplies. They quizzed each other about me and got nowhere. Wally said he drop by later. Five minutes later Dan found what he had feared, placed his palm over my mouth and feeling nothing, called the emergency number.
I congratulated Dad and wondered what was next. I mean, dying usually initiates a whole series of activities and arrangements. I had donated my body to science years back and I was sure they’d find the signed form in my wallet. The paramedics soon ascertained there was nothing to do other than transport me to the local hospital and park me in the morgue until the college specified came to claim me.
We discussed contacting Rosemary in the same way. Mum found her in an upscale boutique in some fancy part of town, maybe Singapore, maybe not she laughed and reported she’d been tracking her purchases for ages. It was a pleasant diversion from her impossible history of the afterlife. But she couldn’t get her attention this time. Dad said they’d try again that night. I asked why then and was assured that sleep was the easiest state to slip into and plant a seed. They’d done that for me more than once. I asked why, as in ‘Oh really why?’. Well, with all those showing up at their golf rounds and quickly fading, they wondered what it meant. Friends with more experience suspected I was setting up my imminent departure and was trying to let them know.
I just couldn’t fathom why in the world I would do such a thing. With all my long-term plans coming to fruition, why would I skip out. It wasn’t as if some criminal past or disgruntled girlfriend or gipped partner was after me. I assured dad I’d played by the book and what’s more had learnt all that from him. Well, they were surprised too but had gotten caught up in getting ready. By then we were back on the deck sipping a bubbly that mum had produced out of thin air and listening to Dan and Wally and Wally’s girlfriend Angela, who likely had just finished her early shift at the grocery in nearby Braverhurst and was weeping onto his shoulder. Apparently, I was such a nice man, and it just wasn’t fair. Fifty-seven and not much of drinker or smoker, it just didn’t seem right. It wasn’t and I couldn’t help but agree. It was a puzzle I’d return to again and again looking for an answer. I was inexplicably drawn by her grieving and floated around the three of them feeling, well, shitty. Angela had always been a sweetheart to me when I got away from the city, bringing over homemade soups and pies. Wally loved to hear the dirt on big business, which I had had my share of before starting my own Honest John enterprise. You know the double account books, the cheques marked petty cash, shell companies registered in some back street basement office, owned by Gus the gasbag who spent most afternoons in the tavern down the way while his sister-in-law Beryl perfected her off-the-wall filing system.
I’d done my upmost to skirt around all the sleazeball crap until I could get clear. Not quite take the money and run, but almost. The buy out with share options. Funny thing was, I gotten the inspiration, the final push if you like, from a guy I met in California while on a short vacation. One of those lovely towns on the coastal highway. In a Starbucks sipping a latte with his wife.
I mentioned my plans, my proposed escape route and he, well, applauded my resolution. Turns out he’d been an active member of the Mennonite Central Committee, a pastor or course, but with a specialty in business ethics. Occasionally they were tasked with working with white collar criminals whose probation included reeducation of an ethical nature. While his wife went shopping, he regaled me with some inspirational tales of lives turned around. I guess it was just what I was ready for.
But I was talking about Wally, who would shake his head in disbelief as I told him about some of the nasty tricks, I’d seen pulled over the years. Usually with Angela sleeping on the couch and a couple of ales between us. Her line usually was you boys sort out the world while I get my beauty sleep for that 5am wake up call. Life had not been kind to her. A daughter lost to opioids, a son to what looked like biker gang warfare, her life with Wally seemed like a gift from God. Least that’s what she said more than once. Wally’s disability pension covered taxes and bills, having built the cottage himself years before from a chunk of inherited lakeside that city folk would regularly try to lasoo with huge offers. Those high earning truck driver days were long gone but so was the exhaustion insanity that went with them and after a few beers he’d look over at Angela and say God sent me an angel to sweeten this little paradise, what do I need money for? Other times he’d spin out a muffled version of that Little Feat song Willin’.
All these thoughts swirled around me as I failed to affect their grieving. I retreated to mum and dad on the dock. Mum looked at me with her smirk of sympathy. There’s not much you can do when they’re in that state, dear boy. I said it felt like some impenetrable wall, their shock and sadness. Dad asked about mine. Yeah, it was a shock, this suddenly being dead, but sipping bubbly with my parents had never been part of any picture I might have had. He raised his glass.
After what seemed like ‘a while’ Mum asked if I was getting a bit down in the mouth and maybe needed to get away. Away where I asked. Why our place of course. She spoke with a certain air of pride, and when we arrived at this stylish condo set in manicured parkland, I saw why. And when I say arrived, I really mean appeared. There was no gradual approach with enticing vistas.
They’d insisted I clustered close, like we were in some small elevator and in a flash, we were there, looking at stucco cubes stacked at odd angles. Tell the truth, it looked more like their last place in town than anything. Of course, I was given the tour, including the room set aside for their son. I looked at mum, puzzled. Oh yeah, I get it that’s for me. I poked my head in and muttered, Looks good. And it did. Appealing, welcoming. Dad patted my arm, all yours when you need it Alex. Of course, your grandparents are keen to have you over soon too. But they let us have first dibs.
I asked if they were close by. Dad said that concepts like close by were not really operative here. Everywhere was easily accessible. You mean like getting here in a split second? Mum said, oh dear boy don’t worry you’ll soon get used to all the lifestyle innovations here. I said I’d take her word for it and we all chuckled. Dad suggested a nap might be in order and as we were still standing at the entrance to my room, I thought yeah, good idea. Mum said Take your time, we’ll be here when you feel up to it.
Well, I nodded off in no time. You’d think with all that excitement I’d be a wreck but no, head on pillow and …gone. A deep dreamless sleep. When I stirred later, five minutes or five hours, I noticed shoes and clothes and felt ashamed. But not so ashamed that I couldn’t stand and sip at the water glass by the bed. Mmn, what kind of water was that?
I wandered about until I found them. Mum was engrossed in a large and ornate book that she insisted was an accurate copy of a long-lost work from the fabled library of Alexandria. All that forbidden stuff from the Vatican was here too. Not here in the condo, but not far either. The afterlife was a scholar’s paradise. Dad was playing with some kittens tumbling about in an ornate basket. Not an activity I’d ever noticed an affection for previously. Mum suggested a shower and added the change of clothes piled on the bench was for me. I could see it, I was falling into line already. It was like being eight all over again.
If you are guessing that I stayed with them for, well I don’t know, quite some time shall we say, you’d be right. What can I say, they made it easy. I could say, as some might, it was just like old times, but it was better. More relaxed. I could have done the independence thing, but being drawn to various dramas on earth, like my funeral and the quick sale of the cottage to two interior decorators, quite clueless about country living but at least not flamboyantly gay, which might have set off Wally and Dan come to think of it, and possibly an emotional overreaction from sister Rosemary, shaking loose her lifelong pursuit of fake professional cool. Maybe I had more than enough to cope with. Truth to tell, it showed me my own professional cool crumbling. I could see I was taking refuge with mum and dad, like some kid who’d hated summer camp and had broken his arm to get out of it.
When the cottage changed hands, I was encouraged to look for one here. The spirit world has replicas of every imaginable landscape and culture and more space than you can believe. What we called cottage country back in Ontario seemed like the size of the entire province rather than just the select chunk reserved for those who could buy their way in. There were empty cottages of all sizes, lakeside property aplenty, no money down and no mortgage in sight, and although many arrivals were fresh faced like me, on the lookout for that paradise lifestyle, there seemed to be no jostling for position or carnivals of bully offers. The result was I couldn’t make up my mind. I was again like some spoilt kid fussing over possible Christmas gifts. Mum seemed quietly thrilled that I’d be staying with them for the meantime and took pleasure in manifesting my favorite meals.
Manifesting: that’s a big thing here. You focus on imagining something, a latte, a garden addition, an elaborately carved table, a meal. And I mean perfectly cooked. While we were chomping down on one of mum’s specialties, dad explained the ever-expanding use of space. When cottage country seemed to be filling up, old hands with years of experience got together and created more: more lakes, more forests, more cute villages. And not just one version of cute either. He also mentioned that the rigors of the Rockies had been rejigged so mountain valleys out by Banff and Jasper could be safely inhabited year-round, with of course the best skiing ever. Wind and snow had been tamed, though he did not know how. He admitted it was not much more than golf club chatter basically. Speaking of golf, apparently the big deal was not to get a hole in one but to avoid it, to put your mind and desire aside and let your swing determine the flight. Or something like that. Mum added, yeah even birdies get boring. And that was apparently why Wittgenstein was still a challenge. I did not make the connection and let it go.
Not too difficult as I had let a lot go just before passing, settled my debts, invested my profits, wiped the slate clean, and really got to figuring how the rest of my life might unfold. Well, this was how it was unfolding, whether I liked it or not. There was no going back, only going forward.
My grandparents looked like radiant teenagers while I was still sorting out the middle age thing. Hugging me and laughing they insisted I’d get the hang of it soon and not to worry. Whereas mum and dad had picked a smart garden suburb, almost modernist ugly, they had settled for the charming village, almost stiflingly quaint, with all that pioneer paraphernalia, including antique cars, horse drawn carriages, cafes serving the full afternoon tea and scones, ladies strolling the sidewalks with parasols and 1890 outfits. Grandma assured me they’d worked on the materials to make them lighter and less cumbersome. Once in a while she and grandad would join in. If they got bored, they could always go to the city for that experience. Yes, there were many huge cities in the afterlife and many folks thrived in them, loving the diversity and cultural ferment. Yes, he responded to my question, towns, cities and communities of all shapes and sizes.
Grandad proudly showed me his lily pond, with decorative fountains and glowing koi carp. Grandma was learning the finer points of Thai cuisine and putting in some time at a local clinic catering to depressives. When I queried that she said Oh you know, regrets and remorse. She further explained how even in this paradise of no worries like debts, disease and general economic slavery many discovered the bad behavior they’d justified while alive came back to haunt them. Guilt and lack of forgiveness could eat away at people that had managed them carefully after denial’s spade work had proved insufficient in the long term, and centers such as the one she volunteered at gave them a place to unwind their protective coverings and unravel the knots of self-delusion. Some just needed a friendly face to talk to while others benefitted from more rigorous psychotherapy.
I thought of the many in the world of business and finance I’d known who seemed to take pride in frauds so sly and purposeful they made up their own subculture of ethical transgression in which the bit players admired and imitated the high achievers who always seemed to get off easy. Like the Mennonite fella I met in California used to say, Yup, Satan takes care of his own. I’d never been a believer in the lord of darkness, so to me it seemed as if criminals were placed high enough in society their wiggle room was well padded, usually by others who’d turned a blind eye while lining their own pockets. Gran suggested that her work there was never ending and that my own life path could prove useful if I were ever to feel the urge, you know, when I’d gotten settled.
I nodded something of an assent and said I’d think about it, but at my newbie level there was so much to think about. I was still at the ‘am I really dead?’ stage. There were my grandparents looking so young and shapely and me still the fretful paunch. Mum seemed to have cultivated a more mature look, an elegant, well dressed forty-five, while dad looked like a young buck hustling the desirable older woman. Of course, I kept my lips pursed on that one. They left me to return to their condo, citing upcoming commitments, a fancy dress ball being one, and I knew staying over was a done deal. I soon felt the need of a nap and was shown my room, where a deep sleep was soon entered.
The intriguing part was a dream about sister Rosemary, where we communicated clearly and without the drama, I thought might be part and parcel of the dead brother scenario. I didn’t feel like any kind of a dead brother, so the part was tough to act. Rosemary took it all in stride, insisting that a celebration of life would be in order, and she’d be pleased to organize it, and could conceivably cut her far east trip short to get it all in motion. I awoke wondering what exactly dreams were here, as our meeting seemed so real, as if I actually knew what I was doing.
I was sitting on the edge of the bed, pondering on this mystery when Grandad popped in wearing a clown mask, I hadn’t seen for fifty years and singing a nursery rhyme that I think he made up on the spot. I fell into his game, and we were soon dancing around the room singing a nonsense song we used to do when I was about three.
I stayed over for at least three days, although to tell the truth I wasn’t counting. Lots of family chatter that wouldn’t really interest anyone. One day, after a wonderful fig and olive pizza that I helped put together from scratch, still not quite getting Grandma’s snarky put down of ‘all that manifesting stuff’, I tagged along to see just what her fascination with amateur psychotherapy was all about.
We entered a less than imposing country house outside their cutesy-pie village and sat down in what appeared to be a lounge in a small family-run hotel. Gran introduced me to Martin, who guessing I was a new arrival, wished me well and assured me that just being friendly and sociable would be a good start. I thought to ask about his own path to this situation. Well, he and his wife had run two bed and breakfasts back on earth and always seemed to get involved with the guests, apparently a no-no in the business. When the need for pressure-free conversation with souls who needed to share their remorse, guilt and regrets was made plain to them, it seemed like a natural shift. Giving, kindly souls, as they obviously were, they hadn’t brought any significant baggage with them, other than the initial shock of dying by drowning while out boating, in one of those sudden thunderstorms that July dumps on us without apology, so nothing of significance to work through themselves. They been offered this building and any renovation assistance that might be required, not of course knowing that would entail two or three folks standing together, agreeing on a detailed plan and projecting the structural or decorative changes asked for, which once Marg saw how it could be easily done, went over the top with ideas. Marg had appeared as he explained all this to me, chuckling as she realized the story.
She asked if tea and scones might be in order, but as the pizza was still sitting heavy on me, I politely declined. Maybe later then? They said they’d leave us to it, and I waited to see just what ‘it’ was. Well, nothing formal. Like a small hotel lounge, people came and went, small groups chatting for a while as Granma peppered me with questions about my life. A lady who seemed to know her asked if she might join us. A lady with a hint of a worried look. A sad tale about a junkie son and daughter in law, children who had to be legally adopted by her still living sister, not exactly the paradigm of health herself but keen and capable and an extended family squabble over legalities and monies. I let gran do most of the talking, limiting myself to sympathetic noises. At exactly the right moment Marg appears with a tray of tea and scones. It just seemed so right, though Gran muttered something about taking the easy way out. I made a note to ask later. As the conversation unfolded, I must admit I did wonder what on earth we might do to alleviate the situation. Still a trouble shared is a trouble halved as they say, and maybe that was what we could do.
I quietly recalled my Rosemary ‘dream’ and how easy it seemed to get through to her and wondered if this lady might be able to do something similar. I did keep my wondering to myself, only mentioning it to grandma later. Apparently, there were other rooms on the second floor where actual psychotherapists, dead ones of course, took on more serious cases. Gran had passed someone on just recently, a man riven with guilt over bombs he dropped in some war, believing his country’s cause was more than righteous at the time.
I opined that righteousness always seems to lead to later regrets and felt quite the philosopher when Gran agreed. Maybe I could be of use here. Later, much later, when I saw all the options available to the curious and adventurous, it started to look like a hobby, like arguing about the play-offs on Saturday night. But then, back then, it felt inspiring. I had the sympathetic touch in spades I was told, I was a good listener, so I stayed with my grandparents as I polished up my act.
The experience was intriguing and let’s face it, I still wasn’t up to finding the waterside lot to build my dream cottage. I could see I was playing at this new life, not quite ready to actually live it. Grandad assured me that would all come with time. I was still in a kind of shock, passing so unexpectedly in middle age as I did. He got it he really did. He mentioned the young folk who passed over in accidents, violence and overdose. Their shock often took the form of resentment and anger, some of them turning into poltergeists to annoy and frighten their former friends and rivals, some of them even trying to climb into the passed-out bodies of their doper pals to get that contact high. Sometimes they’d keep on fighting in the war they’d been killed in, often going for months before the actual reality of their ghost status hit them.
He and Gran had been shown this by a more experienced friend. They’d both lead such sheltered lives they’d had no idea such shenanigans went on. Nobody like that ever played bridge or golf, never mind attended church. They’d more or less ignored the scandalous tales doing the rounds about children and grandchildren. Gran took it all on board in stride and found herself committing to her twice weekly sessions at the drop-in center, while he had retreated to his garden and ornamental ponds. He hoped that one day, when all was complete to his satisfaction and an atmosphere of reassuring serenity created, folk like the ones Gran chatted with would benefit from relaxing in the space.
His reasoned postponement reminded me of my own, so nodding in understanding was the polite response. Again, all the options available here, and nothing to hold you back other than your own ignorance and indecision. I’d poured all my resolve into winding up my business and city attachments and look what happened there. Reluctance at new beginnings was surely to expected.
That reluctance spun itself into what must have been months, on the old calendar anyway, as I was welcomed into the bosom of my grandparent’s life. My grandparents that presented themselves as newly marrieds in their twenties. I finally cornered granddad and point blank asked how this eternal youth thing actually worked. Apparently, it was all in your mind. You imagined yourself younger and slowly it just happened. He brought out a snap I sent them from Greece on my first post college European jaunt, all tanned and just made of testosterone. Try this one for size, he advised. I was to take it into my bedroom and see myself as that now. If it seemed impossibly magical then perhaps it was, he went on, but all I can tell you is it works. He waved his hand; this is me just I married your Gran. A little full of myself but I managed to tone that down don’t you think? My grin to his smirk.
I felt a bit daft staring at this old pic, and recalling my narrow escape from a mostly unwanted holiday romance that came close to roping me into the Greek culture and history I had become so enamoured with in college. Of course, I was her escape route into the freedom of north American womanhood but seeing exactly why such a fate fit her needs after a degree that seemed to lead her nowhere, made me want to assist somehow but not in the husband role. That of course was the only option her family thought acceptable. Next to me settling there, which I knew was madness.
That particular detour, which I admit, lead me to looking about 37 rather than 62, was symptomatic of another scenario here: re-examining your past with an all-too inquisitive eye. Grandad suggested it was the type of thing one indulged in after retirement when the days did their best to detain you in vain regret. But of course, I managed to miss that one, didn’t I? All too wise if you ask me, he chuckled. He gazed at me one day as I was accompanying Gran to the chatfest over at The Oaks, where Martin and Marg made everyone comfortable and remarked Hmm, not bad we’ll get you a girlfriend yet. The long-time bachelor in me still rankled at such a suggestion, but I knew it was wise to humour folk.
I had long ago learned that coupledom did not suit my solitary nature. I enjoyed paddling my own canoe in both business and personal life. My two attempts at surrendering my privacy had not ended well, both women realising I was not to be remade into their version of the ideal partner. Both of them married within the year of our break-ups, allowing everyone a graceful exit.
Eventually I learned that rewriting the book of your life was something only authors with much to hide should indulge in. Facing the music and forgiving yourself was by far the smart choice. Several of my pretend friends from the old days had already passed into this world and once I was informed of the locator services available, I visited some, only to discover they barely recalled the outstanding issues I was remorseful about. A couple remembered but said they’d long since stopped caring, and besides their own behaviour was far from exemplary.
After that phase, were I’d been shown one more option, something they called instant transfer, I finally faced the find-your-own-place issue. Apparently, those interested, architects slipping sideways into landscape design, were almost constantly creating new lakes with lakefront land parcels and intriguingly artistic shoreline complexities that allowed for small docks and the other appurtenances the Canadian lifestyle craved. The demand from new arrivals was unending, particularly from those who had not been able to afford the luxury while coping with careers and families.
When I contacted sister Rosemary about my plans, in those dreamtime interactions that she was quite getting used to, she told me to just go for it and stop fretting. She had her own situations to deal with, personal and career related, and strangely for her, wanted to discuss them at length. When I queried this, she retorted that we’d never really interacted that much before and it was only since I’d died that sharing had became a thing. That had not been her language before and I should have guessed: she was dating a much younger man, who moved, as we say, in different circles. He’d been inspired, he said, by Emmanuel Macron and his very public devotion to his older wife. I told her this lad was after her money, which at that point was considerable, such were her commissions, and that she’d regret giving him any more than occasional access. In some ways we were very alike, sister and brother, but she wasn’t ready to see that. I reminded her how much she enjoyed her always-in-demand and quite lavish lifestyle and she reminded me of how much was hating hotels and room service. I resisted throwing up my hands in momentary despair.
The extended creative act of choosing my lakefront parcel and imagining my ideal cottage into existence, with extensive professional help I might add, was something I can resist going into detail about. One day you’ll do it yourself and the pleasure will be all yours. You will also discover, in your own way and time, how this life just continues the old one, with some significant modifications that you will slowly, maybe even quickly, get used to. For me the lack of business enterprises was a challenge, but I eventually found helping newbies with one thing or another could be a replacement activity of some satisfaction.
That and counseling white collar crooks while they slept. It can be a long haul to a semblance of ethical responsibility, as they chew you out for naivete and pathetic do-gooderism, but they can be swayed before charges are laid. Some of them anyway. Others found the system sharper than they’d figured. Well, I did what I could. Maybe I could have done more. Speaking of more, there’s lots more I could reveal about the options here. Stuff I’ve heard about but have yet to explore. The joys of sailing and cottage life are nicely balanced by my service to others-in-need stuff and after that all this talk of going to other planets for visits and taking classes in what is called ‘pre-birth choices’ and ‘returning to the fray’ feels like mountaineering used to: perfect for the adventurous but not for me.
Oh, and there’s also this thing about disappearing. Having only just achieved the youthful good looks I’d seen in others and getting those admiring glances at social occasions, I was not about to throw it all away to see what they said was my real self. Why become nothing, or even the semblance of nothing, when the seeming perfection of something was finally within reach? I just didn’t get it despite all the blissful talk. Boating under a full moon was blissful enough for me, even though I’d heard the moon wasn’t actually real but created by some master magicians who’d graduated from lakes, forests and cottages.
Once again Grandad Bill came to the rescue with his ‘paradise is plenty good for me’. This on the day he taught me how to fly the chess pieces about the board without touching them.