The last few years have been something of a whirlwind for me. I left behind the Midwest and the great city of Chicago and headed west; all the way to the coast. Chicago had been a good place for me to land when I first arrived in the US.
For most of my time there it had proven itself to be a worthy companion and occasional adversary; pushing me to accept challenges head on. Instilling in me a strength and sense of never say never. Carrying me on its shoulders until the true meaning of perseverance settled deep into my psyche.
Chicago had provided me with a home away from home.
It was a place I could be proud of, a city to root for, and a geographic location that for most of the year beats you down with a harsh arctic back-hand. The city conjures up an image synonymous with hard work, adversity, and adaptation.
For the first few years of my residence I had lived with youthful exuberance in this city that embraces the energy of the young. I bellied up to bars and ate frequently during happy hours.
In those days Chicago happy hours offered buffet feasts along with free or heavily discounted drinks.
My nights were a mix of nightclubs and parties. Seldom did I return home before pm met am; seldom did this affect my ability to rise with the sun and make my way to the financial district where I worked.
My next chapter, and the ones that followed, became more and more subdued as age and the perception of maturity took hold. Nightclubs became the first victim. The music inside changed, in what seemed like an overnight transaction, from songs where lyrics were as important as melody, to industrial beat and thump.
My relationship to this non-stop grind lacked any relevance to my own life. Over time the tiny whisper in the back of my mind became louder. It urged me on. To leave behind Chicago, the winter, the gridlock, the crime.
I searched for many years.
I eliminated cities all over the country and the world. I visited, with the express notion of setting up house, cities in Australia and New Zealand. I visited, with the same notion, several states in the US; Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and California.
Boulder Colorado came out on top and no sooner had I moved there to seek employment; I was offered a job. I flew to Houston Texas for the interview and a few days later was offered the position.
The position was located in Chicago!
For years I had attempted to move away and now, as I was on the verge of breaking free, the city sucked me back in; tempting me with salary, benefits, and the familiar.
Life settled down and Chicago continued to treat me well.
Something was missing. A sense of despair consumed me over a period of months and eventually I walked away. Leaving the job for peace of mind.
In 2011 I was offered a two month contract position in San Francisco.
I arrived on July 4th and a new chapter in my life was set to the music of gratitude, joy, sorrow, and peace.
Almost a month to the day following my arrival in San Francisco I boarded a ferry to whisk me across the bay, past Alcatraz, and on to Sausalito. From here I boarded a stagecoach bus en-route to Muir Woods; a redwood national park.
Home to trees cloaked in a dark red spongy bark that grew straight as an arrow towards the clouds. Majestic and ethereal all at the same time.
Fog would creep throughout the forest surrounding the base of these 387 foot giants.
It was on this stagecoach, with that destination in mind, that we met. Our conversation can be measured in seconds but it was enough. It set us both on an unforgettable course into the future where absolutely anything and everything seemed possible.
In December of that same year I returned to New Zealand. I was not alone. The person you often hear about in movies; in romance novels. The one who completes you; your better half.
The chick you met on a bus!
Alison, after knowing me only three months, came to New Zealand with me. We toured the country, taking in the sites, experiencing adrenalin pumping activities, and enjoying every step of the way.
Her introduction to my mother had been like that of two old friends. They had never met or even talked yet no beat was skipped. She ignited a spark of happiness in my extremely optimistic mother that I had never witnessed before.
Pregnant pause, awkward moment…not with these two!
Mum took to Alison and her joy was obvious. She knew she was the one for me and it was written all over her face. I noticed a contentment wash over her. Not that I had ever thought something lacked in her happiness but this had taken it into over-drive. Her job as a mother and guardian was a success. She had managed, through her guidance and love, to place all of her children into relationships that were both meaningful and lasting.
She was very, very pleased.
In April of 2012 I returned to NZ for a quick ten day visit. The ability to make a quick visit home was new to me but since I now lived in San Francisco the journey had been reduced from twenty four hours to eleven.
Visits home could now be more frequent.
My sister joined me from Australia and together the whole family, including my brother and his family, indulged in road trips, conversation, laughs, games, the rekindling of memories, and group photograph sessions. Always there was one family member missing as the notion of a “selfie” had not yet permeated our domain.
Upon my departure I was sad. I was always sad when I left. Mum got a big hug at the departure terminal. I would see her soon.
Of that I had little doubt.
Four weeks after returning to San Francisco I was once again on a plane bound for New Zealand. On arrival I was picked up and taken directly to the hospital. My brother, sister, and me surrounding the bed. We were getting lost; spinning.
Mum passed away on June 18th; 4 days after I arrived.
Her final words were a series of three “I Love You’s”. One for each of her children. For every moment I spent with her throughout my entire life, I am grateful.