Thursday, January 28, 2021. 11:31 AM 16°. Chill and metaphysical fog of death descending.
My four-season porch window on Algonquin Avenue faces busy Stillwater Avenue slightly to the northwest. The little avenue I live on is a short shot between two well-trafficked roads, Ruth Street and Stillwater Avenue. It is just a blink between mountains of snow. However, Stillwater is an ever-bustling thoroughfare through questionable neighborhoods and residential housing, eventually leading to a cute town named Stillwater.
I imagine that my area was once a matrix of sleepy, uncomplicated streets and happy faces – before low-income apartment complexes sprang up around the neighborhood, the average age of residents increased, and wage level decreased. Now, there are dangerous neighborhoods and questionable living spaces everywhere within a five mile radius. I delivered pizzas to some of those places last year.
Just last year there was a shootout with cops, an armed man, and a helicopter at the intersection of Stillwater and Algonquin. I was delivering pizzas in a different area of St. Paul at the time, but could’ve watched the whole fracas unfold if I were sitting at my desk watching life whizz by, as I typically do.
But I wasn’t at the time. And this static isn’t about the unruliness of the neighborhood around me, the prevalence of tent cities and low income lives, nor the crazy things I’ve seen while sitting at my desk and working on art, books, and blogs. I’m no sentinel, no neighborhood watch, no caretaker of the people around me.
I’m just observant. When you spend thousands of hours in the same place, staring out the same window, witnessing the patterns of traffic, pedestrians, and people over time, you become watchful and aware.
And you begin to wonder and mentally wander.
Buses pass on a clockwork schedule up and down bumpy Stillwater Avenue, mostly taking up both lanes of the road as they traverse due to their size. Stillwater as a traffic pathway is unique in this part of town because it is one of the only streets that have been cleared for large-semi traffic through residential areas – even though there are only two lanes, parked cars on either side, and scores of humble houses and close-knit spaces.
You think buses have a hard time squeezing up and down Stillwater with parked cars and two lanes of traffic? Huge trucks with massive trailers tend to take up the whole road.
As I watch trucks with large trailers pass by from my desk window, they can take up the full frame, dwarf any car or normal-sized truck that comes in contact with it.
Such is the way with “3M. Science Applied to Life.” trucks with trailers that use Stillwater frequently. I see them pass up and down Stillwater a couple of times an hour every weekday, their big red logo shouting like a hypnotic billboard on wheels. There are plants and warehouses nearby, I think. To be honest, I don’t know exactly where they come from or to where they are going. Having once been an employee of the company, I should know or should’ve asked the questions sooner, but I don’t and I didn’t. I don’t know what they carry, why they pass so frequently on Stillwater, or why I never noticed the frequency of their trucks until I was no longer an employee and staring out the window on a Thursday afternoon.
But their cadence is mesmerizing.
So many products shipped, sold, and consumed. So many consumers, so many trailers filled with products. Every day. Many times a day. Stillwater is seldom still.
Two years removed from exiting a state of security that I never should of left, I am constantly reminded of the decision to leave a life of my own comfort and stillness. Like echoes that never find equilibrium, I am buffeted by the fallout of the decisions following the death of my Father.
I lived through the Kubler-Ross Model and arrived at acceptance, but it feels like the stages didn’t ever end, that the Model is more like a Chutes & Ladders game – where you exit the fog of one dark space into the light of another, and eventually find your way sliding back to where you were before on the board. Depressed. Lost. In denial that what you’ve lost is attainable again, that the ladder behind you is findable and climbable again.
Parts of the Model feel circular, the swirling madness of creeping insanity that hook at you from caveats and idiosyncrasies. Another red-logoed truck passes, two over the course of the hour now. Is this the fucking Matrix? The size and vibrancy of their trademark is hard to miss. They catch my eye as they tease my periphery. Always at the edge of my orbit, reminding me of a time when my patterns didn’t feel awry.
Where was I? Where am I?
I can’t seem to move past the loss, move on to the next stable phase of my existence. My inability to get a job over the last year has led me to question what it was I accomplished after all, if I actually accomplished anything at all over a decade. I tell my story, but it’s starting to feel more like someone else’s success. Removed from the orbits of a stable life and support system, I now see everything through critical and clarified lenses and with Occum’s Razor in hand.
I fight to survive, and cut through the fog as fearless as I can.
I expect that this will always be a heavy week for me. The death of my Father on January 31, 2019 set off a string of strange events that altered my life unexpectedly and completely. I didn’t expect to take a leap of faith in myself. I didn’t expect the Seremark Synchronicity on the deathbed of my Dad. I didn’t expect my ex-wife to force her way into my workspace, much less in the same building where I worked. I didn’t expect to fail completely at trying to make a welding future happen. I gambled. I lost. I learned.
Moving on is happening slower than anticipated. The baggage is more uncomfortable than expected.
His death changed me as a person, but never changed my experience or capabilities. The death of a family member is an experience that is inevitable for most of us, and is one that haunts a lot of us for many years following. And when the numbers of surviving family starts to be countable on two hands (including extended family), your perspective on the exit changes dramatically. I can see a time more empty than now. I know the downside of life will be harder than the upside I just experienced. I struggle to see the positive.
But we’re all trying. Every day, in different ways, to see the positive.
Through pandemics, political division, and collapsing health, we strive for better days. I am deeply thankful for the many people in my life that keep me smiling, hopeful, and patient. They remind me today is not the end of the map; now is just part of life’s complicated matrix of streets and roads, trucks and trailers, heavy and light.
Two years following my Dad’s death, the old house on Fairway Drive where my parents spent over 30 years has new lives living in it. Gone are the memories of Zuege graduations and weddings, celebrations and holidays, pets and gardens. Lost is the sentimental anchor to a parental “Home”. The ghosts of another yesterday may still live in its walls, but it will now absorb the memories of another. It will house new joy and new experiences, while our present involves retirement communities, distance, and overcoming the tragedies of life.
There’s nothing left to protect, very little but legacy left. The mystery behind the passing trucks matters very little in the scope of the timeline and graveyard landscape. We try to escape our past, but it always catches up with us, runs circles around us until we’re too dizzy to comprehend direction, too jaded to give a shit, and too exhausted to do anything but
wonder, and wander,
as another trailer passes by.