Last Friday, August 31, there was a full moon. Depending on how you define it, it may have been a Blue Moon. According to Starwatch, which we run in the Post each month, there were full moons on August 1st and 31st, but whether the second was “a blue moon is a matter of definition. The ‘Maine Farmers’ Almanac’ defined a blue moon as the third of four whenever four occur within a season. But a misreading of the almanac led to the notion that a blue moon was the second of two full moons that fall in a single month, and that definition seems to have taken hold in recent years.” So, for my purposes, it was a Blue Moon, from which we get the saying “once in a blue moon,” meaning almost never. The next Blue Moon will be July 31, 2015.
Friday was John Edstrom’s birthday—he would have been 66. It got me started thinking about our life together, and if you will excuse my ramblings, I’ll tell you my thoughts.
It is once in a blue moon that you meet a person like John. He was extremely intelligent—an editorialist, a poet, an historian, a student of the King James Bible. And on the other hand, he was a hunter, a shooter, a gun collector (all sold now), a fisher, a fly-tyer, a student of football. He could recite a list of British monarchs going back to before Shakespeare’s time; and he could tell you where any road in Winona County would lead.
It is also once in a blue moon that a girl from a Boston suburb would end up in Winona at the College of Saint Teresa, at exactly the same time that John was taking classes there during a semester off from his own college. And then, they had to be thrown together in a stage play.
Also last month was our forty-third wedding anniversary. This weekend, we are gathering to spread John’s ashes, a sad duty, but one he requested.
So August was a month to ponder the meaning of those forty-three years, and think—a little anxiously—about a future without John. But I found that it is difficult to really immerse myself in memories, because so many memories of the last eight months are of John being sick. And, during those months since his diagnosis of lung cancer on January 3, 2012, there was the slow dawning on me (John seemed to know all along) that he wasn’t going to get better. It’s a time for me to recall John’s continuous poise during those months.
John wanted nothing more than to die with dignity, a hackneyed phrase, but an apt one. His fear was that he would lose his composure, but he never did. I did, he didn’t. He wanted life to be “normal,” or more precisely, he wanted to live normally. So he did. He loved to get out of the house when I got home from work, because the Twins game was not enough people contact for him, I guess. And we were out to dinner two nights before he died. He was on oxygen, just recently in a wheel chair, and his appetite didn’t really warrant going out to dinner, but he went. He socialized. He lived normally. He got his wish.
Now I wonder about what I should wish, should hope for. Since his death I haven’t really felt a part of my life. It’s as if my life were a series of amateur snapshots, in which I appear only peripherally. A picture of a family gathering, and that might be my arm out of focus in the foreground. A picture of my grandchildren, and I am walking out of the picture, my back to the camera. A picture of a meeting I am attending, and I am hidden behind another person.
The questions I am asking—in this foggy land in which I live—is where am I, where should I be, where do I belong? Is this merely limbo, or is my present my future, too?