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July 7, 2002
Here I am back home in Austin biding time to hit the road again!

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April 18, 2002

I've been slipping in and out of a space I call "the dark place" since I've returned to Austin - that place that's ruled by fear and conflict and where peace and security cannot reside.

When I first arrived, I was happy to be here and to have found a spot in a nice little urban RV park very convenient to downtown where I was certain I'd find a job immediately. Even though I'd been warned by my mother that the Austin economy was in a slump after Sept. 11 and the subsequent downturn in the high-tech market, I was sure that didn't apply to the legal field until I started calling firms that had begged me to contact them when I returned, only to be told that their business was so affected that they just were not using temps. One of the legal employment firms that I had worked through had gone out of business. That news only made it worse that the nice little convenient urban RV park was unbearably noisy due to road construction right outside my front door and my view was of heavy equipment and jack hammering fat guys.

So, okay, just think positive, woman - I'll just use this unemployment time to prepare my income taxes - more complex than usual since I had worked in 2 states that had state income tax, along with all the other complications of being a landlord and an RV owner. That job accomplished relatively quickly due to tax preparation software, I was then hit with the news that my tenant was not renewing her lease and I would have to deal with releasing my house. This led to worries of having to rent at a lower rent since the housing market has also been negatively affected in Austin, as well as my mother's fears about who her new neighbor would be.

I began to experience irrational fears that I'd never get out of Austin again. Just like when I left Hawaii and intended to settle in Seattle where my brother lived - when Angelique gave birth to Caitlin, I was unable to leave Austin because I thought she needed me. It took me 10 years to leave again and I have been loving my life on the road. But if I cannot replenish my funds with steady work and if my house doesn't lease on time, which income has paid for the mortgage payment as well as the RV payment, then I just may be trapped here again. Not that Austin is so bad a place - in fact I recognize more of the benefits this city offers after having seen some others - it's more that I just don't want to lose the lifestyle I have grown to love and there's just so much more of this country I want to see.

Don tried to be rational, tried to make me see that these seeming obstacles were no worse - and in fact less - than the ones I faced when I left town almost a year ago. But by this time I was teetering on the edge of that black pit of depression I knew all too well and which always leaves me paralyzed with indecision and the inability to just make a move - any move.

It was then (April 9) that I got the call from New Orleans that my dad had died. I had just seen him a few weeks ago when I passed through there on my way to Austin. After his bout the last couple of years with colon and kidney cancer, and the removal of one kidney, they discovered the other kidney was not functioning properly. Following one of his dialysis treatments, shortly after driving himself home, his heart just gave out and he apparently died before his head hit the dining room table.

During that last visit with him, I remember thinking he looked so terrible that I knew that was the last time I'd see him alive. In fact, during one of our rare real communications, he looked me right in the eye and told me he was tired of feeling so bad and was "ready to go." At 82, even after bypass surgery, my dad had previously always been so positive and full of life - still mowed the yard and painted the house and boasted of how well he always felt. I could not argue with him because I knew I'd feel exactly the same way given the same circumstances. What really broke my heart was that he expressed how he felt his whole life had been a failure - that he had 3 failed marriages, he had become estranged from his children and hardly knew his grandchildren. He had seen Caitlin, his only great-grandchild, only once in person and she is now 11 years old. His last request just weeks ago was that I send him a recent picture of her. That was one of my last failures of him - I had taken some the weekend before his death, but had not yet mailed them.

Since my father and I had not been very close in life, I remember thinking that I probably would not be terribly affected by his death. I certainly wouldn't miss those perfunctory weekend telephone calls where he would just recant every detail of his and his wife's ailments over and over again. What I know now I will miss is the chance to have learned more about the real man instead of just accepting the facade he put up most of the time we saw each other. Only once or twice can I ever recall having anything that could be called a meaningful conversation with my dad - where we revealed something of the usually hidden side of ourselves. When I was in New Orleans visiting him 2 years ago - he had been in and out of the hospital as they were trying to figure out what was making him so sick. That was when he was originally diagnosed with the cancer. At one point after rushing him to the emergency room, we were waiting for the doctor to return after taking more tests. My dad, obviously exhausted, was still trying to talk to me so I wouldn't just be sitting there bored. I went over to his bedside, began stroking the top of his brow and forehead, and told him gently to stop worrying about me - to just hush, close his eyes and go to sleep.

He later told my mother what a comfort that was to him and what a tremendous help I had been during that time. So when it was my turn to say my final goodbye, I stroked his head and whispered that I hoped he realized now that he had a higher perspective that his life had not been a failure and that I would see him again later and we'd have a good laugh about it all.

So it has surprised me since then how easily I am moved to tears - how I feel like I'm moving through an unreal, eerie dreamscape - how I somehow feel more alone in the world than I did before. I know I'll be fine - I know that what I am experiencing is exactly what I should be experiencing and is perfectly normal and natural - that I will come through this black cloud. However, right now, the knowing for the future is overshadowed by the uncertainty and confusion in the present.

I'm desperately trying to hold on to what I once read and know is true - that "When we walk to the edge of all the light we have and take that step into the darkness of the unknown, we must believe that one of two things will happen ... there will be something solid for us to stand on, or we will be taught to fly."

I'm poised for the flight, but am still grounded by the present weather conditions.

Copyright by Malia Lane - all rights reserved