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Irene Tanner Headshot

Falling Apart

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The first phase of a major game change is that one notices small signals. The winds of life are shifting. After a period of relative calm, something is stirring, signaling that the time has arrived to stay alert -- go along, accept -- that one's life has taken an irrevocable turn in a different direction.

This morning the door of one of my kitchen cabinets became unhinged. This occurred after a week of witnessing that I too, was becoming unhinged. There are no coincidences.

The deed is done. The closing date on my residence of 57 years is May 2. It is now March 29. Then I will have 30 days to move Muffie and Mommy to a new home.

The present prospects for this relocation are dismal earlier this week, exploring on a bleak, cold rainy day, I realized that no way could I live in an unprotected building without a supermarket or superintendent in sight.

Daily I look around at familiar signs of deterioration -- broken faucet handles, mismatched tiles, stuck windows, broken locks -- all crying out for renewal soon their wish will be granted as a young vibrant family will move into their gorgeous renovated home.

I can begin to contemplate a similar new lease on life as my attitude shifts from panic to possibilities. The end of this initially disturbing period is drawing to a merciful close with the implacable realization that no one is coming to my pity party.

When I left my first husband in Brooklyn and headed for Manhattan, the motivating circumstances were the breakdown of a dysfunctional marriage plus its consequence, a temporarily displaced child. Putting a Band-Aid on that situation involved further upheaval -- sleep-away summer camp and a long visit to grandma in North Carolina for Rick. Meanwhile I moved to a closet with a cot at the (then) Barbizon Hotel for Women.

By the time I had miraculously moved into my present apartment with 6-year-old Rick and gotten my furniture out of storage, I was immersed in a new doomed relationship -- Arnold. An attorney who reneged on his promise to adopt Rick had by then produced a daughter, Carol. Now it became a "my son, his daughter" situation with no win in sight. Red flags of revolt reigned on all fronts. When inevitably we parted, my mother pleaded, "Irene, please don't tell anyone." Clearly, my failure reflected unfavorably on her.

I did my utmost as a single working mother to provide for my family without alimony -- by choice. My angels for sixteen years were a live-in couple, Joseph and Mary Cabau. Joseph worked full-time elsewhere. Both moonlighted as "duenna" for me and devoted "grandparents" for my kids. Without them I could never have traveled extensively for my job as a designer/stylist in the textile industry, gaining income and experience. What glass ceiling? When the women's movement came around I had already been there, done that.

It seems predestined that this particular game change is occurring in the time frame of the spring equinox, just as Mother Earth is launching her latest line of beauty products for our pleasure. The fulfillment of winter's confinement has given birth to an explosion of newly born life.

Beginning with the earliest spring rites of pagans, most religions celebrate this season as symbolic of renewal, regeneration and rebirth. At Eastertime, Christians exalt Jesus as proof of eternal life through his resurrection. For Jews, Passover represents release from slavery into freedom.

Iranians and others from the Muslim world simultaneously observe their new year in the midst of nature's splendor. Zoroastrians have practiced their religion for 3,700 years. They remember their ancestors at year's end, believing that their departed ones revisit them at this time.

I live near a facility which cares for the ill and elderly, surely a segment of society regarded as superfluous by many. With a jolt of gratitude, I realize that I will walk into my new quarters on two legs and care for myself with two capable hands. My body is up to the task, supported by an ever more creative mind and an undaunted spirit.

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." -- T.S. Eliot

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