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Jamie Greenebaum Headshot

I Can Find Myself Whole in the Dimension of Grief

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SANTA BARBARA OCEAN
By Alan Tsai via Getty Images

"You are traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone!"

I am on a flight back home from California. Experiencing a bit of turbulence and the pilot has everyone, including the flight attendants,strapping in. The head attendant announces that if anyone has a medical emergency to hit the call attendant light four or five times. What, they won't answer the first one to four times?!?!? Perfect absurdity for me to start writing about my adventure.

The trip starts at 5:30 a.m., when my friends come to pick me up to take me to the airport. Looking back, I realize what an amazing piece of luck it is that I flew into San Francisco as opposed to Los Angeles. No memories with Robert of flying into SF. And throughout the trip, I realized it was the little things that tipped the scale. Of course it's the little things! It is always the little things. Duh!!!

I am on my own. I am doing this. I am flying all the way across the country by myself. I am staying with virtual friends again. I am leaving all that is familiar behind. Venturing into the unknown. I am willingly, knowingly, consciously stepping into another dimension. And I am fine. Now, tell me: How is this possible!?

When the plane lands in SF, I receive a text message saying that my connecting flight is boarding in eight minutes. I board a shuttle bus to a totally different terminal. The shuttle bus takes me a scenic tour of the entire airport. I believe we lap the airport twice.

My heart is pounding. But it is a normal, "am I going to make my plane?!?!" kind of heart pounding. Not what has become the usual unexplained heart palpitations. Interesting to even be able to note the difference. And, of course, when I get to the gate, the plane has not even arrived. Delayed. My heart rate returns to normal. Huh? How is that possible?

I am whole. Complete. This adventure is mine. It is about me. I look around. I meet my virtual friends who in a Twilight Zone instant, become physical flesh and blood friends. Clamber into their monster (hey, I'm an Easterner) pickup for a two-hour drive to their home in Paso Robles. Talk about stepping into a new dimension.

Going to Polly and Jim's in Paso Robles is another blessing. No memories there. Only memories that are part of me. They are my friends. I have talked for hours on the phone with Polly. When I got to the Santa Barbara airport, they are the only people waiting. And as I am going down the escalator I yell "Polly!" and she yells "Jamie." I know her voice. And it warms my soul.

We drive through country that is totally alien, new, different, unrecognizable to me. I have clearly spent way too much time in New England. Open land, hills, lots and lots of hills, rolling hills, big huge hills. There are views. Wide open sky. Roads. Hills. I look out the window, of the pickup, in wonder at the landscape. And realize once again I am whole. Complete. How is this possible?

I spend a magical week with Polly and Jim. Do have moments of grief. And lose it completely one night. But each time I return to... myself.

With Polly I meet a Z, a zebra. Scott, a real-life cowboy (remember I am an tender foot) who raises and trains horses and bucking bulls! We wander through Paso Robles, eat at a wonderful local place, stop in at a Western Art Gallery and shop our way through the Boot Barn so I can find the perfect pair of riding cowboy boots. Visit an amazing Dressage Equestrian Center. Go on the ultimate beach trail ride at Montana de Oro State Park in Osos.

On the trail ride, as the horses are climbing out of the eucalyptus forest and through the flanks of the hills, we get our first sight of the ocean and Morro Rock. I am overcome with memories and tears. Rob and I had been to Morro Rock, walked through the town. I cry on horseback overlooking the ocean. Why did it take his death to get me here?

The week is over and I travel down the coast to Santa Barbara. Staying now with Kathleen who was a classmate of Rob's. The memories of Rob are so much more present. And Kathleen lost her husband more than 2-1/2 years ago and reached out -- widow to widow.

We sit on her balcony overlooking the ocean and talk and cry together. She suggests we drive into Santa Barbara and do a little shopping. What a delightful idea. But driving through the town overwhelms me with memories. I recognize street names, buildings, shops. Rob loved to walk here and we had wandered in and out of the shops together. I am crying again and Kathleen just turns the car around and drives us home.

I am learning that I can be whole. Can be me. But right now, that means where the focus and emphasis is about me. Not about us. The "us" is in my heart, but no longer on this physical plain. Now I'm heading home with both relief and anxiety. So, what else is new?