Saturday, January 27, 2018

Three Js Park

After Jay died, I hardly knew where to begin to get back my balance.  It’s traumatic to be alone after more than fifty years of marriage.  No, we didn’t have a perfect marriage. Of course, I got irked at him when he wouldn’t listen, peeved when he didn’t agree with me. Sometimes I wondered why I’d  thought it a good idea to ever marry anyone.  But when death grabbed him and removed him from my life forever, it was awful. Loneliness and grief took over the space formerly occupied by my best friend and loving companion. I’m not unique; ask any widow you meet.

After a full six months of  living the clichéd “one-day-at-a-time” —with little joy and a lot of hell—I was physically and emotionally drained.  Prior to Jay’s death, I had considered myself  a competent, independent person. I never thought much about it—it  was part of my underlying reality. Not so after those six months, though.  How had I ever become so needy and incompetent? Even the simple act of starting the day was a challenge. In the ‘old days,’ one of us turned up the thermostat while the other one pulled up mini-blinds; one of us poured the coffee while the other one retrieved the morning paper from the front porch. Now it took twice as long just to sit down with coffee and the paper! And that was just the first five minutes of the day.  What I missed most, however, was Jay’s  support for my activities. My personal ‘fan club,’ something I had taken completely for granted, had died with him. Yes, widowhood is a great breeding ground for self-pity.

Enter now three men, all unknown to me at the timeJonty, James, and Jesse—to whom I will ever be indebted. They unwittingly rescued me from my pity-party and delivered me back into a good place. They didn’t rescue me in the sense of physically riding in on white steeds to pull me back from the precipice. Instead, they restored me to a good place by raising me up from a deflated imitation of myself back to the competent, helpful woman I had been as a married woman. This all came about because the three men decided to do something about the threat of a development project that would change our neighborhood forever.

Here’s what happened: A billboard announced that the golf course in our neighborhood was being considered for rezoning. The city was entertaining an application to change this land from the gorgeous open vista with a tiny clubhouse to an upscale townhouse community for seventy-six households . I saw the billboard announcing the proposal, and considered the increased traffic with seventy-six more families dwelling across the street from me and shrugged. Progress? . . . urbanization? . . . greed? . . . all with their inevitable degradation of environment and habitat.  What could I possibly do about it?

Jesse, James, and Jonty didn’t think like defeatists who couldn’t make a difference, thank goodness. Collectively they envisioned something wonderful in place of development—a park! With intelligence, passion, and vision, they organized a coherent message and began to talk it up to their neighbors, both known and unknown. As we gathered in small groups, they informed us that WE—the people living near the golf course—WE could speak out about the loss of open space and WE could save it!

I couldn’t help but get excited hearing them describe the possibilities for the golf course and began to eagerly attend meetings they were scheduling and followed the Website they’d developed to explain their mission. The grammar-snob part of me ruffled, however, as I explored the Website’s narrative, so I sent feedback over Internet about a few sentences that (in my opinion) desperately needed fixing. Instead of writing me off as a crackpot old busybody, they thanked me and invited me to give them feedback any time.

I began to review other aspects of their communication with the public, and every time I was thanked for my suggestions. The more I worked with the three, the more I realized I was feeling needed for the first time in many months and was enjoying the interaction with them enormously. My focus on the community gradually changed too. I began to care more deeply about the golf course land and the river running through it—and beyond, to the wildlife it sustains—and beyond that, as well, to comprehend the dearth of open space depriving urban dwellers. I began to think of others’s needs, not just mine as the ‘poor-me, new-widow,’ the countless citizens who would benefit for years to come from the acquisition of a private golf course for public passive recreation, land reclamation, and habitat restoration. I could, and would,  help make the dream a reality.

And indeed, we did make the dream come true. Currently the City of Bothell is requesting help naming its newest park, the 89 acre former Wayne Golf Course! WE really did save it!

Now, whenever I see any of the three men these several years later, I want to smother them in grandma hugs. They instilled in me a growing sense of community pride, and helped restore my  meaningful-life-factor. Because they didn't know me as a married woman, the word 'condolence' wasn't in their vocabularies. They asked me for help . . . and responded appreciatively to my efforts. Because of them, I began to look up and out again—beyond my grief and loneliness.

The bottom line is they made me feel capable again, even if I still can’t change a windshield wiper or fix the switch on a lamp. Yes, I owe immeasurable thanks to these three men—and hope I never stop being grateful for their gift. And hooray for our newest park, whatever its name. If it were up to me, I'd call it "Three Js Park."

1 comment:

Lucy Hart said...

Wonderful essay Sallie. Thanks for writing it.