Contributed by Joan Machlis
The missing you still feels so immediate.
My chest sometimes still hurts and there are still tears.
I also know you would be proud of me and pleased that I am finding happiness. Could the changes in my life have happened in only one year of separation?
I don’t know if you know, but I gave your Tanquery away to another physicist and there was considerable interest on NextDoor about the recipe for the Oppenheimer martini. The physicist who got the booze was just the first of five or six who responded. Some the classic textbooks went to another academic and his brother who are writing a historical review.
As much as I loved Davis, I moved to a small studio in West Sacramento in order to hibernate and figure out what was next. I kidded that I was going to have a nine-month pregnancy and seclusion while my new life hatched. It is turning out that vision has a lot of truth to it.
I am surprised how much I like West Sacramento. I’m intrigued by the aspirations of a very transitional community with huge amounts of undeveloped land and locational advantages. I feel comfortable with the diverse and more humble population and community than in Davis. I love all the water—the rivers and canals—and vast open spaces. BJ and I walk daily for several miles. I am only just beginning to explore all the history and urban culture of Sacramento—just across the river. Biking here is much less fun than in Davis so I’ve electrified my Marin and use it to explore instead of my car. (I am mad at Toyota for supporting Trump’s fossil fuel agenda so I am embarrassed to drive my RAV4. If it didn’t have the hitch and all the safety features, I’d trade it for an older car). I can see you smiling with amusement at my adamancy. You and Velia really chose the RAV4 and it does have great memories of our many excursions.
I have found a piano teacher with whom I play duets on both the piano and with his cello. He is a gentle and sensitive Mexican. I have started to consider dating. I don’t know how that will go but I know you would be pleased. Next Monday I see the photographs I need for introductions and expect to be surprised at the “me” a professional has captured. This seems to be a time of a lot of shifting and expanding of my self perception.
I also bought a piece of land in West Sac in a neighborhood I am excited about. I will be near acres of open land AND can walk or ride my bike to the capitol, downtown and the train station in under 10 minutes. I plan to start building next summer if things go as I envision. In the meantime my compulsion to pick up trash has reappeared on my daily walks. And, I’ve organized a clean up on the river walks near my new property. There is a normal litter that has accumulated and some abandoned homeless camps. I couldn’t stand the thought of all that plastic and trash washing into the Sacramento River with the upcoming rains.
My reading these days is mostly the news (which continues to be appalling and hard to stay away from) and memoirs by women. I am reading more about climate change. I am glad you missed the fires this year. I remember how much I worried about the smoke and your health during the last year of your life and the masks I insisted we wear. Now the fires and preemptive power outages are being called the new normal. I still feel California is home but people in some areas are reconsidering.
You have given me so much happiness and confidence that continue to fuel me toward new adventures. You lived your life fully through almost 96 years and didn’t let one thing define you. That is an example I want to follow. You lived through so much and it led to so much grace, humor and perspective.
You continue to guide me.