I’ve been mostly absent from social media, blogging, promoting my books, and generally any on-line presence for most of January. Since the 9th of the month, I’ve been in England, getting here just in time to see and have lucid, intelligent conversations with a very elderly cousin before she died four days later, and since then, dealing with all the responsibilities of an executor. The death to register, the lawyers to meet, the funeral to arrange, the house and contents to be valued, banks and utilities to be informed – anyone who’s been through this knows there is a lot to do. I’ll be here a few weeks yet: the house will go up for sale, the valuable contents will be auctioned, with some items needing specialist sales (more research). There’s a piano to be shipped. An energy audit required on the house. The list sometimes looks endless.
In between, of course, I do the grocery shopping and take carloads of things to charity shops (both involving an hour’s round trip from the tiny north Norfolk village my cousin called home), and call people to take away the stairlift and the mobility scooter…and once in a while I take a couple of hours off and go birding, for sanity.
And somewhere, in this last week, I stopped agonizing over the book that isn’t being written, or the retweets that aren’t happening, or the books I’m not reviewing, or the promotions I’m not posting. For two major reasons: one practical, one—philosophical, perhaps?
Practically, there aren’t enough hours in the day; at two months short of 65, I don’t have the energy I once did. Just getting through what needs to be done, taking time for at least a short walk, and preparing three meals a day, simple as they are (and cleaning up) is all I’m going to do.
I’m not 40-something now, even if my mind thinks I am.
Philosophically, there’s also the processing of loss, of saying goodbye. I won’t say I’m grieving, exactly: my cousin was nearly 102, had lived a marvelous life, and was ready to go. I’ll miss her, though: miss her stories of Oxford in the war years and of her first teaching job in a remote Cumberland village; miss her erudite and incisive opinions of literature classic and modern (don’t get an MFA, she told me, everyone who does writes in the same way). I’ll miss her ability to quote long passages of the metaphysical poets and Macauley’s Lays of Ancient Rome. She once spent some considerable time working out if my Latin-based conlanguage has proper grammar. (It doesn’t.) She liked my books: they made her think, she said. She left me, specifically, her library.
Sorting through the remnants and memories of a life takes time, and it takes attention. I was entrusted with this task because she said I’d know what was important. Honouring that takes time and attention and energy, too. So Empire’s Passing will wait, and I’ll lose followers on social media and my other books sales will drop. But I will have kept a promise, and that matters more.
And someday–maybe–I’ll be back.