Part One - Escobar
The story really starts back in 2019 when dad passed away. It was so pivotal in my life - visualize a stop sign that the moment you take a step forward in any direction, the way you came from is closed off to you. Not only did I unexpectedly lose my dad, but my norms changed immediately too. The day I got the call from the hospital, I was scheduled to sign a lease on a new place to live. I had to put all my belongings in storage except for my dog Fred and a few essentials that I took with me. I started calling the house Escobar shortly after I moved in. Yes, somewhat humorously and somewhat sarcastically in relation to Pablo Escobar, because we never knew what we were going to find as we dug into the hoarding mess that dad left me in charge of. I’ve spent many hours being simultaneously angry and sad at dad for Escobar.
When one becomes Executor of an Estate (in all legal terms and conditions), there’s really no preparation. You are thrown into having to suddenly make decisions and research and think on your feet many, many times. And constantly wonder and worry if you’re doing things the “right” way - which there are many definitions depending on who’s perspective it is (me, other heirs, Uncle Sam...etc). Suddenly, I became the owner of a home for the first time in my life. A home that has been neglected since it was built 25-ish years ago. A house that has more than a few quirks. A house that has taken my son, his girlfriend and myself over a year to clean out, fix, upgrade and simply clean - and we still aren’t done.
So while I’ve been dealing with Escobar, I’ve also been trying to adjust to dad being gone. Boy, that’s been hard. Especially since I’m constantly surrounded by his stuff, in the house he built, and because we saw each other daily toward the end of his life. All the advice in the world doesn’t prepare you for the aching hole you have in your world. Nor does any outside voice help to determine what to do with 30+ years of stuff crammed into a 1200 square foot house and three outbuildings. Stuff shouldn’t have emotional attachment. Right? That’s the reasonable thought process. But none of this is reasonable or logical. And it all has emotion or memory attached to it. Even now months later, I’ll find something in another box I’m trying to sort through, and I’m flooded with memories or hear dad’s voice telling me something, or I have no context to what it is or where it came from. It's equal parts frustrating and sad all balled up inside of me. And at the end of the day, I simply miss him.
Part Two - Employment
I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree in May 2018 and then was hired by the university in August. It was a well-paying job with great benefits. My goal was 10-years. I wanted to stabilize my income for the next 10 years, and then hopefully be able to “retire” to do my art full time. That was what I told myself. Because reality was, it wasn’t a perfect job. It wasn’t a job that had anything to do with art. And more than a little bit, it was just like every other healthcare job I had held previous to going back to school (that I had vowed I would never do again). I had changed through schooling, and I had a better sense of who I was and what I wanted to accomplish with my life, and I knew I was back in a job that didn't fulfill me. Again though, it was good money and great benefits. Ten years. I could do this.
Never did I imagine what a drama-filled shitshow it was going to be. Four bosses in 2 1/2 years. Two different divisions. More documentation than I ever wanted to do in the remainder of this lifetime. Ten years though - can I do this? Dad dying made me stop and ask myself if this amount of stress was worth that initial goal of ten years; because you know, life is short and I don’t want to live with regrets. Good money and great benefits. Nope, I can do this.
Then COVID came. Dad died July 2019 and we went into lock-down March 2020. I was now at Escobar full-time. Work became weird. At the beginning, it was work remotely only. For me, this meant being cut-off from normal processes (my job was very paper-driven). Escobar is on the side of a mountain, and normal methods of electronic communication (WiFi, steady cell phone coverage, etc) doesn’t just happen. After dad died, I shut off the WiFi. It was one more bill at the house I didn’t need to deal with. Plus it isn’t cable WiFi - it’s a satellite that is mounted on your house, that may or may not work, in which you are sucked into a contract regardless. So I needed to figure out how to make this work. And fast. Summer hit and suddenly we were expected to be in the office to collect mail and packages. But the university was still on lock down. And COVID was raging in our state. Communication became nil to what was going on - COVID isolation is real. Standing up for oneself was definitely not encouraged. But COVID is a spiteful bitch, and I have underlying health conditions that make me at risk - so I have to advocate for myself, regardless if appreciated or not.
October came and I was in the process of having Escobar’s septic system certified for title transfer to me (one of those pesky regulations that Uncle Sam insists upon) - and had just signed a very expensive contract to have that system repaired - when I was told my job was deemed non-essential and was being eliminated due to budget cuts. My last day would be 12/31. This became another stop sign moment in my life. While I was being told by my boss how upset she was over this administrative decision, she felt it was my opportunity to find a job that was better suited to me. What?! This decision and discussion didn’t sit well. After the initial shock wore off, I got angry. We were two weeks from the election, the plague was now raging across the country, we were heading into the holidays, not to mention the huge chunk of money I had just put down on Escobar to finally get the house in my name, and I’m supposed to be excited for the opportunity to reinvent myself? At 54 years old? That anger kept me going for many days, and put some steel in my backbone to push back when they wanted things in my last days. So very many things that I finally had to remind my boss that I was only human - that I was non-essential, but I’d better pass on every last morsel of information I had to those who would be taking over. I got the “I’m sorry your feelings were hurt” response back. Stressful times show the true caliber in people - COVID has shown me the true people.
Part Three - New Year
My story is just one story in this year of many stories. I am more fortunate than so many during COVID. A fact that I am deeply grateful for. I have remained healthy. I have a roof over my head, I have some money set aside, and I have a circle of deeply loyal people in my life. I honestly don’t know what this new chapter will bring. Escobar septic issues were fixed and are completely legal for life. The contractor will work with me on the house title/paperwork in the future when I become employed again. As will the banker who has been helping me from the beginning. Loyalty and honesty go a long way with me.
Escobar is getting a new chapter. It was always my intention to secure the house for Michael. From the beginning, I saw it as his legacy. And as much as he says he’s not emotionally invested in things, that tune quickly changes when discussing the house and property. He helped build the house when he was small. He knows the most about the structure. And he’s the most knowledgeable about the desert flora and fauna - unlike me who is still wishing the damn animals would quit eating all my flowers and plants. Michael is now fulfilling his dreams for a portion of the property - he is avidly converting some land into bike trails. He wants to teach his children bike safety and have a place to hang out with his friends (and their children). In this, I feel lucky that he still wants to spend time with me, and include me in those plans. We’ve talked and done some planning of building a casita on the property for me, so that he and his family can move into the big house. Escobar is becoming a multi-generational compound. And I’m really okay with that.
As for me, I’m taking some time. The world is in upheaval and transition. I’m still at risk for COVID, and I’m unsure whether I can be vaccinated due to my pre-existing allergies and asthma. And due to my losing my job, I no longer have health insurance. I’ve worked through many challenges in my lifetime - I’ve never seen anything like all of this. I went on a job interview shortly after being told my job was eliminated, and was asked what I was looking for in a work environment. Hard to know how to appropriately answer that question with the current state of everything. Is normal working remotely? Is normal physically working in an office? What exactly is normal now? So, some time is needed until things even out and a new normal can be established. Reality is, the older I get, the more I realize how important it is to find employment that doesn’t feel like just a paycheck. And well, if I’m truly being honest with myself, I haven’t really finished processing dad’s death. There’s been too much that’s happened in a short period of time. Plus, you know.... Escobar remains a work in process. I’d like to finally get my things out of storage once and for all in this new year. I’m down to the final room in the house - it’s half done. Then I need to tackle my art studio. And we are left with two remaining outbuildings that have to be sorted and cleaned. I have some ideas for Escobar and my life. While I don’t expect things to magically change as we flip to 2021, I remain hopeful for this new year. And that hope extends to Michael and his family, and our extended family of friends who are in our lives. My goal is to remain resilient as the world begins a new journey around the sun.
I have much to be grateful and thankful for.