My Window

I sit at the computer and look out my bedroom window, realizing that I have to move out of this house and out of this room by the end of the month.

This is a room with a window through which I have viewed the world with eyes unfogged again since graduating from a year of recovery in a drug addiction center.

All my family members – eleven in all – came to my graduation: three daughters and their partners and five grandchildren.
That was a wonderful event, but I was afraid after they left. Would anyone ever love me again, knowing I had been on cocaine? Would I stay clean? Where would I live?

Fortunately I had a friend, the pastor of a church, who recommended me to an organization that finds homes for the homeless. I called and asked the lady at Catholic Charities of San Jose, California, if she knew of any rooms that might be available. She gave me a list of 35 owners who were offering space.

I called most of them until one paid off, and that’s how I came to live in a small 10 x 12 room on Cedardale Drive in the eastern foothills of California’s Silicon Valley.

I moved into the room and liked it. The window faced southeast. Morning sunshine poured in most days, especially in summer.
I’m still living here, but will soon have to move out with the rest of the household. I’m helping my landlady pack.

Looking out the window and up, I see a row of cypress pine piercing the sky. Sometimes at dusk the sky is ablaze with color from the setting sun that can’t be seen from my window, but throws its brilliant rays against clouds behind the cypress as the day dies.

My landlady’s name is Sherry Spencer. One evening, about six months after I moved in, I heard a knock at the door while working at the computer.

“Are you busy?” Sherry asked.

“Not too busy to talk with you,” I replied.

I turned my chair with my back to the window and Sherry sat in an easy chair across the room, her view the same as mine moments before, except that now I was blocking her view of the cypress.

We conversed a while, telling each other about our pasts. It was the first of many such pleasant talks as we learned to like each other. Gradually our relationship turned to love and commitment.

Now she has to move out of her house after having lived here more than 15 years because the owners are selling.

Moving from a place that has so many memories is not easy, much harder for Sherry than for me. My memories go back less than three years, but hers go back to the time when she first moved in.

Sometimes when we pack I hear Sherry cry. A favorite ornament with its broken arm fixed over and over again with contact cement has brought back thoughts of going to church for the christening of one of her 34 foster children.

“Come sit a spell,” I say to her.

She wipes away her tears and comes into my room. She sits in the easy chair, looking out the window. The season is spring. Budding trees cast the eastern hills in green. She tells me the story of when that ornament broke the first time. That foster child is a young adult now, making a good life for himself. Soon she leaves and continues working.

I hear a burst of laughter from downstairs.

“What’s up? I call out.

“Here’s a picture of the cat we used to play with,” she says. “Its name was Braylee.”

I go to the top of the stairs so as to be able to hear her.

“The name means independent spirit. She used to come and rub her back against my leg, seeking affection, and then as soon as I bent down to pick her up, she’d run away and hide, ready to play.”

The packing continues as we carefully put special pictures into boxes where they will lie buried until they are raised up again to be hung in their new spots in Sherry’s new digs.

Sometimes I get tired of packing, so I enter my room to sit and look out my window at the cypress. Today the sky is grey as rain threatens.

This window is the place where for the past three years I have contemplated my future. This is the window where I have been reconciled with my family, thanks to my daughters’ faith in me as a father and grandfather, as they looked beyond my illness. This is the window where I have thanked God for rescuing me from the deep abyss of drug use.

And this is the window where I have come to enjoy the love of a woman who cares for me despite my age. I’m 72, but fortunately my head still works and my body most of the time, except when my legs are weak after a week of packing and I have to sit and rest a spell.

The inspiration for this column came this morning from a book of poetry Sherry gave me while sorting what to keep. It’s called “The Magic Window”, written by Eleanor Hammond, born in Oakland, California, in 1890. She died in 1950. The poem was published in My Poetry Book – an anthology of modern verse for boys and girls, published by the John G Winston Company (Chicago, Philadelphia, Toronto) in 1934.

Our window is a magic frame
With pictures never twice the same.
Sometimes it frames a sunset sky
Where clouds of gold and purple lie
And sometimes on a windless night
It holds a great moon round and white.
Sometimes it frames a lawn and flowers
Where children play through summer hours;
Sometimes a tree of gold and red
And grass where crisp brown leaves are shed;
Sometimes it shows a wind-blown rain
Or snowflakes blown against the pane.
Our window frames all lovely things
That every changing season brings.

I read the poem to Sherry.

“That describes your window,” she said, expressing what I was already thinking as I sat down at my desk, writing fast and furiously on the computer, glancing out the window during moments of writer’s block.

There are many kinds of windows; all are icons to something greater beyond. Stained glass windows let you see the light of God.
Bedroom windows let you look out at natural beauty that changes color with the seasons.

The eyes of someone else are windows to that person’s soul.

When we take a break from packing, I look at Sherry’s eyes and see a heart that yearns for stability in this time of change.
She looks out the window, then brings her gaze back to lock eyes with mine, and she knows that I will be with her through this crisis.

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