Sea Change, part 2

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Ah yes, the light bulbs. On the day after my husband died I went into his study, flicked on the light switch, and the bulb burned out. No big deal. During the two or three weeks that followed, all four kitchen light bulbs burned out, both hallway bulbs, both bulbs in our bedroom, and all of the outdoor bulbs. One evening I walked into the bedroom and as I reached for the lamp on the nightstand I thought Well this is one bulb that hasn't burned out. I pulled the chain, and the bulb burned out.

The outside lights that burned out included the bulb just outside the garage door, which my husband had replaced a couple of weeks earlier, remarking as he did so that in the eight years we'd lived in the house, it was the first time he'd had to replace that bulb.

I replaced the bulbs as they burned out, but after a couple of weeks they started burning out again, including the bulb outside the garage. I became somewhat obsessed with light bulbs, and I ordered some expensive 20,000-hour bulbs from a catalogue. The ones I put in the kitchen have yet to fail, but the one I put outside the garage burned out in ten days.

I had an electrician come to the house to check the wiring, and he said it was fine, better wiring than is put in newer houses these days. I told him about the rash of light bulb burnouts, and he just smiled and shrugged. Crazy lady. "Some bulbs are faulty; they don't all burn for the same length of time." But...but...

Burnouts weren't the only problems I had with lights. The bulb in the aquarium started flickering, and when I replaced it the new bulb flickered. I replaced the whole hood, and the new bulb in the new hood flickered. I finally discovered that the switch on the timer had moved slightly, although in how many years-- twelve?-- it was the first and last time is has ever happened.

Okay that's just what happens on the far reaches of the probability curve, but there were also two small bear fetishes that kept falling over in unison, always falling to the right and sometimes sliding an inch or so. They appeared to have been blown over although they were sitting on the desk in my husband's study, and had a breeze sneaked through the closed window it wouldn't have blown them to the right. At one point I tried to blow them down, but although I blew quite hard they didn't topple. These fetishes fell over once while I was sitting right alongside them but I didn't see or hear them fall. A few minutes later I went downstairs and my son asked me what had fallen, because he'd heard a loud thump coming from upstairs. I thought hard and said "nothing", because nothing had-- I hadn't even dropped a book. My son shrugged off the inexplicable, as we always do, and went on playing his computer game.

I, too, did my best to shrug off all these things. When I couldn't come up with an explanation I just said "Well, it's a mystery." I knew what it looked like: The fetishes were sitting just to the right of the box that held my husband's ashes, so it was as though... well, nevermind; it's just a mystery. It embarrasses me to add this but most couples have stupid names for each other and my stupid name for my husband had been "Freddy Bear", and he used to sign his emails "Fred E. Bear".

There was also the television set in my son's room that turned itself off. God how my husband hated it when our son left the TV on in his room. And there were dreams that seemed too real to be normal dreams. And one day it occured to me that just maybe my husband was trying in any way he could to let me know that he was still around. And I thought about how frustrated he must feel with my determination to ignore the clues, and I could imagine him saying Open your mind, Mary, open your mind... and that was when the sea change occured, and I began to think it more than possible, probable, that these things were not coincidences.

Anyway, about seven months after his death my son and I went out to Sonoma County and scattered his ashes there, on some property we own where we used to go camping. My husband loved it there and I guess he decided to stay, because since then the lightbulb burnout rate has settled down, and the bear fetishes have never fallen over again.

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July 2012

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