By the time Cathy left, an amazing amount had been accomplished, but there was still plenty more left to do. Comically, she felt awful about having to leave with so much left unfinished; she saw herself as saddling me with a huge burden. I didn’t see it that way, of course; she had a full task list of pretty important things herself, including the most impressive sounding task, Find Us A Front Door. (We had no plan for this, at all, when she left.) I made light of it and got her on her way, with her huge suitcase carrying her desktop computer and a few plant cuttings (in case I couldn’t manage to get the few critical house plants up there alive, after she’d arrived) in addition to the few belongings she’d have access to for the next few weeks. (And remember, she’s seven months pregnant at this point…)
Then, I went back home and looked at the list I had to get through, and I did get scared. Carefully, and uncharacteristically, I sounded out the alarm and asked for help from friends. Even beyond the tasks themselves, I was worried that I’d either get no help because of everyone’s schedules (I am so sympathetic to that), or too much help all at once, that I’d have to manage and not be effective myself…
And behold, I got exactly the help I needed, at exactly the right time. Not too much, not too little, but just right. In the end, Brian Burke helped me build most of the pallets, Dave Sweeney helped me finish them off, Dave Tank and Cecilia Ortega did the final cleaning of much of the house, Dave Cialone came to finish it off, Cathy and Dave Sweeney got the weeding and outside work completed…and several others were in ready reserve if needed (thank you Charlie, Nancy, Sean, Dan, Browns, Sue & Buck and whoever else I am forgetting, my sincere apologies)…
…and get this…during this time, from Alaska, Cathy managed to orchestrate several of the bigger-ticket remaining items for pickup via Freecycle or Craigslist, relaying to me the item and who was going to come pick it up from me, when, and for what agreed price. There’s no way this should have worked, but it did. With everyone helping me out the way they did, I was actually free to respond to these things. Yes, my wife is a rock star!
I even got a dinner visit with Sean that I really needed–one of those absolutely classic Sean Ellis visits that you don’t really have time for, but you make it anyway…and which hits you like a ton of bricks when you realize that this is so much more important than anything else you could have done instead.
The pallets got picked up, along with the piano, which we had crated by a specialized service that was entirely worth the expense. Our lives, reduced to seven wrapped pallets and a crated piano. (For me, there came a point, after which I had double-wrapped the last of the pallets, when I actually had to stop and admit to myself that there was nothing more I could do to get these pallets ready. I was done. This was harder to accept than you might think–by this point I had been running flat-out for so long, I just wasn’t ready to accept that it could be over.) And again, here was a truly weird feeling, to have your entire worldly belongings loaded by a single guy with a pallet jack into the back of a truck, and driven off, on the promise that you’ll see them again in about a month.
In the end, the house was ready–empty, with a handful of things left in the garage that the property manager had agreed to help get picked up. I just had two more things to do, before I could catch my own flight (which had only recently been scheduled) to meet Cathy: attend a business conference for a week in Nashville, and conclude my work with IBM.
Cathy began the work of finding us a front door, getting a PO box set up, and other such critical things, from a temporary home base in Wasilla, the Grand View Inn. She started to learn the layout of the area, pursue leads on things like where to have the baby and where we might rent a house for the first year, and generally get us an established presence on the new frontier.
She got results. On a recommendation from Meaghan to check out Mat-Su Midwifery, a birthing center in Wasilla, Cathy found out that it was about a 3-minute walk from the Grand View. (How about that!) This turned out to be a fantastic find, in the end. She also got us set up with that PO box, and got candidates narrowed down for an initial rental house. This latter certainly had its own adventures, including various non-answers from places like the “immaculate cottage”. In the end, we got lucky running across Tony and Julie, who not only had the best house available for our needs, but who have turned out to be great people as well. How you get on with your landlord is definitely a factor when considering a rental house. By the time I arrived in Alaska, Cathy had already done the groundwork and by the time I got to see the place, it was pretty obvious that it was the right way to go.
While her early work was going on, I traveled to Nashville for the WebSphere Portal Technical Conference, my last significant duty for IBM. (I had already accepted the role with Davalen and was wrapping things up as best I could.) I actually flew out the weekend before the conference and drove out to Asheville, NC, to see Hunter and Julie and family. This was a really fantastic opportunity; I could hardly have engineered it better. Asheville is a truly beautiful place, and it was a pleasure to see everyone on home turf. We managed to cram in soccer games, a drive through the considerable fall foliage, full family performances with Rock Band on the Wii, a genuine sweet tea (gratifying) downtown, and of course just visiting a bit. It was especially touching to me that when the time came for me to go, Evan and Nola got a bit glassy-eyed; man, no amount of money can buy that feeling. Great kids!
After the conference, it was back home to conclude with IBM. After not quite three years with Big Blue, it was definitely time for me to take the opportunity I had been asking for since well back into the Bowstreet days, but I must say that IBM was good to me. I did the best I could to hand things over to Jack in a usable state, and again came to a point where I had to admit that it was done.
And then, for three days I was unemployed, essentially homeless (with an empty house ready to be taken over by someone else), worldly belongings somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, no permanent address where I was going, missing the pregnant wife I hadn’t seen in three weeks, exhausted from trying to get it all done, and with the same small set of belongings I’d kept at hand after sealing up the pallets. “It was an adventure” just doesn’t quite capture it. 🙂