FORT KENT, Maine — For centuries scientists and philosophers have attempted to unlock the mysteries behind the relativity of time.
I think Albert Einstein hit it spot on when he wrote, “An hour sitting with a pretty girl passes like a minute, but a minute sitting on a hot stove seems like an hour.”
Over the past three years I’ve come to appreciate Einstein’s wisdom.
See, it was three years ago on Jan. 28, that I lost Patrick — my husband and best friend — to cancer. Keeping in mind the intricacies of relativity, it feels at once like just yesterday and 100 years ago.
Even before cancer invaded our lives, I often gave thought to the flexibility of time. I remember thinking my husband and I probably had another 20 or so good years together ahead of us and how that just did not seem like enough time.
Looking at those same 20 years without him, I have to say two decades now appears an eternity.
In the time I’ve had to adjust to “widowhood,” there has been a tremendous learning curve. And, to be honest, if not for a core group of amazing friends, it’s a curve I would have failed to maneuver on a number of occasions.
Anyone who has gone through the loss of a loved one will agree that’s when you truly learn who your friends are.
Sure, there are those who offer to help “anytime” and then vanish within two weeks of the funeral.
But then there are those who, even three years later, show up every snow storm to plow the driveway, who appear when a roof needs shoveling or firewood needs hauling, or who just know when to knock at the door when all you want is a smile and a hug.
Over the last three years they have watched and, I suspect, often cringed, as I learned to use that farm tractor, use the compressor with the pneumatic tools, to weld, use power tools with sharp and rapidly moving blades, cut firewood and groom my dog sled trails.
All things considered, perhaps it’s a badge of honor — not to mention a testament to those same friends’ patience and support — I still have my digits and vision in both eyes.
Not to say there have not been some dicey moments, like when I nonchalantly disconnected an air hose in the shop using just one hand.
Let me just say, a disconnected hose powered by roughly 160 pounds per square inch of pressure shoots across a room with impressive force. The regulator was installed later that same day.
When it comes to shop safety, I have learned more is better. Which is why I look like I’m dressed in full medieval battle garb with boots, gloves, face shield and jacket whenever working on a project.
Not a bad thing considering the first time using the chop saw to cut metal, I applied a bit (okay, a lot) too much pressure and the 10-inch blade literally blew apart into dozens of pieces of flying shrapnel.
Over time, working in that shop and unlocking the mystery of his tools has made me feel closer to Patrick. That shop was his domain, his “man place” we called it.
That shop and attached garage were the places he kept his treasures — the myriad old and rusty tractor bits, the tractors themselves, a dump truck, several ancient riding lawn mowers and multitude of old nails, screws and bolts.
The man did love his bolts — there must be thousands of them. Not scattered about, mind you. But carefully stored in cubbies, coffee tins and drawers.
Looking for a fuse one day, I opened up a box labeled, “25-amp fuses,” foolishly thinking a 25-amp fuse would be found therein. Nope, that and the other half dozen or so fuse boxes each had four specific bolts inside. Times like that bring tears and laughter as I imagine Patrick meticulously sorting and storing those bolts for future use.
Possessions, like time, have a way of taking hold. The knowledge that Patrick was the last person to touch or use many of those tools, rusty bolts and tractors makes relinquishing them difficult.
Over time, however, the tractor collection has gone from four to one; the old trucks have been driven off on flatbeds or under their own steam. I’m down to one riding mower and even the dump truck found a new home.
In their places have gathered my own collection of stuff — dog sleds, pallets of dog food, bicycles and related items.
Much of Patrick still remains in that garage and shop. Three years later there are still areas around his desk I’ve yet to explore. In time, that will come.
And maybe, just maybe, I’ll convince myself I really don’t need several thousand rusty bolts.
Time will tell.
Julia Bayly of Fort Kent is an award winning writer and photographer, who frequently submits articles to the Bangor Daily News. Her column appears here every other Friday. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.