Lazy eight, also known as infinity. The sign created as a secret 'handshake' for those who were in on the mysteries of the skies - the sun, at noon, traces this sign in the skies over the course of one year to the next and onwards. This is the sign of the endless cycle of life, the benediction traced by the daystar over the earth.
In 1997, in March, my uncle Bob died of a heart attack. Penny and I had been very carefully observing Lent, and noticing that Lent could be a fairly hard time of year, spiritually challenging.
In 1998 I had left Intel, and Holy Week was pretty stressful that year.
In 1999, things were better - I'd been hired at NEC, and it was ... not so bad. The spiritual challenges of Lent were more around our church's attempt to find a new Rector.
In 2000, things were still quiet, but we had friends who were going through much trouble, so the challenge was to pray.
Then, 2001. Six years ago, on the Wednesday of Holy Week, which happened to be the 14th of April, I was laid off from my job at NEC Eluminant - another bit of chaff blown by the dot-bomb implosion. Five months later, as the faintest hint of jobs returning was starting to show, the idiot in chief's aggressive incompetence was revealed starkly as the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were both hit by planes, an act of war by a not-country which sent the job market to hell, on skids greased by NAFTA and CAFTA.
Penny and I, stupidly hopeful that things would recover to the point that we could continue to live in the house we loved (despite its many weird flaws) spent what we had to in order to stay there, and gradually, we sold off our collections of games, dolls, and occasional art pieces - the things we had intended to use to go on a cruise to Antarctica and a cruise to Alaska. We persisted, paying for medical coverage that was initially almost as much as our mortgage, but which eventually outstripped it due to price increases and the creation of a sliding coverage/price scale based on age. And, boy, wouldn't I LOVE to see that slapped down on the grounds of discrimination.
We both tried to work during some of this time. Penny and I went to Norm Thompson Outfitters and were hired as phone-sales associates for the 2001 holiday season, which was survival work. She did fine, but came down with the flu thanks to some careless jerk who brought their flu to work ... she got pneumonia and had to stop, after about three weeks. I worked 2002 winter at the same job.
In 2002 at the start of Lent I was told I had to do something or I would become diabetic. And Penny was put on injected insulin, which undid all her careful, slow advances in her attempt to get her weight to a level where she could begin exercising without further destroying her knees. And then, in July, Penny was diagnosed with uterine cancer - endometrial cancer to be specific. At the end of the year after a very hard surgery and a very hard course of radiation, she was declared cancer-free, and immediately collapsed for two months to recuperate.
In 2003, Lent was about having to recover from the surgery, and a continuing series of job applications and hopeless interviews.
In 2004, at the beginning of Lent, we had sold everything of mine that was worth anything, and were well into selling Penny's stuff. And, in 2004 we ran out of money, near the end of the year, all my savings and retirement having been eaten by the cost of medical coverage and to a much lesser extent by the cost of staying alive and in that house. All our collectibles that were worth much were gone.
In 2004 in November I finally got a year-and-a-month long contract job at Intel, but we lost our Kaiser coverage because of stupid cash flow and the stupid bureaucracy of the coin-lusting scrooges at that supposedly not-for-profit company.
In 2005 during Lent, our house finally sold, and we moved into the apartment where I currently live, and where, late in 2005, we learned that the cancer had returned perhaps a year earlier, and that it had eaten 1/3 of Penny's liver. They gave her perhaps six months. She died in 2006, six weeks after the initial discovery, just as we were preparing for her to be treated, though the treatment was not expected to save her life.
In 2006, I entered Lent alone, for the first time in 25 years. That was the spiritual journey then. I had a six month contract at a very good payrate, and it was engaging work that let me focus my mind on something outside myself.
And now, in 2007, on April 9th, after six years, I will be starting work again. I'll be a consultant, so I can work there for much more than a year, and I'll have medical benefits, and even a 401K if I choose to contribute to it. I probably will, too.
So, the cycle has returned to its starting point, and I can see that things are still the same, and still irrevocably different. Just like every year.
I miss you, Penny. I wish you could have been here for this.