Prodominal Prologue (Day 1)
2021: Biosphere Down
There is an adage about mutations in a chromosome. Mutations are accidents, and while most of the time, they will be deleterious and harmful, sometimes mutations are able to make an organism stronger or better. The same is true in relationships fix something that was thought to be forever broken.
When Theresa Katz became a widow in the spring of 1992, the cause was an accident. Her husband of fifteen years, had been in a rental car on a business trip, when a large, delivery van traveling in the opposite lane suddenly veered right into the path of the rental because it had broken a tie rod. Theresa’s husband had been killed instantly. The funeral, though, ended up patching an old, festering wound between daughter and father. She, had longed to see her father, but since his abrupt departure when she was in high school, she only received cards on holidays. He, having desperately missed her, had hoped to find a way to see her and also to know his unknown grandchildren before he died. The funeral allowed this healing between daughter and father to begin.
That summer, Theresa, with her two children in tow, had a neighbor drive them from their home in Chelsea, Michigan to Detroit, where they boarded the Amtrak and proceeded on a journey across the nation,
In the train, Benjamin, the younger of the two children, said, “Why didn’t we ever get to visit Grandpa Gough before?”
His mother wistfully looked out the window of the train at the countryside sliding past. The prairie grasses seemed more robust and vibrant than she had remembered from her trips when she was young.
She said in a hesitant, quiet voice, “Sometimes, it is not really something that was meant to happen, but it simply did. When grandma and grandpa divorced, it was very hard for me to understand. I felt abandoned by him, and I grew to ignore and avoid him as well.”
Her voice trailed off as she thought about the storm of emotions that welled up in her each time she thought of those early months following the divorce. She had never felt such intensity of emotion or fear, and hoped she would never experience that again. Yet, only now did she see that this sort of harsh, deep emotion was a part of most every memory she had, through to her own husband’s untimely death. In this way, it appears that time had proven to her that the pain and the sorrow were to be a permanent part of the life she had chosen. Pain in the loss of the contentment of her married life. Pain as she saw how squalid her life was to become. The pain of having had to be estranged from her father, the sorrow that never seemed to die.
Benjamin asked, “But how did it all start? Why did Grandma and Grandpa divorce?”
It was difficult, if not impossible to a 10-year-old the reasons for the split between two people who loved each other as deeply as her mother and father had. It was nearly impossible for her to understand it even though she, herself had lived through it. It seemed almost impossible to think of academia and the pull it had, being so strong as to tear a family apart. But it had.
But even so, now she was feeling sorry it had kept her apart, and by default her (now dead) husband, and their two lovely children, from being able to share joys with her father.
She said, “It doesn’t matter anymore.” And she meant it.
Olivia set down her book of puzzles. Two years older than Benjamin, Olivia had a bright, enthusiastic demeanor. She was much more artistic and craft oriented than her brother. However, her artistic sensibility came with a price, for if she became tired, she would also easily have an emotional meltdown.
“What is it like in California?” she asked, picking another small piece of the Danish her mother had gotten from the food car earlier in their trip and gingerly placing it in her mouth.
“It is beautiful... but wait, I do not want to describe it for you, for I want you to experience it yourself with a fresh mind.”
Theresa had spent her high school and adult life in Michigan, her parents having moved there for joint positions at the University, but before they had lived throughout various parts of California, as her parents vagabonded around the state from one Post-Doc to another, one adjunct position to another as they searched for a school that would take both of them in tenure track positions in their respective fields.