The sight of my sturdy green suitcase, waiting to be filled, resting by my front door, suddenly filled me with gladness. It had been in storage too long and now was like an impatient friend, beckoning to adventure. Just the sight of it reminded me of Paris and Rome, Nairobi, Bangkok, Berlin, Chicago and Auckland, and many places in between. A thrill passed through me.
This trip is not so exotic, but more of a pilgrimage. After my oldest daughter Naomi died in 1999, for many years I would return to San Francisco in the spring to remember her and the life we lived there during the four months prior to her death. Those days were powerful, as we were constant partners, blazing through the days, burning the candle at both ends. Life seemed magnified by death—and so it is when I revisit places we visited during our last months together before she hastened on ahead of me into the next world.
The hotel I stay at in San Francisco, The Seal Rock Inn, is where Naomi and I lived. It is across the street from Sutro Park, where you can stand and see the Golden Gate Bridge. The first year, when I returned alone, a small shrine had been set up in my room as a gift by Cecilia, the manager of the front desk. The staff remembered Naomi. The Seal Rock is a family owned hotel with homespun values, and as I returned year after year, I counted on seeing Kate, an old woman who cleaned rooms. She was slow, but valued and we always had conversations. She read my book, A Heart Traced In Sand, about Naomi and our journey together. The last time I visited, Kate was 70 years old and still rode the bus to work and back home. That was four or five years ago, and now, I wonder, will she be there?