I adore my husband, Bill. He’s a fellow writer I met when I was 34 and he was 45. We often say, “If only I met you sooner.” Actually, we were at Ohio State at the same time during the Vietnam War and the anti-war movement. We have pinned down the demonstrations, marches, confrontations with the National Guard, teargassing, which we both survived. He was a returning Army veteran leading the thousands of us gathered on the Oval. I was a freshman from New Jersey, a follower. But we didn’t meet then. Instead, we met in a class at a spiritual retreat in Phoenicia, New York. Perfect timing, it turns out. Thirty-two years later, we have both worked in government, share the same political views that fueled our actions in Columbus, Ohio, continue to share our original spiritual connection, are still deeply in love. Enough said. Despite all this, when I’m off-kilter, feeling the barbs of everyday life, my patience wears thin and he stands there, innocent and loving, an unwitting target of my raw edges. I apologize. I tell him it’s not about him. I explain I’m railing against life and/or another person. But the arrow has hit, has wounded the absolutely wrong target. So this is my umpteenth apology for my twin flame, my soul mate, my best friend. I hope he reads it. I hope I read it – and do better the next time.
Bill and I sat in this amazing cacophony of hearts, cupids and a view of Indian Bay. By navigational error, we had arrived at Serendipity for lunch. The ceiling was red gently rolling scarves of fabric. The fountain encrusted with pink, purple and red blown-glass grapes. Except for the tables, all surfaces up, down and sideways were encrusted with symbols of love.
Three white-haired women had gathered at the table in the center. The last one to join them spoke the most. As I listened to their weaves of conversation, all centered on the final act of their lives, I felt a chill.
“You think you’re going to live forever,” the late-arrival began. “I took care of my mother and thought I was done. But it’s been 15 years with him and I am tired.”
The woman to her left, touched her hand gently. “Of course, Sadie, of course. Will you cook at the senior apartments?”
“No stoves, Gloria. Thank god. Time for a meal, I’ll march myself down to the dining hall.”
The third woman chimed in, “And doctors, can you get to doctors? That’s all I do when I’m not sleeping or eating.”
“Francesca, they arrange the rides if you don’t drive,” Sadie said.
Gloria cleared her throat. “How much does it cost – everything laundry, heat, lawn service, in your home a month, everything compared to this senior apartment?”
Sadie smiled. I could see her the clearest. She was in the middle droning on and on about being too tired to do the wash, not wanting to pay anymore bills, being almost done with the everyday tasks of life.
I didn’t want to hear this. I wasn’t sure how much older they were than me. But I saw them outside my peripheral vision, outside me. And I didn’t want to go there. Instead, I looked at the ocean, the menu, my husband and all the hearts and cupids. I hung onto my beloved’s hand – and love.
What is real and what isn’t? What is fiction? That’s what I’ve devoted my life to finding out. As a writer in search of her voice, I need to dance with strangers. I did so in San Miguel at the writers’ conference I attended there several years ago. It was my first foray into Mexico. My dear friend, Heidi invited me to share an adventure. That’s where we met this lovely Blue Man. What a lovely figure he cut. What better person than a Blue Man to chase away the blues?
In the course of 30-some days, I attended a lavish wedding in New Jersey where Italian and Jewish traditions merged, a High Tea baby shower in Delaware where the gifts were dinners, errands and babysitting and a funeral in Pennsylvania where suited men recounted stories of a man they loved and cried. They were all points of life, all sharing a piece of joy. This is life. I experience it. I write about it. I muse over it. I open my arms and embrace it. I grew up schooled in avoiding death, tragedy, pain, sorrow. Yet it is and always has been around me. But the arms of death, tragedy, pain and sorrow are linked with those of joy, celebration and new life. Textures, smells, sights, sounds and tastes fill every point of our lives. All we’re asked is to experience it.
- Once upon a time, I was a Comp 101 adjunct at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland and next door was this incredible quiet, brilliant creativelit instructor who invited me to sit in on her amazing class — and the rest was history. Suzanne became one of my dearest friends and cheering gallery for my writing and my life. Our lives intersected in so many ways — even the day her husband moved out, I left my husband. She was chosen along with me to be published in the Cleveland magazine fiction contest. She wrote, she edited, she brought up daughters and at around 50 married the man who loved her from their college days at Iowa. I was thrilled when we both moved back to Ohio but then suddenly, tragically, she died in a vehicular accident. Suzanne, you are still with me. You infuse each word, each image, each time I open my heart. Thank you.