When our two-hundred-year-old barn was in danger of falling down in 2005, we built a new one. We put large windows in the southwest corner and added pipes for plumbing. We imagined Vic would have cabin fever if he worked from home after he retired from teaching. I’d likely feel closed in, too. An office space outside the house was a solution—a light-filled room with sunset views. Vic died before he retired. Dump that plan.
We thought we’d travel. Hike from inn to inn in the mountains of Catalonia or take a long off-season trip to the museums of Italy. Time to write and walk in the woods. More time to support the environment, read, meditate, and visit our sons. More sunsets. We were strong and fit. We took care of ourselves and would surely thrive into our nineties. You know what cancer did to those plans.
Our marriage provided a social comfort I took for granted. We were family, just the two of us. Then we had sons to make it four. With Vic, I had a dancing partner and a dinner partner. He was interested in my life and my dreams just as I was interested in his. We listened to each other’s woes, created solutions together, and gave long hugs when all else failed. We shared every small success and failure and argued without drawing blood. We made short-term and long-range plans.
When one of us traveled, we checked in each day. I loved time alone, but looked forward to phone calls and love notes that came by email.
On his last teaching trip away from home, too sick to travel six weeks before his death but traveling anyway, he sent this note from Columbia, Missouri:
I feel my love going out over the land, past Sandalia, the Little Dixie Game Reserve, on east to the Finger Lakes, and into Hector. Everywhere I look, I see the care and precision of your packing. Each little item thought out and put in the right place. It just shouts love at me. Deep thanks to you.
It was a lot of work getting here, but it gives me a chance to spread a little good around rather than just wait at home for the Grim Reaper. I continue to beam my love your way.
Now, I’m a woman alone. I have sons, family, friends, and a dog, but they don’t fill the hole. Coming home at night, I drive alone over dark country roads. No one waits to make sure I made it up the icy hill. I walk the trails of my forest, but no one knows if I’m lost. It’s hard to remember the comfort of watching a sunset together, of a shared life and shared plans.
I still make plans. I’m human after all. But I hold them loosely and don’t count on them as I once did.
I learned that everything changes with one diagnosis, one accident, or one phone call in the night.
When Vic died, I lost shared plans and fantasies about the future as well as him. Has your life been derailed a few times, too? How did that change your view of “being in control” of your destiny? I hope you enjoy these favorite blogs about the sweetness of marriage: Gratitude and Grief and Our First Home: Cayuga Lake 1968.