Written

I began writing a book on the third anniversary of Kim’s accident.

I don’t mean the book was about the third anniversary. The book is about a programming topic called SwiftUI.

I mean that the date on which I began was the third anniversary of the day that a truck driver on his phone ran Kim off the road and killed her.

I hadn’t written a book in years and I didn’t know if I could anymore.

In the first year I was focused on Maggie and me.

I built up habits. Maggie was great at getting me to the gym. I was great at making sure there was food in the house and we were doing the every day and every week things that needed to be done.

The dog was fed. The lawn was mowed. Meals were served. The dishes were washed and put away. The dog was often walked.

Slowly I built up to presenting at conferences and doing training again.

Those took a lot of effort but they were focused sprints.

I could run hard and prepare for a week to deliver a one hour conference talk. (Yes, a good talk takes at least that long.)

Slowly I was doing things I needed to do. Though some habits disappeared.

When Maggie went back to school I stopped going to the gym. Maybe the occasional Tai Chi but not often enough. The dog was never walked.

I’d lost a lot of weight without thinking because we were doing so many things right. And then I stopped. And it all came back.

Go figure.

Did I have the discipline to write?

I didn’t know.

And I have a list of four or five books I’d like to write right now.

I just didn’t know.

So I was looking for a way that marked the third anniversary of Kim’s accident. That day when everything stopped.

And so I decided to start.

I don’t think I told anyone why I was starting then.

I didn’t make a fuss about it.

I just quietly announced that I was starting a book on SwiftUI and if you’d like to be a tech reviewer, Direct Message me.

People did.

A week later I sent out the first two chapters to tech review.

A couple of weeks later I sent out the next two.

A couple of weeks later I sent out the last two.

And then on my sixtieth birthday, I published it.

Published in: on October 8, 2019 at 4:09 pm  Comments (1)  

Cars

A month or so ago I started thinking seriously about getting an electric car.

I don’t think I’ve owned a car newer than five years old so I started looking at used cars. Leafs. Bolts. i3s. eGolfs. Fiat 500s.

Actually, I started looking at one or two person cars. I see them in Europe and they’re all I need for getting around town. I figured I would keep a gas car for longer trips and head to the coffee shop in a Twizzy of something.

Maggie said, “no”. She’d lost a parent in a car accident and she was not supporting a small car that could be run over by an SUV that just didn’t see it.

Kim was run over by a truck driver on his phone three years ago today.

The driver never did any time for swerving his truck into her while reaching for his phone. It cost him no money and no time in jail.

But that isn’t the story I was telling.

I was telling you about looking for a car.

Once I started thinking more seriously about the electric car, I decided that if I got one with enough range I could make it my only car.

The farthest distance I travel regularly is to see my mother in Oberlin. That’s about eighty miles round trip so I need one that can comfortably do, say, one hundred twenty which means it should be rated at one hundred fifty or so.

Most of my travel farther than that is by airplane. Now that Maggie has graduated and moved in to her new apartment I won’t be driving to see her. I’ll probably fly. For those occasional long trips, I can rent a car.

So I started asking friends about electric cars and they said the Nissan Leaf, the Chevy Bolt, and the Tesla Model 3.

The only new car we’ve ever owned was the Honda we bought for Kim when we first adopted Maggie. We wanted to have a safe car for our new baby. A car that was reliable.

We decided to get a new car for Kim and a reliable used car for me.

It was a tough decision. We each loved our cars but they were old and neither was reliable.

She had a white Chevy Cavalier. She looked cute in it – but she looked cute in everything.

She knew exactly how big that thing was and could maneuver it in and out of tight spots without paying much attention.

I was driving a well-used Volvo. I loved that car. It was comfortable and drove great. The wind whistled oddly when I drove on the highway because someone had broken into the car to steal my stereo and the replaced window didn’t seal quite right.

So Kim and I went to a car dealership to buy a new car for her and a used car for me.

We knew what we want. We told the salesman what we wanted and who they were for. I told the salesman that Kim was the car person. But he decided to concentrate on me. When we test drove the car for Kim he suggested I get in and drive it and gestured Kim to the passenger seat.

He lost two sales that day. We’d come in to buy and we left with nothing.

Someone at the radio station knew someone who sold cars near us so we went in to look at a Honda.

He listened.

He focused on Kim and answered her technical questions. We bought the car and drove it for nineteen years.

Kim and I had been talking about selling it, but after Kim died I couldn’t have Maggie driving in a car that wasn’t absolutely safe.

I bought a used white Nissan Maxima. My mechanic knew a couple that was downsizing. The wife had a car that she only drove to Cedar Center to shop and to the beauty parlor.

The car was in great shape. It wasn’t really my style. It felt too nice for me. But I loved that car. It was easy to drive and had an electric sun roof. I drove it until just after Elena died. Too many things needed fixing.

So I’m looking for an electric car.

Last week Maggie and I test drove a Bolt. I have several friends who have one and speak highly of it. It’s rated for two hundred forty miles. So we test drove a 2017 model.

I liked it a lot. It drove a little funny as I came off the highway but the salesman said that’s just how it is. It tightens up at low speeds. Also I wasn’t used to the feeling of a car as it regenerates power. The price was good but it had been a fleet car and had enough miles in a year to void the three year/36000 mile warranty.

My mother had a great suggestion. “Test drive a new one,” she said. That way I would know whether that model had driven stiffly at low speeds or if the salesman had been right that they all do.

So I did. After I dropped Maggie off at school I went to a local dealership and drove a new Bolt.

It was nice. But it was more money than the base Tesla so I decided to test drive one of those as well.

A friend said that he thought Tesla was off-brand for me. That he couldn’t see me in one.

Perhaps. My cars had been old and used. I started in 1981 with a ’72 Century, then an orange ’62 VW Beetle. There was a brown Rabbit, a VW GTO, the Volvo sedan, and then that Nissan Maxima. Since then it has been Subarus. An Impreza, a Forester, and an Outback.

The Bolt does feel more like my brand: an aging, overweight, former academic. It felt like a regular car.

The Tesla was fun to drive and leasing it is about the same cost as buying the used Bolt.

Maggie reminds me that there’s no rush.

I was rushing a bit. I told them I’d make a decision today.

That was before I remembered that Kim was run over by a truck driver on his phone three years ago today.

Maybe that was why I’d set an arbitrary deadline of today. I can wait.

Kim was driving a car she absolutely loved.

She bought my sister’s Mazda Miata and she loved driving it.

She looked cute in it.

So cute.

She’d text me that she was coming home and I’d open the garage door for her. The dog and I would be working in the back yard at the picnic table.

She’d pull into the driveway with the top down, the radio playing, and she’d look over and smile and wave at us.

So cute.

So happy. She loved that car.

She’d pull into the garage and put the top up for the night.

I had an electrician over to see about restoring power to our garage. I should do it anyway. The automatic garage door opener hasn’t worked since a friend of Kim’s cut through the power while installing our patio.

He had trouble moving around in the room with the power in the basement.

I’d forgotten that the hard top to Kim’s car is still there.

I’m not going to make a decision about a new car today.

Kim was run over by a truck driver on his phone three years ago today.

 

Published in: on August 19, 2019 at 7:08 am  Comments (2)  

What’s Next

August 15, 2019 I helped Maggie move into her new apartment.

We walked around the corner so she could show me the high school she’ll soon be teaching in.

We walked around the neighborhood. There’s a Trader Joes a block away. A Walgreen across the street from that. An urgent-care.

She’ll be fine.

We went to lunch.

She walked me back to the car and we said goodbye.

And with that, she begins her new life.

And with that, I begin mine.

I remember holding her for the first time exactly twenty-two years ago one month from today.

September 15, 1997 when the caregiver from the orphanage placed her in my arms.

Her Gotcha-Day.

And every day since then has been preparing for her independence.

The first day Kim and I left her at Kim’s parents’ house.

The first day we left her at my parents’ house.

The first day we left her to go out for the night – to a baseball game.

The first time we left her for more than one day while we went to Toronto.

The first day of pre-school. Of Kindergarten. Of Middle School. Of High School. Of College.

Letting her go to camp. To Europe. To visit her boyfriend.

This is different.

This isn’t, “we’ll see you when we pick you up” at the end of the night. After school. After your trip. At the end of the semester.

Kim, you should have seen her.

She has so much of you.

She is a strong, smart, accomplished woman who has so much ahead of her.

I can’t wait to see what she does and yet I say that without expectation or pressure.

She knows me better than anyone in the world now that you’re gone.

She calls me out on things I need to be called out on and she listens even when she pretends not to.

I saw so much more of the world through your eyes than I did through mine alone. I would love to have spent the time in the car talking to you about our daughter and all that she’s become.

I look at Maggie and see three people. I see the parts that are Kim. I see the parts that are me. I see the parts that are so much more than either of us. The parts that are Maggie.

I cross the George Washington Bridge and drive through a corner of New Jersey and most of the way across the top of Pennsylvania before stopping for the night.

I have to pick up Annabelle in the morning.

I eat at a truck stop diner that is supposed to have great fried chicken at their buffet. That’s what their sign says. It turns out to be true. And as I eat a second plate full I get a text.

It’s Maggie.

She’s already set up her internet.

She went to the store and got the box and hooked it up herself.

She sends a picture of her apartment. It’s beginning to come together.

And with that, I know she’ll be fine in her new life.

And with that, I know I’ll be fine in mine.

 

Published in: on August 15, 2019 at 8:51 pm  Comments (4)  

Still

Twenty-six years ago Kim and I put rings on each others’ fingers and made promises to each other that we intended to keep for our entire married life.

I don’t remember if they included a “til death do us part” clause, but if they did I’m sure we would have interpreted that as a promise to be with each other and only each other for the rest of our lives.

There’s nothing in those vows about “and then what”.

Rings.

That outward sign of marriage.

A couple of years after Kim died, I found myself looking at ring fingers of women I would encounter. But there were married women who didn’t wear rings and non-married women who did. It was beyond me.

I had hoped that a ring would be an easy outward sign of whether a woman was married or not.

It wasn’t.

Then again, after our first year of marriage Kim and I didn’t wear rings.

We always said it was because we had gained so much weight by then that the rings no longer comfortably fit. So we decided not to wear them.

Could have been.

We talked about resizing them but we thought it would be a matter of time before we lost the weight again.

We never lost the weight.

We never resized the rings.

But we had developed other outward signs. I carried Kim with me wherever I went.

I always told stories about her.

What about now? Now that death has parted us? What are the rules for “and then what?”

About ten months ago Maggie encouraged me to try online dating.

I didn’t like dating in my twenties and I’m not liking it much now. But I did it as part of trying to figure out “and then what”.

It’s been ok but I think I’ll wrap it up when I get to a year.

I don’t know what I expected.

When Kim died, she and I had trips booked to conferences in Spain, Italy, and the Swiss Alps.

I’ve been invited back to Spain and Italy – there was a problem with the Swiss Alps where my flight was cancelled and they never invited me back.

When I go to these places, I carry Kim with me.

Recently, I was in Barcelona.

I went to two of Gaudi’s famous buildings, the Picasso museum, several Tapas restaurants, the Cathedral, and then I booked a visit to La Sagrada Familia.

I almost didn’t go.

I’d seen Gaudi’s La Pedrera with its stunning roof and nature themes and the nearby Casa Battlo with its sea themes.

I asked my brother and he said “you have to go. It blew me away.”   So I booked a ticket to La Sagrada Familia.

From the outside it was impressive. Each face represented a different part in Christ’s life. The entrance is on the side of the nativity and the exit is on the side of the passion.

In between was stunning.

The inside of the church was so high and open with stain glass that transformed the towering columns into trees in a grove in a forest at dawn on the side of the nativity and at sunset on the side of the passion.

I walked around and around and took picture after picture that won’t do it justice.

Then I walked between the towering columns towards the alter and sat quietly and felt the peace.

After a while, Kim joined me.

I don’t mean she was there. I don’t mean anything ghostly or other worldly.

I just mean that the site was so moving that I sat and thought “Kim would have loved this.”

I sat with her memory and so she was there.

Had she really been there I would have apologized for being inappropriate two nights before.

She may have said it was ok. She may have said, “you really shouldn’t have.”

Whatever she would have said, I shouldn’t have said what I said.

I’d been at dinner with the speakers from the conference I was in town for.

The young man across from me had asked me a question and I said something like “my wife used to love to do that.”

“Your wife?” he asked.

“Kim,” I said.

“But you don’t wear a ring,” he said.

“I haven’t for years,” I answered.

He lectured me that it was wrong for married men not to wear rings.

He pointed to his own and explained that he would never go out without his. It was deceitful, it would mean that he was ready to cheat on his wife.

I could have interrupted him to let him know that in all of my years of not wearing a ring  neither Kim nor I had ever been anywhere near cheating on each other. I could have told him that this was an issue that is so black and white with me that it bothers me when characters in movies or television shows cheat.

But I didn’t.

But he wasn’t done. He had a bit more to say about the character of someone who leaves his wedding ring at home.

And then he looked at me and said, “and what about your wife? Does she mind that you are here without your ring?”

And that’s when I said what I shouldn’t have said.

I said, “I don’t know. She was killed in a car accident nearly three years ago.”

And then I felt really bad.

Two days later I sat with Kim in La Sagrada Familia.

I smiled and thought that had she really been here, she might have told me that he had it coming or she might have told me that I had been really mean and inappropriate.

If you knew her you know it could have gone either way.

I sat a while longer with Kim.

I sat until it was time for us to go.

I stood up and we walked around the church one more time looking at the stained glass, the columns, and the carvings.

I blinked as I walked back out of the church and looked at the statues on the passion side.

I haven’t worn a ring in twenty-five years.

My Facebook page lists me as a widow.

My Twitter bio lists me as a “Dad, husband, and storyteller.”

I wonder if something has changed in me that the young man across the table saw no outward signs. No one has ever asked me why I don’t wear a ring before. Not once in the years when I was married but didn’t.

Maybe I’m wrong, but twenty-six years ago, the rings were not the important part.

The promises were the important part.

We kept all of those promises and more during our marriage.

So, what about the “and then what”?

It turns out we keep some of those promises after death has forced us to part.

And we keep those parts of our loved one that death doesn’t take with it.

Happy Anniversary Kimmy.

 

 

 

Published in: on August 8, 2019 at 5:49 am  Comments (3)  

The Boar

One of the saddest facts I know (and the numbers may have changed) is that 85 percent of Americans can’t remember whether Astrology or Astronomy is the science.

Plenty of people read their horoscope for fun – and I have no problem with that. They’re having fun with it, not basing decisions on it.

Others use it to screen out potential mates and to make decisions about whether or not to act on something today.

Other cultures have their own version of this.

Many Chinese restaurants in America have paper placemats with the “Chinese Zodiac” printed on it.

It’s fun and it passes the time but it is no more scientific than the fortune we get at the end of the meal in the definitely- not-from-China tradition of fortune cookies.

That said, I’m the year of the boar.

This is my year.

Next year is Kim’s year. She’s the year of the rat.

I never looked to see if boars and rats are compatible any more than I checked for Libras and Virgos are.

No matter what they say – we were.

Very.

After Kim died, Maggie and I went to meet with the stone cutters. We wanted a stone in the same style as Elena.

Elena was a Rabbit.

Maggie was clear that the rat on Kim’s stone had to be rat-like. It couldn’t be cute and mouse-like. It had to say “rat”.

And so it does.

When Maggie was in kindergarten, one of her best friends was a Japanese girl whose mother was here to study at Case.

The girl was a little older than Maggie and she had a younger brother a little younger than Elena. Kim would sometimes watch the four kids after school and she got quite fond of the mother.

“She’s a rat too,” Kim said one day, happily.

And then she paused and her face fell.

“Oh,” she said.

“What?” I asked.

“She’s not my age,” Kim said, “so she must be twelve years younger.”

And she was.

They remained friends and we visited them in Japan shortly before Kim died. We had a wonderful time with them.

Knowing what year someone is tells you their age to a multiple of twelve.

Twelve animals.

Twelve years.

This is my year. The year of the boar.

You can probably look at me and tell I’m not twelve, twenty-four, thirty-six, or forty-eight.

You can probably see I’m not seventy-two, eighty-four, or ninety-six.

No. This year I turn sixty.

This is my year.

And so I decided that for this year I would say “yes” to any conference that invited me to speak.

It’s August and I have one-hundred thousand air miles already.

I’ve only said “no” to conferences where I was already committed that week and one that had a military theme.

I’ve said a lot of “yes”es.

I may continue to say “yes” next year too.

During Kim’s year.

The year of the rat.

I may keep going til my year pops up again.

Published in: on August 4, 2019 at 12:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

Pears

Without thinking of why, I bought some pears this week.

I love pears but I never buy them.

I don’t know why.

I tend to buy apples.

Without thinking of why, I bought pears early in the week before Mother’s Day.

I always have.

I let them get soft and sweet and then early Sunday morning I slice them and sauté them in butter.

While they slowly cook, I mix the batter for the crepes that will surround them.

I whip the cream that will go on top and – my favorite part – I cook sugar and cream into the perfect caramel sauce to drizzle on top.

I put the coffee on and I listen for Kim to come downstairs.

I heat a pan and swirl the batter for the first crepe.

This one isn’t for Kim and it’s not for me. The first one is always for the dog. It never comes out quite right – but once it cools, she’s happy to have it.

The second, third, and fourth ones – those are for Kim. The next three are for me.

Not last year. Not the year before. Not this year.

This year I’ll eat the pears like apples.

I won’t peel and core them.

I won’t sauté them in butter.

I won’t blanket them in a crepe topped with whip cream with caramel sauce drizzled on top.

I’ll just eat them.

I guess that’s a good enough reason to buy pears.

Published in: on May 9, 2019 at 10:55 am  Leave a Comment  

The Nice One

Kim and I used to joke that our little secret was that really I was the nicer one of the two of us. It’s one of those things that started with a side-comment and somehow became established fact between the two of us.

I think all she was trying to say was that from the outside she came across as nicer where really I was the more optimistic of the two of us. That I thought better of others than she.

It turned out there was a quiet side of Kim that was nicer than I ever knew.

Since her death, every once in a while someone will share something that Kim did quietly without anyone knowing to support someone, share a smile, and to make them feel better.

Every once in a while I’ll get a note from someone with a story.

One woman shared aa note that Kim had written her when she was down both personally and professionally and Kim just wanted her to know that Kim had confidence that this woman’s awesomeness would shine through. Kim offered her strength and support at a time she needed it – and it made a difference.

Another woman wrote that she was in the process of moving and was cleaning out a drawer when she found notes that Kim had written her – little acts of kindness to say she was thinking of her.

Last week, I was in Edinburgh visiting friends.

It was the end of a two week trip that had started in Amsterdam and continued to London. I saw the cities partly through fresh eyes and partly through eyes that relived the Amsterdam, London, and Edinburgh that Kim and I had loved together.

In Amsterdam, I’d visited the Van Gogh museum. Kim had loved that museum and every few visits I return there to look at the paintings she loved and feel her there with me.

In London, I went to see a play – Arthur Miller’s “The Price”, with David Suchet as the furniture dealer. I hadn’t seen a play in London since Kim and I went to see Hamlet. The next day, St. Patrick’s Day, I stopped, as I always do, for tea at the crypt of St. Martins in the Field. Is their tea and scones better than anyone else’s in London? I don’t know. But Kim and I always stopped their once on our visits and so I often still do.

In Edinburgh I stayed in an apartment above the one where Kim and I had often stayed just off the Royal mile. I stopped by several times to see Christine at Forsyth’s tea but they were always closed. Christine didn’t always open her tea shop – when she did, Kim would spend hours there talking to her. When I would join them after my class or conference, Kim would have me work chores that she’d promised Christine we’d help with.

I was torn.

I wanted to see her and I didn’t. I wanted to tell her about Kim. And I didn’t.

The canals of Amsterdam – the streets of Edinburgh that Kim and I had walked and gotten lost in and walked in circles in. They all now made sense to me. I had a mental image of how they came together.

I woke up my last morning in Edinburgh to a text from one of Kim’s cousins.

Her cousin had found a note that Kim had written to her on her mom’s birthday a few years after her mom – Kim’s aunt – had died.

It was a simple note that celebrated the life, not the death, of her aunt.

A simple note that reached out and hugged her cousins.

“It was fitting that the first day of spring fell on your mom’s birthday. It was such a beautiful day. Love, Kim”

I smiled.

I was the lucky one.

The one lucky enough to have married the nice one.

Published in: on March 28, 2019 at 8:48 pm  Comments (1)  

Happy Birthday Elena

Elena would have turned 20 today.

This is the back cover copy from the paperback I published of the first four months of posts from this blog as the book “Dear Elena: Hope and Sadness” (Available at Amazon). The ebook has also been updated (available from Apple’s iBooks, Gumroad, or Amazon).

“This is a book about a happy and healthy six year old. 

The book begins the day after she died.

That morning, the morning after his youngest daughter died suddenly and unexpectedly, Daniel Steinberg created a blog to help him through this painful time. 

For years, people all over the world have written to say that the stories have made them better friends, partners, and parents. They write that they value the time they have with others because, after reading the essays,  they understand that nothing is guaranteed,

This book covers the time between Elena’s death and the day, four months later, that she would have finished first grade. There are stories about Elena, her family, and friends. But mostly, it is the journey of a grieving father trying to find his way.”

 

Published in: on March 3, 2019 at 12:09 pm  Comments (1)  

Preface

 

When Kim and I were preparing to get married we met separately with a priest and a rabbi.

The rabbi asked how we would handle the difficulties in our life.

Kim said she would talk to friends and maybe go for therapy.

I said, I would talk to friends, read books, and probably write.

We thought he was talking about ordinary difficulties.

You know, the problems that married couples go through.

Money. Time. Arguments. The waning and waxing of love and affection. Kids acting up or not doing well in school.

We had no idea.

Thirteen years ago today, our youngest daughter died suddenly.

I don’t know how we survived that.

I know I couldn’t have survived it without Kim.

Also, I wrote.

It helped me.

It turned out it helped others as well.

Two years later I thought I would publish some of the blog posts that I’d posted in that time and I wrote the introduction that you’ll find next.

I wasn’t ready to share it yet, though. Not in a book.

I know that’s odd as I’d already shared it as a blog – but a book felt different.

Two years may feel like a long time after a death.

Most everyone else has moved on.

I can tell you today, thirteen years after Elena died, that two years isn’t as long as you’d think.

Two and a half years ago tomorrow, Kim died.

I don’t know how I’ve survived that.

I don’t know how I possibly survived that without Kim.

A lot of it is the support I’ve gotten from friends, family, colleagues, and strangers.

Also, I wrote.

It helped me.

I’d stopped writing about Elena because it was unfair to Maggie to not be able to live her life without me writing about it.

When Kim died I wrote a little bit more,

I can truthfully say that with the exception of those two days, I’ve been lucky and life has been pretty great.

Anyway.

Seven years after Elena died, I published these first blog posts in an eBook but didn’t really tell anyone.

This time I’m cleaning things up a bit and publishing it both digitally and as a paperback.

Why now?

I don’t know that it matters, but on March 3, 2019, Elena would have turned twenty.

Twenty.

She never even turned seven.

I’m releasing the book on her twentieth birthday.

I can’t give her a gift.

I thought I’d give her as a gift to you.

Published in: on February 22, 2019 at 8:15 am  Comments (5)  

And also

I met a friend for coffee Monday.

She and her husband were like my aunt and uncle growing up.

Even later, my second teaching job was thanks to him recruiting me into the school where he taught.

He’s the one who told me that the ideas that I had as a young man would be better received when I was older.

Same ideas. Same audience. Same messenger. I just needed to be older for them to listen.

I thought of that recently when I connected Maggie to one of our colleagues at that school. Maggie is the same age I was when I started teaching at Laurel School for Girls.

Anyway, Monday I was having coffee with his wife.

His widow.

A couple years ago I gave a keynote at a bunch of conferences where I talked about him and his memorial service.

At one point during our meeting over coffee I mentioned that I felt cheated.

She nodded.

She knew exactly what I meant.

“We both had good marriages,” she said, “with good people.”

I nodded.

She then told a story of being out with friends soon after her husband died. Everywhere she looked there seemed to be older couples walking together – enjoying the day together.

She felt cheated.

That’s the future she and her husband should have had.

I nodded.

I knew exactly what she meant.

But this isn’t a story about that.

Not exactly.

I proposed to Kim twenty-six years ago today.

I almost chose another day because Valentine’s Day is such a cheesy day to choose. But Kim is so bad with dates, I wanted to choose a date she’d remember.

Spoiler alert.

She said “yes”.

We never really celebrated Valentine’s Day after that.

You’d think we would.

It’s the anniversary of the date we got engaged.

But Kim had known long before I proposed that we would get married and I’d known for a while.

Also, there are so many days during the year that you can celebrate. You don’t have to wait for the day you’re supposed to.

We’d exchange cards and sometimes exchange gifts – but we didn’t want to restrict it to just Valentine’s Day.

There are so many days to celebrate.

Our first date.

The first time we cooked a meal together.

Our first late night conversation that neither of us wanted to end.

The first time we walked over during our lunch break to walk around Wade Oval and visit the art museum.

Our first real kiss.

The first time we were intimate. And the last time.

The day we met Maggie. The day we met Elena.

As the first anniversary of Elena’s death approached how February became our month of eating cookies.

Some time around Valentine’s Day, Kim came home and asked, “did you see it?”

“What?”

“The tree in Jan and Elena’s garden,” she said.

I shook my head.

“It’s full of valentine hearts,” she said.

We walked down to see it.

One of Elena’s classmates and his mother had made hearts and hung them on the trees.

I had also bought Kim yellow roses with a touch of orange. The same roses I’d bought her when she had just given birth to Elena.

It didn’t mean that we were now celebrating Valentine’s Day.

But sometimes you need a nudge from a tradition to start celebrating again even when you’re not much in the mood to celebrate.

Kim and I still bought each other things on non-official days, but we took a break halfway through our month of eating cookies for Valentine’s Day.

A couple of days away from cookies.

A couple of days for chalky, stale, candy hearts.

Sometimes we’d get each other a gift.

Sometimes not.

Mostly, she’d look forward to a trip we were going to take together and suggest that that be our gift to each other.

But our last Valentine’s Day she bought us something special.

She bought us something to say she still loved our time together and valued the physical part of our relationship as well.

When you’re married more than twenty years, it’s really nice to know that.

First thing each day I would reach out to touch her when I would pass her in the kitchen in the morning.

She’d roll her eyes at me.

I’d do it throughout the day. A hand on her shoulder as she read the paper. A palm on her hip as I moved around her to put a pot on the stove. A hand that might slip to where it didn’t belong while we stood in the kitchen talking about the day.

She’d roll her eyes at me.

But she’d smile.

I told her she’d be upset if I ever stopped reaching for her.

“Try me,” she said. But she didn’t mean it.

As we aged, added wrinkles, and pounds, some of my favorite memories were of her hand on my back as she came up behind me as I cooked dinner.

And as we aged our bodies changed.

She hated the way her skin was beginning to change.

She thought it was beginning to look and feel like old lady skin.

It didn’t matter. It was Kimmy’s skin. I would reach over and put my fingers on her cheek as we lay in bed facing each other. She’d smile and then she’d turn back to her book and I’d roll over and go to sleep.

That last Valentine’s Day. That was her gift for us. Something that would help us enjoy moments of intimacy as our bodies changed and aged.

I cried when she gave it to me.

I knew what it must have taken for someone as private as she was to go into the store and buy it.

I knew what it said about how she wanted to live out her days with me.

Who knew we’d have just six months and a week left.

Cheated?

Yes cheated.

We would never be one of those old couples walking together – enjoying the day together.

And also…

Published in: on February 14, 2019 at 5:43 pm  Comments (1)