Sunday, November 29, 2020

ALL THE THINGS

It's always easier for me to see the negative, and I have to work at finding the positive. What could be better than Thanksgiving to focus on all the good that has been poured out over me? My frequent temptation in the last eight years had been to rage at the fate that took my beloved husband from me. However, as I look back I am grateful that we met in our senior year of high school and fell in love. We knew we were too young to make a permanent commitment then, and my family moved to Texas from New Jersey, but we kept writing to each other, and occasionally used student standby fares to travel to visit one another.  By the time I was a sophomore in college we knew that we were meant for each other.  We waited a year after I graduated from college, when he had completed two years of law school, to get married (he went through Harvard in three years which is how he surged ahead of me in school), but we were both only 22, which meant that we had celebrated 38 years of marriage before he died. While I would have rather have had many more, and we had been planning our 40th anniversary when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I had friends whose husbands had died after only a few years of marriage. As I told many people after he died, I would rather have been married to him for only 38 years than to anyone else for longer. Especially after we went on our World Wide Marriage Encounter Weekend, our time together was an experience of deepening intimacy and passion and unconditional love, and it seemed as if we lived twice as much in those years.

In addition, we were blessed with our six amazing children. After our oldest, Elizabeth was born, we tried for a year to get pregnant again, and we started wondering if we'd have only one child.  We had my father-in-law living with us, dying of cancer, and it was a very stressful set of circumstances.  That summer, my mother-in-law (who was separated from my husband's father), and the younger children stayed with him so that we could get some time away for a vacation, and the very first night I got pregnant. We had challenges with each of our pregnancies, and I lost the seventh in a miscarriage, but each of our children was a miracle, and I am so grateful for each one, even the tiny 11-week old baby who waits for us in heaven.

I am thankful for my five wonderful sons-in-law whom I love as if they were my own sons. They have all been big brothers to our son, the youngest of our six children. And with my daughters, they have given me 22 grandchildren, each unique and filled with special gifts. The year my husband died, we were presented with three granddaughters, and the joy we experienced in welcoming those new lives helped us as we were saying goodbye to my husband.

My home is another beautiful blessing; the mortgage is paid off and since I have to stay here so much of the time during Covid, I am glad that in the 35 years I have lived here, we were able to turn it from a depressing house painted a dark, dreary brown, into a bright blue home with white shutters and indigo trim. Each of the five floods we experienced gave us the opportunity to change something else on the inside, so that now every room expresses my personality in some way, especially my office with lilac and purple walls.

I am blessed that I discovered my passion for writing when I was in third grade and noticed that not all stories began with "Once upon a time," but more often than not, in medias res, right in the middle of things. I have been writing ever since, and all the time that I was raising my children with my husband, I was also writing, and ensuring that I would have time to write every week by getting a babysitter or becoming a member of a babysitting co-op.  Monday afternoons have been my writing time most of my adult life, although when I had an inspiration I would often sit down and scribble it on a random piece of paper so I wouldn't lose it.  Occasionally I would have longer periods of time to write, such as when we took a motor home trip from California to Oklahoma and Texas, and while we were driving through Oklahoma I was refreshing my memories of my childhood and editing my novel about growing up there. That was a scintillating as well as a hot and humid experience.

When I was in eighth grade our English teacher assigned a poem and it was my first venture into free verse, which carried me through high school and college, although I did write some formal poetry. But it was when I took a poetry workshop at what was then called the New School for Social Research in Manhattan from Colette Inez, primarily because I was getting ready to get married and didn't think I'd have time to write a novel. Poetry turned out to be my grand passion, and after the class had ended Colette invited me to write to her occasionally and she would critique any poems I sent. Our correspondence and friendship lasted over 40 years until her death, and I cherish all her comments written on my poems. Her own poems were almost an embarass de richesses; I have never known anyone so madly in love with words who juggled them together so astonishingly. What a gift it was to have had her kindness and incisive advice as my own poetry matured. I only saw her once after we moved to California. We went back to the East Coast for a World Wide Marriage Encounter Convention, and my dear husband arranged a three-week whirlwind tour for us, as we traveled with our son from Virginia to New England. Near the end of the trip, we stopped in Manhattan, and visited Colette, had wine and olives in her apartment, then took her to lunch at a Turkish restaurant on the upper West Side. It was a memorable time, followed by a stay at the Waldorf, a visit to the Apple Store which wasn't there when we lived there before, and (for our son) a harrowing drive out of the city since he wasn't used to traffic in Manhattan. We met up with the Pennsylvania branch of my husband's family for a lunch at King of Prussia Mall, and ended with a stay at the very rustic hotel where he had stayed every time he had business at the company headquarters.  After the Waldorf, it was a sad disappointment to me, but I am happy in remembering that he was so delighted to introduce me to the bartender and everyone else there who knew him, so I could imagine his surroundings when he was working away from home.  It is one more example of how much he yearned for us to be united even when he wasn't actually with me. It is a comfort to remember all the things that showed me his love.

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