Monday, June 29, 2009

Just Last Year

We were at the beach this weekend visiting John’s mother. We had a good time seeing movies, taking walks and eating her amazing meals. Everything, everything is from scratch…I keep wondering where to buy this marvelous ingredient called “scratch”!

But there was a haunting feeling too that we both felt. We realized what it was when we walked up the tall staircase from the beach. A year ago John could not walk those stairs easily. The chemo was exhausting him. He could only go into the water up to his waist because of the port installed near his collarbone. His hair was slowly coming out. He was more sensitive to the sun and his belly—usually firm and strong-- was still soft from the surgery.

A year ago. “This time last year” I kept saying to myself. We talked about the fear we could not even mention a year ago. It’s not really gone. In today’s obituaries I read of a woman, 57, dead from colon cancer, so I know it’s out there. A specter. A threat. But maybe that haunting has a good side. It keeps me grateful for every day we have. It keeps me asking, “How important is it?”

Sunday, June 28, 2009

It's Not Just the Boys

Another Governor has had an affair. This one is South Carolina. His staff thought he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. But no, he was in Argentina with his mistress. An eight year relationship but he got caught. Tears on TV, a hurt and angry wife. Oh, we shake our heads, “What is it with men?”

But, and I know I am throwing myself in here, it’s not “the men”. Every one of these men who had an affair had it with a woman. So what is it with people?

Yes maybe there is a power/political thing going on. Bill Clinton et al. The privilege of political office etc etc.

But more likely it is something human that says “I want more; I deserve more; it’s here, I’ll try.” There is something about mortality in affairs. Sex is life. Passion affirms libido. Libido is creativity long before it has anything to do with sex. Infidelity is a tragic and very backhanded plea to live.

I was one of the women. I know what a man can look like when he wants to live and when he wants to not have not lived. The best men, the nicest men and even the smartest ones do fall.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Power Games

I’m reading Sara Dunn’s first novel, “Big Love” this week. I came to that after reading her new—and second novel, “The Secrets of Happiness”. She’s a terrific writer, whom I suspect deeply mines the real and factual to create the fictional. But it works because she is funny.

In the new book—really the old book--she is writing about the man she lives with. One day he goes to the store and calls to tell her he’s not coming back because he loves someone else. This is the kind of real or fictional scenario that allows for endless rounds of “Better or Worse”. Better to be surprised? Worse to suspect before you find out? Better to get it on the phone? Worse to not even be able to hit or scream?

But later in that chapter Dunn writes this:

“The person who loves less has the power in the relationship. The person who is not afraid to leave has the power. Infidelity is power.”

That stopped me. I had to read it over and over. Another mindless gal chat game: Do you want to be the one who loves or who is loved? Do you want to be the lover or the beloved?

Is infidelity power? Or is it revenge for feeling no power at all?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Reconnecting Reawakening Reunion

This weekend I was at my graduate school reunion. Three days with writers and artists--people who use their creative energies daily in their work. People I have not seen for ten years. People who are ten years older than they were the last time I saw them. People who mirror back to me who I was and who I am now. We talked about the kinds of work we are doing. We compared that to the work we thought we’d do when we got our graduate degrees ten years ago. After several meals and after several layers wore off we also talked about marriages that failed, marriages that struggled but stuck, children doing well, children struggling and children that died. We talked about relationships that took odd turns: the friends-to-the-end friend we made at school that no one has heard from in years, and the unexpected friendship that clicked after we all left Vermont, and the friendship that became a love affair and the ones that began to bloom this weekend.

I found that some people remembered me married and some did not, some knew of John from this blog and others got the full blow by blow of love in the time of cancer. What was surprising and comforting and made me believe in myself and others again was the kindness and caring of old friends and strangers.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Tomorrow I take my ex-husband for his colonoscopy. In the past this would have just been an errand, a way to help a friend, a companionable thing to do. Over 50, we all have this test and you need an escort—a driver. So, over the years I’ve done it many times. But is it so changed now because of John. That one time sitting in the small curtained cubicle waiting for the post-colonoscopy discharge, expecting to hear, “A few polyps; we’ll see you in five years” but instead heard, “You have a problem.” and then the year of cancer, chemo, surgery, the pump, numb hands and feet, and fear of his death—which has never really left.

Already I have this fear again for my husband. Not wanting those words for him or me or anywhere near us. One test—not even mine—changed my life.

Friday, June 12, 2009

If You Like it then You Shoulda Put a Ring on It

Last night we went for a walk in the rural cemetery where we have walked and talked for years. We had been there before we were lovers and after too. It was the place we had each gone alone during the time when we had taken our break from the relationship.

We sat on the stone wall remembering our conversation from years ago. That first day he told me that if we fell in love, “my sons, who love their mother, will hate me forever.” He knew.

Last night, on that wall, he said, “Baby, will you marry me?”
And I said “Yes”.

And then I put on the ring.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Other Woman

The past two days Dear Abby, the advice columnist, has run letters from and about the “other woman” (OW). Most are scathing—the hatred runs so deep. A few are guilt-ridden, apologetic, defensive. Some are from men—the “other man” and the guilty spouse who is having an affair with OW.

I read them. I make myself read them and I make myself feel the anger and shame all the way through. I don’t want to pretend I was not the OW and I don’t want to defend it. I can explain it to myself and I can rationalize and now—years later—I can say that this is what became of the relationship, and I can enumerate all of the reasons and “issues”. I have lived all the parts of this equation. None of them are good, none of them are faultless, none are without pain.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Obsessed by Dress

“What shall I wear?” is society’s second most asked question. The first is, “Do you really love me?” No matter what one replies to either one, it is never accepted as settling the issue.

--Judith Martin b. 1936

Friday, June 5, 2009

Happy Birthday Day

John’s birthday today and it has been fun. The gifts are all golf-themed: balls with his name and special red tees and a book of golf and grammar and new golf shoes. We played 18 holes this morning then both went back to work. I made a cake—chocolate and coconut, my own recipe. Birthday dinner tonight. It feels normal and natural and the very reality of that—after a year of cancer—makes this day quite special.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Brad and Angelina

When I teach writing to 10th graders we always begin with current events. In their world those events are celebrity and music based. Every year for the past six years Angelina has delivered the goods and made my teaching life easier.

Now, today, in the car I heard the news: Brad and Angelina are over!

Is it an omen?
Should Jen take him back?
He’s a dad now.
What a mess!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

This Fish Needs a Bicycle

I am 55 and I have decided that even though I do not completely understand my relationships --or myself in relationships--they are important to me. I was raised in and influenced by the unsettling mixture of Helen Gurley Brown and Gloria Steinem so I enjoy being in love but always with that odd guilt or shame for liking to have a man in my life and in my bed. I have decided to not care what others think--or in truth, to care a bit less--and I have decided to accept that it may be a past life thing, or a dysfunctional family thing, or maybe it’s a social construction of reality and gender relations thing, but I like men. I have pretended, dissuaded, defended and confounded myself and others because of these men certainly. But it’s true. I do. I like having a man in my life.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Summer Plans

We sit with calendars and block out vacation. It is a mixed blessing though. If I don’t claim some definite time off from work the summer will fly by and I’ll never see the beach or have real vacation as a couple. But when we sit to plan and mark off the days: this one for the beach and that one for the city and that one for the family event and then times to go see dance and theater and music –and now we add golf and swimming...suddenly we are turning the pages and saying "save that date” and we are looking at Labor Day. I do not want to wish—or worry—or plan my summer away. Where are the lazy, hazy days? Where is genuine leisure?