I am not one of those who had multiple opportunities to marry throughout my life. I know people who could have married anyone. Had numerous suitors and sorted through them like a closet stuffed with clothing. Not me. I can count on one hand the number of men who were even remotely attracted to me and not one of them saw me as a take home to mom prospect. For me there has only been Will and now Rob.

My first engagement was storied. Surprise. One knee, rose, wine and a ring in a box. Very school girl fantasy.

Rob and I were not school kids though I was hardly a girl with Will either being 35 and all. But Rob and I came to be engaged after knowing each other for just a tad more than three months, and I would characterize the courtship as not usual.

The third anniversary of our betrothal is tomorrow  – sort of – and I don’t think I have every really written about it.

Rob came down to Iowa to pick me up for a Spring Break trip. He actually began planning this vacation for me early in our friendship when we were still just friends. Destination – Arkansas. We took Dee to my folks but had headed back to my home in Des Moines to visit with BFF and her husband before heading out. We went to dinner and saw the raunchiest comic/hypnotist show at a local comedy club before getting home around midnight.

A couple of weeks early, we’d talked about my coming to Canada. I made it clear that a move of that magnitude was not whimsical nor could I do any “test-driving” of living together. It’s not that I am old-fashioned. I just think living together is not a test for marriage compatibility.

“Let’s see if we are compatible by playing at house.” is a stupid idea that is mostly doomed to failure because I have rarely witnessed two people do this having discussed in advance what they want or where they are really going. And playing is how children learn things. Adults at play are … well … adults just playing. Nothing more or less.

Before you wonder, I told Will the exact same thing when he was basically spending every minute at my house within a month of our dating. I don’t live with someone unless we are getting married in the very near future. I don’t believe that two people learn anything from the process that simply having frank discussions about wouldn’t reveal and compatibility is like happily ever after – a matter of mindset and resolve. If I am in love and committed, do socks and underwear on the floor or snoring or never remembering to start the dishwasher before bed so there are clean dishes for the next day really matter all that much? Shouldn’t tightwadness or ditzy behavior have already been apparent? Sexism isn’t something that is easily cloaked until close quarters flushes it out and if you need to “test drive” someone, isn’t that really a red flag?

I knew that Rob and I were compatible. I wasn’t so naive that I believed that marriage is some flower and singing animal strewn forest of nuptial bliss. I didn’t need a test drive. Do you test drive friendships or do you just have them?

Before we went to bed, Rob took a box out of his suitcase and showed me the rings. An engagement band and a wedding ring.

“I’m not ready to ask the question, but I want you to wear this,” he told me.

I protested. I didn’t want this until he was ready. I could wait. He insisted.

We headed out the next morning to stock the ice chests for the trip and then hit the highway south with me ringed. It felt strange to wear a ring again. I’d taken my wedding ring from Will off the day after his funeral and it took months of rubbing my ring finger raw to get used to it being gone. Now it felt funny to have the finger encased again. I chalked it up to my whole thing with jewelry in general. I just am not meant to be adorned.

The second night in Arkansas – and again we were in bed – Rob said,

“You know what I wasn’t ready to ask? I’m ready. Will you marry me?”

And I said yes because I was too.

On the way back to pick up Dee at my folks’, we had a marathon discussion session. I don’t think I knew as much about Will after several years of marriage as I did about Rob after Arkansas. Very little was left unsaid. Full disclosure then and since. Too often we fall into this trap of believing that all will be revealed over time through gestures and situations and that another person can be learned through proximity. But I lived with my parents for 18 years and I don’t think either one of them ever really knew me. And it wasn’t for lack of time or love. We just didn’t talk. Really talk.

Closeness is more than sharing a bed and bath.

Yesterday was the first anniversary of my dad’s death. I knew Mom had taken the day off, but between appointments and whatnot, I didn’t get an opportunity to call her until the late afternoon after Dee got home from school. She sounded shaky but assured me she was okay.

“You don’t have to worry about me,” she said. “I did okay today. Went out to the cemetery in the morning and had lunch with Auntie before her physio. People have been calling on and off, and I saw neighbors. It wasn’t as bad as I was afraid it would be. Now I have all my firsts done.”

Getting through “the firsts” is a big deal. I actually didn’t know that the assorted holidays and anniversaries of this and that had a designation until Will had been dead for a half a year or more. I am not sure I really needed to know it either. I have learned a lot of terminology that is death or widow specific that probably hasn’t aided me as much as it was intended to, but that is another story. People are always proud of themselves for having crossed the mile marker which is year one. Year two is a whole other matter, but I didn’t mention that. Another thing I don’t think is helpful is telling survivors about the pitfalls to come because, in my opinion, it can lead to self-fulfilling prophecy situations. Best to let others go through their own ebb and flow without planting any seeds.

Rob inquired after Mom as we sat having tea after dinner and dishes were done. Tuesday is late dinner because of Dee’s dance, and we got home to find that Rob had supper waiting. He even did the dishes after – that’s a digression, isn’t it? I related Mom’s pleasure at having jumped the year mark and the fact that no one had forgotten her on this anniversary.*

“No one called me,” he said.

“Me neither,” I replied, “and I even managed to not remind Mom that she not only didn’t call me on the one year but she forgot the date and mentioned it a week or more after the fact.”

“Well,” Rob mused, “I’d kind of alienated all my in-laws at that point by marrying you.”

Before the first year was up. A point of fact that is less relevant as time goes on. Though it doesn’t completely go away, the fact that Rob and I continue on in spite of the hand-wringing makes the objections irrelevant in the face of reality.

“Well, they were all gracious about it none the less and seem okay now except for Indy. But she has issues of her own that are probably more at the root of things.”

One of Shelley’s sisters is a cross between CB and BabySis. She has never been anything but kind to me and Dee but when we have been out of sight and earshot, she has wailed and railed a bit. She is one of those people who no matter how removed she is from the epicenter of tragedy, will try to make it all about her anyway. It’s hard wiring but a hard childhood and substance abuse don’t enhance the trait  – in a desirable manner anyway.

This got us to talking about last days. The whole death-bed scene. And Rob brought up my personal fingernail on blackboard issue – the people who don’t show up because they want to remember the dying person “as they were”.

“Who the fuck do they think they are that they get dibs on the pristine memories?” I asked. It was a rhetorical because Rob just smiled and shrugged. We’ve had this particular conversation before and with no satisfactory conclusions drawn by the end.

At one point the memories drifted past the popular idea that the dying should be treated to a running monologue of non-stop chatter from the bedside babysitters. I understand the rationale. We live people harbor the belief that the dying person is alone, frightened and finds comfort in being connected to the land of the living even if they can’t interact or acknowledge. I wonder about that myself. We are told that people are waiting for guides to come and lead them away, but what if those last hours are filled with important instructions or lessons and all we are doing is making it harder for the person to pay attention? And what if dying is as much work as every other aspect of life?

Rob assigned shifts to Shelley. Her nephew played the guitar for instance. Her mom read to her from a book on proper nutrition for cancer patients.

“I wonder what Shelley must have been thinking then,” Rob said.

I actually just finished writing about this in the last chapter of the memoir I was working on. Will’s brain damage was so extensive that he simply couldn’t receive or make sense of information in any form. I didn’t know this for a fact until the autopsy report months later, but I suspected it, so I just didn’t bother to speak. I carried on long conversations with him in my head. If you’d have walked in on just he and I, you would have wondered at the utter silence and the fact that all I ever did was rub his chest or hold his hand. But my reasoning was that he was just as likely to read my mind as he was to hear and understand what I was saying.

Dee brings home a reading book every night that she must read and discuss with one of us. Her current discussion obsession is making what the teacher told them was “self-connections”.

“It’s important to make self-connections,  Mom,” she reminded me tonight when I tried to ask her about something else in the story.

But she’s right. Self-connections are where we learn and grow.

*Not sadiversary or deathversary or any other of the Hallmarkish terms.

It’s been hard to focus this week because I’ve been fighting a sinus infection,both Rob and BabyD have had spiritual encounters*, the Steelers won the AFC, and controversy in the form of assumptions and projections found me again.

In spite of all this I can pretty safely say the memoir is done. I am adding and revising things in the last two chapters still but – until the true revising starts in a couple of weeks – it’s complete at just under 87,000 words. A bit  short of my estimations. Likely to be shorter still because I think I am going to dump at least one of the opening three chapters and use the other two in abbreviated forms in later chapters. The chapter breaks too are still open to reinterpretation but again, that is for  later. 

So how many pages is 87,000ish words? 

357 pages. Double spaced with a 12pt font in New Times Roman. 

I am neither thrilled nor displeased with what I am calling a first draft despite the fact that some of it was revised a bit – more than once – as I wrote. I tried to just write without stopping but not having an outline other than the years and months, I had to reread on occasion and that always leads to revision.

I didn’t include as much of the correspondence between Rob and I via email and IM in the first draft as I thought I would, but this was mostly due to the volume of it. I will need to shore up chapters and this means going back through more of the “documentation” which is time consuming. I didn’t take into account when I began this that reading email, IM sessions and old blog posts would eat up a lot of writing time. I will have to factor “research” into the revision process.

On the quest for physical improvement front, I did not feel like puking or need a nap after spin this week. The women who have been talking the class since October assured me that Tuesday’s session was the hardest one yet and I held my own. Good on me. 

My new yoga instructor is awesome and I am finally getting into a more serious pose oriented yoga. I keep trying to talk Rob into yoga, but he still raises his eyebrow and looks at me as if I have never met him when I bring it up.

Rob has agreed to help me with my spin homework however. Yes, the spin instructor assigns homework. Abs and lunges daily. I can do the abs but lunges don’t work for my right knee, so I am to do plies instead. Rob gave me the look when I suggested plies for him. He will do lunges. And start lifting weights again, for which I am so pysched. He has the most awesome biceps and shoulders and pecs as it is  and more of that would be … well … more better.**

Finally, I am struggling with the book I am reviewing next Tuesday, Ingrid Cummings’ The Vigorous Mind. It’s not that I don’t agree with her theory or that the book isn’t useful. It is a bit repetitious however and very grounded in non-fic/self-help formula presentation. It doesn’t make for sustained scintillating reading. It’s something you tackle in stages and is not bedtime reading. So between not feeling well and being dog-tired from my new work-out routine, I am behind. I will be done on time, I think.


*BabyD was under the table playing on Tuesday night when she said, “Who called me?” Rob and I were reading the newspaper and hadn’t spoken and told her so. “Well, someone whispered my name,” she informed us. “I wonder who it was?” Who indeed. If it was that damn dead husband of mine, he knows better than to be playing games like that when I am having a tense week already.

**My motivation for motivating Rob to exercise is grounded in more than my concern for his health.