Wednesday, December 28, 2016

#SOL16: A Snowy Day in Vermont

Zen (M.A. Reilly)

Lovers don't suddenly meet somewhere. They're inside  one another all along.  
                                                                                - Rumi


from my art journal
26 years ago Rob and I were married in Vermont by a man named Dave. It was a brief civil ceremony that took place in the front parlor of Dave's home with his wife witnessing the marriage. That morning it snowed and would continue to do so for most of the day. Later we would find an abandoned road, unplowed. We left the jeep on the side as best we could and spent an hour playing in the deep snow. It seemed as if the whole world was kindly waiting beyond the borders of our day and only Rob and me existed in that late afternoon. I learned there to never get into a snowball fight with a guy from Brooklyn.

You gotta pack the snow. Pack it,  my husband of just a few hours advised as he lobbed snowball after snowball at me.

It was a day only the two of us would know.  It is these private moments that frame what a marriage rests upon.


Rob and Max at home
Half of my life was spent with Rob. And though I have memories of times before Rob, they mostly pale and are more fragmented than whole. I learned through Rob how to be vulnerable; how to love and be loved. We spent 11 years together before adopting Devon and then another 17 years as a family with our son. And now Devon and I have spent this last year learning how to step back into the world and live.

I've been thinking about what made all those years feel so full and at first I began to note travels we had taken for we traveled often. But that's not it.  For what emerged were not scenes of Tuscany or the west of Ireland as lovely as each was, but rather ordinary days at home. Days not unlike today where clouds have rolled in and the air has turned bitter cold again. And when winter asserts itself the contrast between it and home is so grand. Inside, our home is warm--a place made for making art, for conjuring dreams, for becoming. Home has always been such a safe and lovely local place. It is here I learned the art of error.


Rob in intensive care, reading.
This morning wanting to connect with Rob, I read some of his last journal entries. I felt compelled to know what he was thinking in those weeks before he stopped writing completely. I had not been able to read these before as such a connection would have been too painful after his death. This morning though I felt differently and found his last notebook on a shelf in our bedroom. I had kept it close. Curled up in bed early this morning, I read as if some secret messages might be revealed.

There were no secrets, save one. Rather, my husband, part jester, mostly stunning intellect could be read in the things he noted and pondered. I had forgotten that throughout most of January he continued to read  The New York Times and The Nation. He continued to read Walter Benjamin. He was working on a poem about a child caught between the repeating image of self in multiple mirrors. These were a set of mirrors that had been in his childhood home. He noted that he continued to be disappointed, even then in the weeks leading to his death, in his mother who could not commit to knit him a hat he could wear during the anticipated chemotherapy--a therapy he would not live to see.

Towards the end of the entries he asked if he was losing his mind. It was late January and what he could not know then but what his body seemed to be telling him was what we would learn 48 hours later. He was at the Kessler rehab and again at the hands of his doctors and nurses, he would contract another staph infection and this time he would not recover. As the infection rooted within him, his tether to reality loosened and the fever and shakes increased.

He was so lost and so alone.

For the 100 days Rob spent in hospitals during the 5 months of his illness I spent most every day with him--save only a few days. I had breakfast with Rob on that Friday morning before the only major snowfall we would have last winter. More than 2 feet of snow fell and I would not see him again until Sunday night when he was transported to Morristown Hospital where he would remain until mid-February. It would be my insistent phone calls to the nurses that would finally prompt the care Rob needed and the doctor's decision to transport Rob to the hospital. I knew something was wrong as he was so lethargic on the phone, in such a hurry to hang up. This was not like him and I was scared and frustrated that I could not be there and needed to rely on others.


Watching (M.A. Reilly)
A year ago Rob promised me that this year we would go away on holiday to celebrate our anniversary. We had planned to do so for our 25th anniversary and we could not. It was a promise made with only the best intention and it was a promise that could not be met.

What makes for a full and satisfying marriage, is less about destination and duration and more about the contentment felt when standing still. I could not see Rob's death then when we began together so many years ago. I could not see his end as I cannot see tomorrow. It is the living we do between now and then that defines who we are and who we want to be.

On that abandoned road deep with snow,  I knew I would love this man forever.

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