The last time I needed crutches at least it was because of a ski accident and then I had a house full of family to push a wheelchair, grocery shop and cook. Living alone, crutches were my chariot and I was limited to traveling as far as my arm strength would lift me –or hail a cab in the wintry weather, limping, open toed in long skirts . . .
Whether it was my fear of feeling stranded or genuine intrigue with the new men-characters in my life, I was keen to venture out… So it was when Bond, James, came back up from Tampa the following week and texted: “MEET ME FOR A DRINK AT THE CARLYLE TONIGHT AT 9?”I replied “LOVE TO; WILL MAKE A GRAND ENTRANCE” – and I did, hobbling in pegged legged, shocking him and landing us the perfect corner table for the first of many intimate conversations. (He did treat me to a wonderful black tie affair soon after, leg brace and hoop skirt, proving a very suave escort.) Surfer Dude stopped by bi-weekly with freshly baked bread and DVDs, flattering me with his attention as well . .
I replied “LOVE TO; WILL MAKE A GRAND ENTRANCE” – and I did, hobbling in pegged legged, shocking him and landing us the perfect corner table for the first of many intimate conversations. (He did treat me to a wonderful black tie affair soon after, leg brace and hoop skirt, proving a very suave escort.) Surfer Dude stopped by bi-weekly with freshly baked bread and DVDs, flattering me with his attention as well . . .
But the primary happening in January was my papa’s transitioning from this world to the next and on one particularly tough day, I’d had enough of balancing the physical and the emotional. I broke down in a call to Karen. “What do you want?” she gently asked hearing my voice crack . . . “I want the BF-from-out-of-town to hold me . . . just for one night.”
“So, call him,” she counseled, “tell him.”
In the Tony Award winning musical SPRING AWAKENING, there’s a beautiful lyric, “I will be your wound; you will be my wound,” sung by two young lovers after discovering their passion for the first time. In the 8-year on-again-off-again affair with the-BF-from-out-of-town we loved each other more deeply than I ever had – and we hurt each other equally as deeply as I wandered through the painful process of ending my marriage to a man who, I would understand years later, could never fully connect to me –and who would possibly never be able to admit to the cause.
The BF and I were both vulnerable but it was his choice to be absent in my life at that point –and I needed him. Feeling “empty” later that evening, I poured myself a glass of wine, sat in my living room and dialed the old familiar area code. After an awkward start, I asked him if he would come over “sometime” and just hold me for a night. He said of course he would.
A few days later, I called in that chip and set the rules: Arrive late, No talking, No sex – “just hold me–and leave in the morning. No meals, no conversation.”
He came and he held me through the night. But in the morning as he was getting dressed to leave, he couldn’t help himself: he spoke. He told me he missed me; there was no one like me out there –and we both confessed our virginity since he bolted the first time, after Labor Day… but that didn’t change where we are. I told him about my plans to travel overseas, that I’d “decided to make a world tour of the people I love… not a sight seeing trip but travel from friend to friend.” I told him I needed to get away, to get perspective and come back refreshed, renewed … start over. He said that made him sad. He said he loved me; it wasn’t over yet –and he left. Again.
One week later, with hospice on the other end of the line, I administered the first dose of morphine to my father. I came back to my apartment shaken and reached out to Surfer Dude; I asked him to “just read to me (over the phone), clear my head of what I did …” but just as he’d done a few weeks earlier when I told him I was in the ER, he insisted on coming over. I warned him he “would see a grown woman cry” — he laughed at my attempt at humor and showed up minutes later, armed with short stories. He read to me until the dark cloud lifted.
Daddy, from the greatest generation that ever lived, passed two days later and bravo to him: he lived his passion, raised a family and enjoyed life. He truly loved just one woman and that same woman truly loved him. Like so many of their generation, she followed him – in their case, from an army barrack in Yuma, Arizona to a doorman building on the Upper East Side in Manhattan — on a promise to love, honor and obey … Not an easy man as he collected a basketful of emotional baggage, she remained his greatest fan – they matured together, aged wisely and figured out how to forgive each other.
Daddy spoke his final words just before dawn that Monday morning … “You’re a great gal, Alice,” he said clearly and softly to the woman from Barbados who was his primary caregiver these last few years (and who co-parented my children with me), “I had a great ride, didn’t I? I had a great ride.”
My oldest daughter told me when she arrived from Boston later that day that when my mother passed unexpectedly 10 years earlier, she overheard my father whisper softly to my mom, as we gathered around her hospital bed to say our final good-byes, “We had a great ride, Phyllis, didn’t we?” And then he kissed her forehead for the last time.
NOTE TO SELF: Great epitaph.