Years ago, when I moved to Columbia, Missouri, for graduate school, the Other Half stayed behind in Monticello. I was unconcerned; the plan was that I would get my master’s degree, move back to Monticello and find a college teaching job nearby. (St. Cloud State was Plan A, with the various small colleges and community colleges in the Twin Cities being a collective Plan B.) We figured two years apart would do no damage.
We settled our mobile home into its new slot in Walnut Hills Park in Columbia, and the Other Half went back to Monti and her new digs. And about six weeks later, I stood at my kitchen sink, washing dishes and looking out at the Missouri autumn, and I thought, “You know, I kind of like living alone.”
I stopped washing the bowl I had in my hand and pondered the implications of the thought. At the time, counting the dating years, the Other Half and I had been together for nearly eight years, married for five of them. I’d not thought myself dissatisfied. But then, I’d never thought much at all about how the two of us meshed or didn’t. So I pushed that single disconcerting thought away, rinsed the bowl, went on with my studies and – after eighteen months in Missouri – went home to Minnesota.
About two years later, that union collapsed under the weight of concerns unspoken and needs unmet. Who was to blame? Both of us, if that truly matters nearly thirty years later.
Two days ago, the Texas Gal headed to her home state for a weekend visit, the first time she’s seen her mother and her sister in seven years. She left on my desk a list of gardening concerns for my attention, but otherwise, it’s just me making my way through the days with the cats, who seem a bit confused by her absence. I’ve spent some time writing and puttering with mp3s. I’ve whittled away at the pile of magazines that’s built up in the past few months as I’ve focused on a few books. I’ve watered the gardens both evenings and taken care of a couple of the concerns on her list, cutting the vines that had begun to climb the fence around the compost pile and cutting away the newly sprouted basswood saplings next to the hostas. And I’ve done all that very aware of an empty space.
My mom and I went to lunch yesterday, stepping up a couple of notches and going to Red Lobster, as the Ace was closed for Independence Day. And yesterday evening, after making myself a dinner of cooked ring bologna, garlic and parmesan mashed potatoes and a Grain Belt Nordeast, I stood at the kitchen sink washing dishes and looking out at our Minnesota summer, and I thought, “I don’t like living alone, even for a few days.”
In a short time, I’ll head outside and try to weed the final two rows of onions before the day’s heat becomes uncomfortable. On my way through today and tomorrow, I’ll give extra attention to the cats (and especially to Little Gus, who on his least secure days is needier than a puppy), and I’ll water the gardens this evening and tomorrow evening. And I’ll do all this knowing that sometime late tomorrow, the Texas Gal will step out of a shuttle bus at a local hotel and get into our Nissan with me. And that empty space will be filled again, as it has been for more than fourteen years.
I don’t know that I needed a reminder, but I’ve learned again over the past two days that my life is better when she’s around, and I think she’d agree that hers is better when I’m around. And here’s a record that’s entirely appropriate: “Happy” by Bruce Springsteen. It was recorded in 1992 and included in the 1998 box set Tracks, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.
Tags: Bruce Springsteen