Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Slice of Life (and Death)

A week ago today, my husband died. We were together for 52 years, married for 51. (That still feels as unbelievable as the fact that he's dead.) We sometimes thought of ourselves as the last married couple in America. The day after he died, I wrote this paragraph, perhaps the beginning of something longer.

I always thought I had to get married until I learned that I didn’t. By then I’d been married for six years. On our first date, he asked me out for a drink. I had a drink while he had a dozen. I looked at the 12 empty glasses of Scotch and water lined up between us on the table and thought, “That’s exciting.” On our second date he recited Dylan Thomas’s “In My Craft and Sullen Art.” I was impressed; reciting poetry meant he wasn’t as cynical as he usually sounded. As he lay dying, I read “In My Craft and Sullen Art” to him. I felt I was going to cry as I read “The lovers lie abed” and I thought, I’m such a cliché. Our third date was a party. He sat in a big armchair, drink in one hand, cigarette in the other, and beckoned to me. I sat on the arm of the chair, then on his lap, then we were necking. I said, “At every party, there’s always a couple necking in the corner. Tonight we’re that couple." He was a WASP from Kansas, and I thought he was exotic. I was an East Coast Jew, and he thought I was exotic. As he lay dying, I held his hand and said, “Now your story will become my story. Is that okay?” His eyes closed, he smiled and nodded.