Today is your birthday. Ten years ago, we celebrated at our Chicago 3-flat. I have photos from that day of me holding my German Shepherd Rosie, who was a puppy. It was a beautiful day. It was your last birthday.
On another beautiful day later that autumn, we settled into our newly acquired historic home, the one I called nous petite maison du bois. I played DJ from my corner office, pumping new speakers full of audio gold. When I played Beck’s Bolero, you came and stood in the doorway. While Jeff Beck’s guitar soared and tumbled, we looked at each other and nodded mutually, wordlessly.
We had conquered our pasts, our limitations, our financial shortfalls. We had been married for nearly two decades. We knew each other so well. We loved each other more than we could say. The moment was the apex of our lives together. Our arms raised figuratively in victory, we told ourselves, “Yes we did.”
Six months later, in the large master bedroom across the hall, I found you dead in our king-sized bed. That was an altogether different moment. How can one’s life be so brittle as to shatter in an instant? But it was only the beginning of my descent.
Previously, in my most troubled times, I had peered into the abyss. But this time, I became a resident of its depths. And in the coming years, my protective faith in the goodness of life—a belief I never knew I had—fell away, shredded and scattered like a flimsy garment against a tempest.
I kept the Primitive antique furniture that we both loved and auctioned your Colonials and Victorians. I always hated those. Movers smashed the little rocker we determinedly exported from Martha’s Vineyard. I still have the chair I thought was 19th century but is really 18th century. So it’s worth a lot more money than I assumed, making it harder to sell.
By the way, the little bridge at the end of nous petite maison du bois‘s impossible driveway—the one designed by the guy you called Frank Lloyd Wrong—is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
Elizabeth G Fagan is an artist and writer who resides in southeastern Wisconsin—a place she calls Lake Michigan’s Left Coast. She became a widow when her husband died in 2009.
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