Absence and fond hearts


(Obviously, one of Edward Curtis’s finer photographs)

Sally was  driving home from one of her businesstrips in Northern Arizona when she saw an elderly Navajo woman walking on the side of the road.

As the trip was a long and quiet one, she stopped
the car and asked the Navajo woman if she would like a ride.

With a silent nod of thanks, the woman got into
the  car.

Resuming the  journey, Sally tried in vain to make
a bit of small talk with the Navajo woman. The old
woman just sat silently, looking intently at
everything she saw, studying every little detail,
until she noticed a brown bag on the seat next to

‘What in bag?’ asked the old woman.

Sally looked down at the brown bag and said, ‘It’s
a bottle of wine. I got it for my husband.’

The Navajo woman was silent for another moment or
two. Then speaking with the quiet wisdom of an elder, she  said:

‘Good  trade…..’


Shriveled grapes, sour grapes, stomped fermented grapes, raisins- I’m leaving town. Bonnie is oh-so-right about my attitude and Mary is citing the adage about absence making the heart grow fonder. I’m banking on it. And, yes, Bonnie- we did go see Julie and Julia. What a splendid film! I especially liked the part where Julie blogs about the great falling out with her husband, the one where he leaves because she’s too busy cooking and blogging to have sex with him. Ah, me. And that Paul Childs was a saint.

The truth about marriage is that it’s tough sometimes- really tough. I think we have a seven year itch thing going on around here, that involves scratching the eyeballs out of the other. Kidding. Really, I’m kidding. But here’s the thing: in seven short years together we have been through end-of-life illness and death of two parents, menopause, skin cancer, getting another parent into nursing care, two moves, three job changes (one that included loss of benefits and other securities that are important to 50-somethings) and children really, truly, once and for all leaving the nest. Rich has re-written the direction of his life’s work, along with a book. He’s transitioned from a life on the road as a single business man to married man with inherited diabetes. I have retired from a professional life that was more than a profession, that I loved with such passion, one where I had functioned as a successful and independent woman for decades. One that defined me. I loved my work the way Julia Childs loved hers. I have had to re-define myself as a zoo docent, a raptor rehabber, a fiber artist- and as a wife.

When a marriage fails early on and unexpectedly and then a woman struggles to re-organize herself as a self-reliant person who can build a life, raise children, make a home all on her own-well then, it’s hard to let go of that. Because you had to fight so hard to get there. So, I’m just saying. And frankly, people, the fact that Rich is the butter to my bread and the breath to my life sometimes becomes background noise to the sniping and spitting. Because one thing you sure as hell do not need after all those years of being the one and same person who both overstuffed the garbage disposal with fresh greens and unclogged the nasty mess, is someone in your face asking you why you overstuffed the garbage disposal with greens. Especially when you know more about plumbing than they do. I bet even Katharina Von Bora would agree.

You know how sometimes I disappear for days at a stretch from blogging? Well, I’m working on shit. As in, getting my shit together. I’m over here trying to learn how to be a married woman, for one thing. I don’t have decades under my belt as some of you do. Working on being a whole person, even minus her own income. Someone who makes a difference, even without patients. (Who I needed because they were, God forbid, analysts cover your eyes, MY therapy.) Someone who holds the gardener in her soul while contending with pavement and alley rats. A mother who can’t cook dinner for her children. And there you have the truth and the heart of the matter.

Still. He is the butter to my bread. And still. I’m leaving home for a bit. Not because of him, although I would probably take a break one way or the other right now, just to stir up that fondness, but it’s time for- wait for it! BCMA!

Yes, yes, you should all be insanely jealous. This is the week when I get to go to that small 1920s cottage perched high on the dunes of the undisputedly best lake in the whole world, Lake Michigan. And this is the week when I am with my most favorite people in the whole world, the women of Book Club, My Ass. Our baby girls went to pre-school together. Our sons played the North Seas Jazz Festival in high school together. We have been sick together, had parents die, suffered cancer, complained bitterly about spouses, dieted both successfully and not and wept together. But most of all, we’ve laughed together.

This is the week when 800 square feet fills up with nine women, more (and better!) food than was in all of Julie and Julia, plenty of chilled white wine, beach reads, scrabble games and WOOL. We will knit on our own projects, poke and knit on each others projects, lay out raw wool and debate various shadings and dyes. Everybody but Audrey will snore and deny it. We will go watch the judging of the alpaca and again consider seriously the possibility of stuffing one in the back of Audrey’s SUV to go live on her farm as our joint venture. We will watch sheep shearing. We’ll fondle smooth, one-of-a-kind spindles and needles and admire wheels and looms. We’ll go in together on a giant dye lot of expensive cashmere/merino because each of those foolish spouses back home need a delicious sweater the color of dusk over the lake, knit with love. (And then, because they wouldn’t really appreciate it, we’ll knit it up into something for each other and send it for Christmas or birthday.) In the evening, with the sun shooting blinding oranges and reds into the kitchen window, we’ll all be bustling about tossing goat cheese salads, adjusting the curry in the chicken sauce, mixing the cocktail du jour. Then maybe a long beach walk, a bon fire.LkMichSunset-793

After those healing days, I’ll drive to Chicago, spread a blanket with friends, in front of the Frank Gehry Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park and cast eyes and ears on my son, whom I haven’t seen in months.  NOMO ends up their tour in this magnificent setting as part of the Chicago New Music Series.

FGehry3And then the two of us- Dan and I- will go out and eat as much of the best Chinese food as we possibly can. After that we head up to Oshkosh where Bud has gotten himself healthy enough and strong enough to rebel against assisted living. He’s thinking if they discharge him soon enough he’ll be able to put in the dock and the pontoon boat, by himself, before snow falls in October. And he plans to install a new pump in the well housing, finish repairing the roof… We will need to have a family confab and the cycle of my life will resume.

I liked the line in the movie where Julie Powell (played by Amy Adams) says, “I could write a blog. I have thoughts.”


14 responses to “Absence and fond hearts

  1. I hope you have a wonderful trip. Do not forget us and at least once lift a glass for me. Enjoy !! Bee

  2. Nearly 25 years down the road together and both Patt(Mr. Stargazer) and I still have issues to work on. (and over!) Our girls could tell you about the immense argument we had last month about the refrigerator ice. Yeah, it was really stupid, but at the time it seemed important and we both said things we regretted. When small things (and the big ones) start getting to you, it’s time for a physical or mental break. I applaud your wonderful itinerary and attitude and wish you happy trails.

  3. Enjoy, refresh, recharge. Come back and tell us all there is to tell.

  4. I’m still hoping to see you in Oshkosh. *crossing fingers* But the girl child is thinking about leaving for New Mexico tomorrow and we have our tickets bought for late that week to fly down there and do some assisting in their search for apartments and so on…

    Have a great time visiting and laughing and eating and drinking and all of the rest. Enjoy the time with your son. Enjoy the absence. Much love…

  5. Yes, indeed, my dear, you can certainly write a blog! A very good one.

    Please tell me that Bud will not be living alone on that lake again.

    I wish I could take a trip to visit old friends and leave my version of ‘Rich’ for a while. We certainly need a vacation from each other.

    Have a wonderful time with your book club ladies, and hoist a glass of wine for me.

    Enjoy your son.

  6. Seven years, or twenty seven, doesn’t matter. We all still snipe and moan. Husband and I got into a furious fight a week or so ago because I was tired of his sarcasm, then, he started repeating back my words everytime I was sarcastic, too. We all need a road trip every once in a while. Go, have fun, he’ll be here when you get back and you will be all fluttery and honeymooner. Have a great time. When you get back, it might just be cool enough for a motorcycle ride.

  7. I’ll try to learn lots of big words while you’re gone.

  8. Have a great trip! We await your tales.

  9. Wow Vicki. WOW. Your knack for writing makes the BCMA sound magical. And I’m sure it is. Have you considered movie rights? And as for the wine? Might be a good trade, but it better be a damn good bottle that you can sell on ebay. Cause butter on bread is a pretty good thing!

  10. Oh Vicki, I wish we were neighbors. Isn’t that what we try to do here with blogging? Reshape the planet so we can talk to each other in some crazy way around a fire that exists in the heart of the world? We all fight with our spouses, in ways that breaks our hearts and makes us question every philosophy we’ve ever professed to hold. Roger and I fight over things so absurd that I say to him, “this has no emotional content. Why are we yelling about this?”

    We try to make the best of bad situations, those life changes with upheavals we believe would have toppled lesser souls. We hold on even when we wish we could let go and grab hold of a newer better life that we’re sure awaits us on the other side of the moment.

    Be well. Take care of yourself on this journey.

    Love really does survive.

  11. If I had lived in your real-life neighborhood I hope I would have been in BCMA. But you would have had to teach me how to knit. As it is, I like to think that I am in your on-line BCMA (Blogging Club My Ass).

    Your analysis of the past 7 years is masterful. I love that phrase “the butter to my bread” and I intend to use it. Life is complicated and beautiful, isn’t it? And so are we.

    Enjoy your beach week, Vicki. Come back rested and recharged and ready for the next adventure. xoxo

  12. Well, I have no “bread to my butter” but I do have elderly parents with ailments and obsessive natures… there must always be something to worry about or complain about or obsess about….. but now, they really could not function without someone here. It is a hard balance…. letting them do what they can without interference so they still feel self worth but setting the limits when there is danger in what they do….and trying to do the latter gently.

    I wish I could go to.

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