Two Minus One
Two we became on an April night
Two we were becoming for weeks before
Before we were married or even lovers
Before all the things that would follow
Follow the trails of canyon and conversation
Follow our hearts into unexpected love
Love that filled long desert nights like stars
Love growing and shifting as we descended
Descended through layers of one another’s love
Descended the trail that wound through history
History building as we hiked through rocky lands
History flowing like the turquoise waters awaiting
Awaiting our future as magical as ferny grottoes
Awaiting possibilities as clear as the night skies above
Above far above was the canyon’s unseen rim
Above us space sprawled in all its glorious wonder
Wonder how many stars in that sky
Wonder what would become of he and I
I never suspected on that desert engagement night
I would be writing this poem as I sit here alone
Alone without the man I still love
Alone in a marriage now minus one
One love bound us together on a May day
One love grew into three children
Children who minus one grew strong and sure
Children who minus one carry our genes combined
Combined into people unique as those desert stars
Combined in their own expressions of a love shared
Shared joys at their lives shared sorrow at their brother’s death
Shared laughter in abundance and shared tears in salty seasoning
Seasoning of a love throughout a year, then five then ten
Seasoning through a second decade then sprinkled through
Through the months of year twenty-one till we got
Through four and then weeks then days
Days that slipped and rushed by in a hurry
Days that stopped with his breath and his heart
Heart broken now as I learn to live as a solitary whole
Heart that feels as though it’s lost its other half
Half of a pair now left to stand on my own
Half of my soul tangled still in all that we were as two
Two beings who chose to commit to life as one
Two hearts two souls bound by so many choices
Choices made in honor of what we shared
Choices that shrank as that cancer grew
Grew without ceasing as once had our love
Grew to choke out his choices and his life
Life after a marriage ended by death
Life where I must gather myself and reinvent
Jim and I had an unlikely union from the very start. A woman from upstate New York, and a man from the Willamette Valley in central Oregon, who met at Moqui Lodge, a mere mile from the edge of the Grand Canyon.
At first, we didn’t like one another very much. But, one night I treated myself to an extremely overpriced six pack of Guinness (shipping stuff up to the Canyon isn’t cheap!) – and only after the store was closed did I realize that I didn’t have a bottle opener. I went to the common employee areas looking for someone willing to loan me one.
Jim was that someone. He went back to his place to find one – he no longer drank – and, when he brought it over, we talked for four hours.
Less than six months later, we were married. And stayed that way until he died last January, a little over 20 years later.
In many ways, I grew up in this marriage. I was barely 28 when we married. I’m 48 now, and the mother of three children – two thriving teens so close to grown it sometimes blows my mind, and a secondborn son who was profoundly brain injured at birth and died at 12 days old, having spent his entire life in the NICU, most of it in a coma. We became homeowners, and I became voluntarily estranged from my abusive parents.
Now, I reimagine my life as a widow – a word that still feels foreign to me. I’ve adopted a dog, and changed my bed, and my bedroom. I’ve removed Jim’s name from our formerly joint accounts, and am contemplating selling and giving away some of his possessions. It will be up to me to replace our leaky roof, and tend to everything else about our older home in need of repairs.
Life goes on, and I’m still here. I need to adjust, reinvent, seek new kinds of joy, and acquire new skills.
I need to know who I am when one half of my marriage is subtracted…
Join us tomorrow, when we explore unfinished business.