"The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea."
~Isak Dinesen, author, Out of Africa
In the months following my separation from mr. invisible, my days had the quality of my nights, like walking through cotton batting in a bad dream. I finally fled the Midwest winters and my old life for the desert, my part-time home for years, where the San Jacinto Mountains had always surrounded me with their big, bulky hug. I knew I'd be safe there, and I desperately needed the meditative presence of the whisper quiet canyons of the San Jacintos.
The minute I landed in the desert, though, I couldn't find pleasure in the things that normally made me smile : a perfect azure sky with wisps of cottony clouds, lush, burgundy bougainvillea climbing the walls of buildings like weeds, going to my fave Mexican place to sip a grande margarita, skinny, rocks no salt. And oh, how I tried to get happy with those grandes.
Instead of the quiet life I envisioned, though, I got one with a very loud, larger than life Brit and his two poodles--one 8 pounds, the other 80. The poodles that is. The Brit's trying to decrease his waistline, but that's another story left to him, his new Peloton bike and his cardiologist. I digress.
My gay Brit BFF I've known for a few years, we'll call him Goody for the purposes of the blog, was in a darker place than I. His husband of 10 blissful months, a loving man with a gorgeous grin that creased his face just above the perfect cleft in his chin, had recently died in Goody's arms of a massive heart attack. "Who fucking dies at 45 years old from undiagnosed heart disease?" Goody would ask me over and over. No one, except the kindest man I ever knew.
Goody was broken, I was broken, and we were pretty sure we'd never be fixed. Turns out, the desert's a perfect place to meditate, but healing happened for us not cradled in the arms of the San Jacintos, but on a beach in a sun-dappled harbor just off the California coast.
Goody and sweet James owned a second home there, and we three had spent the previous Easter at their cottage, lolling on the ferry to Balboa, walking the poodles around the neighborhood and brunching high on a majestic hill overlooking the Pacific. James told Goody when my marriage ended, "We need to keep an eye on Linda and include her in things. She's going through a really rough time." None of us dreamed it would be our last trip there together. When James took his last breath in that beach house, Goody decided to sell it, and asked me to go with him to put it on the market.
He ended up keeping the house--and we somehow found our fun again.
Like anything that's worth having, it didn't happen overnight. Goody and I love our couple friends in the desert, but they are--well, couples. When we're with them, we are painfully aware of our un-coupled status, conscious or not. We'd both married for the long haul, were in love with our spouses, happily heading into the future with memories yet to be made. To heal from what we called our "life-changing-in- an-instant year," we needed new turf, at least part time, to regain some control of our worlds that had spun way out beyond our reach.
After my split, the first time I saw a middle-aged couple holding hands at the grocery store, the panic rose from my gut into my chest as the air around me started to feel wavy and uncertain. I bolted to my car and bawled so loud I was sure someone would call 911 to report the crazy lady in the car. My ex and I held hands until the day we didn't, so that triggered flashbacks filled with loneliness every time I saw someone reach for another's hand.
Goody took to his bed after James died, often with a loaf of fruit-dappled bread and jam or a carton of Rocky Road. From there, he'd talk to his husband as if he were still in the room, Facebook a message to him every day, surround himself with smiling photos of James, some the size of posters. That's comforting, until it's not, and then Goody's panic rose in his chest 'til it felt ready to explode, heart racing, propelling him out of bed and to the ER more than once.
So we were both running and seeking-- seeking what? we didn't know--when we began spending summer weekends at the beach. What we found there were new single friends, laughter over after-dinner drinks at our favorite bar, crazy night rides around the 'hood on golf carts, plus a serene peace that neither of us could quite capture anywhere else. Our shenanigans added up as one breezy day piled onto the next, and by summer's end, we knew we'd make it--uncoupled but able to see a future for the first time as two singles.<
So, this is a love letter to Goody, my beach husband ("Sorry, darling," he likes to say. "It looks good on paper, but your plumbing's all wrong."), with a cc to James:
You've completed your year of firsts without James--your birthday and his, his Christmas and your Yom Kippur, the first night in your bedroom at the beach house without him next to you. It hurt me to watch you suffer, but I was a year ahead of you in my suffering. I'd already discovered at the end of my marriage that time doesn't heal all wounds--but time lets you process the pain and allows you to die a little bit until you can live a little bit. I'm glad we were able to live a little bit together.
And what do I get from our beach soirees besides the sound of the surf to help lull me to sleep? I get to hear an 80-pound poodle hit the floor directly above my bed downstairs as he bounds off your bed each morning to greet the day. Nothing says, "You're not alone anymore!" like that thud, or like when you stand at the top of the stairs and whine, "Lindy Lou, wake up!! I'm hungry, what's for breakfast?" I'd shoot any other man in my life who did that, but you had me at Lindy Lou.
Finally, as I always say, "There's a reason for every season, and a season for every reason." I really don't know what that means, because I concocted it to cheer you up when you were so sad. But what I do know is this: There was a reason we met, became friends and travelled to the beach to sell that house. What we unloaded instead was a lot of our burden, one day at a time, one walk at a time and one boat ride at a time. Laughing together, singing together, crying together.
So as summer winds down and the days shift into fall, the supermoon feted us with its blood red eclipse, pulling the oceans into higher tides and pulling our gaze skyward. It's a perfect time to say: Thank you. Luv ya, Poodle. Miss you, sweet James.
Click to read the next post: "Match WTF"
©linda-notonfacebook.com. All rights reserved.
©linda-notonfacebook.com. All rights reserved.