It wasn't quite a "pinch me" moment, but I will always remember last night as one of the happiest in my life. I was working on my computer -- just checking e-mail & Twitter as one does periodically -- and I needed to have the earphones plugged in because across the room Henry and Ross (aka Brit Hubs 1.0 and 2.0 respectively) were solving the Sunday New York Times puzzle together. What made the moment so special was this picture, which I will have to describe (with fewer than 1,000 words) because I didn't think to get a camera:
We're in a lovely B&B in Erie, Pennslvania. Here's the room we're staying in, in fact. Ross & Henry were sitting on the bed, side by side, with Ross's laptop open in front of them. I was sitting in the sole armchair, listening to Baroque music so I didn't have to listen to them puzzling. But it hit me as I looked over at them just how lucky I am.
There's sadness in this story. My childhood was very ugly, and it's cost me the unique connection I should have with my three siblings. Siblings are the people who will know you the longest, and they'll always share your childhood. Mine do nothing of the sort. But Henry and I met 39 years ago this month; that's long enough to substitute for siblings. Truthfully, he's closer to me than my own brothers; at least Henry loves me.
When I divorced Henry, my siblings -- who are all older than me -- were bizarrely nasty about our break-up. My sister, in particular, assumed I had behaved badly & broken Henry's heart. That theory insulted both Henry (who was never that fragile) and me pretty equally. I did try to get her to see that all three of us were happy & on good terms, but even bringing both Henry and Ross to her annual New Year's Day party in 2007 didn't do the trick.
That was the last time I saw her. My last email from her was approximately 5 months later. (My brothers, I hasten to add, have exchanged emails with me at least once in the past 3 years.)
So how did we end up so estranged? You're thinking some huge argument, right? Well, it was actually very simple. I stopped sending birthday / holiday cards and presents. That's it. I've responded to every email I've gotten, and I would take any phone call (if I got any, which I haven't). I wasn't mad at them; I was just tired of trying to get them to like me.
It makes sense now. I'm not estranged now from siblings I used to be close to. I was always estranged from them. But rather than moan about it, what I did was to find my family of the heart, and build with them happy relationships. That's what the picture from last night is about: my perfect happiness.
Henry and I were family first, and then we were married (which is where all the heart comes from). But our relationship now -- which is some odd amalgam of friend/ex/quasi-sibling -- is perfect. I don't need to talk to him every day, but I know he'll always take my call. He's a solid friend, a tremendous resource, and I know we really matter to each other.
And he introduced me to Ross, who is the love of my heart and the heart of my life. Last night at dinner, I asked both of them what they would do if they knew they had precisely one year to live. Henry's answer centered around the miniature steam engines he's currently building in his basement, but Ross really wasn't sure what he'd do with a single final year. He eventually offered this plan: He would help me (the soon-to-be-grieving widow) find a house to live in after his death because he knows our current house is a lot of work for one person.
That's the very definition of romance: I married a man who wouldn't exercise his right to be selfish in the face of death but instead would be even more loving & concerned for my happiness.
And me? What was my answer to the same question? Well, I would keep doing what I'm doing: writing, undoing the damage of the past, and enjoying my two favorite people.
Here's a lovely photo of Presque Isle State Park, which we toured today. Alas, I did not take this photo.