As I’m continuing the long process of rearranging – my home, my future, my life, I’m coming across stacks of things that have been not buried as much as put out of sight. One of those stacks was dozens and dozens of 5 x 8 notepads. Those were our “score keeping pads” from our nightly bastardized version of gin rummy (mostly because we couldn’t totally remember the rules so, like so much else in life, we made up our own).
Those notepads unearthed another “out of sight” thing and I feel the need to deal with that as well. Every time I blog or post about my late husband, there are always a few comments on the order of “what a beautiful marriage you had”. And reading those, I feel a twinge of guilt. Yes, for the first 15 years, our marriage was what I’d consider pretty much picture perfect. We meshed. Never had an argument. Finished each others’ sentences. Agreed on damn near everything.
But in early 2009, things changed. My husband started spending more time online and less time with me. He and his friend had started a website, and he discovered online games. They consumed him. Looking back on it now, it makes perfect sense, he knew inside that his health was failing and his online time provided him the necessary escape from the pain, from the fear that I could not.
Because I didn’t know that then, I am sorry to say that I grew resentful. I felt shut out. In August, 2009, for the first time ever in our then 15 years together, we took separate vacations. He went out west to meet up with his brothers and his mom; I headed east to visit old friends. On day two of the vacation; I got a call that his stepmother (yes, I was blessed with two wonderful mothers in law) had a particularly vicious form of brain cancer and it was spreading at an exponential rate.
Instant vacation halt. He and I both raced back home and, within a few weeks time, she had passed away. The funeral and the whole situation we were suddenly pulled back into, really crystallized things for me. The vows I had spoken with him 15 years earlier said “Until death do you part”. They didn’t say “Until you get your feels hurt do you part” or “Until the grass on the other side looks greener do you part”.
We talked. We worked out our feelings, our fears. Most importantly, we recommitted to each other then and, I know in my heart that our marriage became stronger that summer.
Which brings me back to the notepads. One of our many good decisions resulting from our reunification and the rebirth of our union was that, at 8:00 pm every night, we would both shut off our computers, turn off the television, and meet at the kitchen table to play our personal private version of gin rummy. The first game he had three or four really good hands in a row. I looked at him and said “I don’t care if we’re up until 4:00 a.m., we are not going to bed until my score catches up with yours”. He threw the next few hands and, somehow, we ended up with a tie score. We both exchanged knowing glances and happily set off for bed.
Game one’s score sheet on the notepad had a line down the center and his initials on the left, mine on the right. Game two, I replaced the initials with “Sweet Little Old Me” and “Cheaty Pants”. I’d come up with another smarty pants version of names for each game for every night thereafter. We laughed at each appellation I came up with and each and every game until he became too sick to play ended up in a tie score – generally either because he or I threw hands and occasionally because I, as the scorekeeper, would fudge the math when the hour grew late or he grew too tired to play.
Over the next seven years, we amassed literally hundreds of notepads, but more important, we had quality “we time” as a sacrosanct part of each and every day.
The very last score sheet was titled “Mamacita and Captain Cheaty Pants” – and although it was only a few hands, the final score was a tie. Not through any sleight of hand or creative mathematics, just an honest to gosh tie.
Not a bad way to end.