My life has been woven of colorful and rich experiences. Although some of the memories are worn and faded, like old tapestries, I can still make them out. Sometimes, I like to close my eyes and run my fingers over them, to bring back the images as they were back then.
1970. M. and I were at Syracuse University. May. For all practical purposes, I was living with him in his fraternity house at 113 College Place. Kent State. Vietnam War protests, confusion and riots were everywhere. All across the country, colleges would close early that spring, including ours. One night, we heard the ROTC building was on fire, and the men in the house, boys, really, were abuzz. I can see him so vividly, donning a thick green Army jacket to go out into into the fray on a reconnaissance mission with his frat brothers. I can see his broad shoulders, shock of hair, blue eyes. And I can feel the moment, thick with excitement and uncertainty. I was only 18.
1972. Young marrieds in Tallahassee, our world centered around his law school and other students like ourselves, living in the slum FSU called married students housing. Alumni Village. I remember everyone being in a bar-restaurant that fall and hearing John Denver sing “Take me home, country roads…” And, far from home we all sang along with the jukebox, each missing the places we’d left, each recognizing we’d never really go home again. This was the start of our adult lives. And little did I know that Denver would die in California, at a spot I’d visit hundreds of times, Lovers Point, in the very town in which I’d live on the Monterey peninsula.
1980. My young husband had left me to build a life for myself. Alone. It was unimaginable. I remember wanting to curl up in the back seat of the car like a cat and sleep, hoping to awaken and find it was all just a nightmare. A lost soul, I haunted the homes of friends, heartbroken. Just a few years later I’d take off for California but in those first months I was fragile and lost. I remember my therapist suggesting I consider it a big adventure, and my response at the time was, “If I’d wanted an adventure I’d go on safari.” I was so young.
1984. My first glimpse of the Monterey peninsula. And the year I met my friend Marilyn. Oh, the courage I summoned to take only my aging cat and escape Florida and New York (and a bad rebound marriage) to live an adventure! But when I got to Silicon Valley, alone, knowing no one, it was harder than I’d even imagined. And I was lonelier than I’d ever been. I called my mother every single day. But I wasn’t about to go back to Tallahassee. Or Rochester. I started rebuilding my life, a day at a time.
1987. The early glory days of the tech boom. I’d been in my high-tech job just under a year and the air was electric with invention. Regis McKenna was the marketing and PR guru of Silicon Valley and, like E.F. Hutton, he spoke and the Valley listened. We 30-somethings traveled together for business, laughed together and partied together, all the while doing innovative work we’d never imagined. I met a teenage girl, the daughter of a vice president I briefly dated. I had no inkling that we’d keep in touch over the years, and that 22 years later I’d be sitting in a San Francisco cafe having coffee with her, her daughter and my first and soon-to-be new husband.
1994. My mother came out several summers, that decade, for months at a time, to get treatment at Stanford.
She lived in a little apartment at La Hacienda in Saratoga, smoking and talking on the phone to her friends back in Rochester. Most nights we’d go out to dinner with the High-Tech Exec, whom I’d been seeing for years. Every weekend we’d go to the the cooler clime of his beach house in Aptos. Long, emotional talks about the past settled long-held issues. Lots of laughter. Dinner guests. I wouldn’t take a million bucks for those summers with her.
1998. Tampa, now. It was the end of the year when I got a call at work that my mother was on a ventilator. Scared, I grabbed the next flight to Rochester and began a year of making those trips monthly. The High-Tech Exec and I were married by then and, despite his discomfort with hospitals, he came with me each time. Ups and downs. Nights in the ICU waiting room. Cold, icy morning walks from the parking lot past the smoking nurses and orderlies, into the overheated hospital. Tests and ventilators and medications. Prayers.
Mid-stay, mom developed a fixation with toilet paper. She was barely with it, but she wanted toilet paper, demanded it. At one point the High Tech Exec found one of those commercial mega-rolls of toilet paper, huge, really, and brought it to her bedside. “Here, Sandy,” he joked, and we all laughed. Hope, laughter, followed by despair.
1999. We buried her on Christmas Eve. The snow was falling hard, and blowing. The mausoleum was cold, so cold. The High-Tech Exec looked handsome and sad in an navy blue overcoat borrowed from my sister’s boyfriend (now husband). He and I barely stayed through Christmas Day. We drove down to Charleston and tried to escape our grief. She was only 74 and a youthful spirit, at that.
2004. I was single again and loving it, the middle-aged belle of the Match.com ball. I laughed. I cried. I was frustrated. I was jubilant. I fell in love.
2005. Rome. The Trevi Fountain. My lover got on his knee and proposed. I said yes but even then there were signs that all was not right. And it wasn’t. I still hadn’t married him three years later.
2008. Emails and phone calls brought up feelings long buried but never dead. Here he was, the prodigal husband, back again after almost 30 years. The joyously unthinkable had happened. God loves to show off. After hundreds of hours of phone calls, I knew it was right, but I had to get through some obstacles before I could claim it. I girded my loins and did what had to be done.
2009. On what would’ve been our 37th wedding anniversary, we remarried. I can still feel the sweetness of his kiss and the look on his face as he said the words he’s said over and over since we reunited. (Yes, some things will have to stay private, at least for now.)
Preparing to write a memoir entails walking down roads that haven’t been traveled in a very long time.
Writing won’t start until after we move, but the walks have already begun.
I don’t know how it will go, but I’m anxious to begin.