In Bruce Springsteen's one-man Broadway show, he talks ruefully about being 20 years old with a blank piece of paper still before him that represented the rest of his life. Later, after Carol and I had shut off Netflix for the night, she said to me, “I want our life together to be a blank piece of paper.”
That it was exactly what I wanted for us as well was just one more gift that is the magic of us. But that blank piece of paper does not come without a context. At twenty, the “boss” had the entire rest of his life ahead of him. Carol and I have already lived most of ours. There can and are blank pages ahead for us, but they will be written within the context of a near lifetime of pages already filled in. That none of those previous pages are constraining or preclusions to how the blank pages ahead can be filled forms a testament to the miracle that is us.
Within those earlier pages are years of youthful travel on both our parts. Not only does that provide a common foundation for our current travel experiences, it provides a way for both of us to harken back to that time of our youth, this time together. Widowhood has also bonded us in the common experience of the fragility of companionship, and the shared commitment to not put off filling any of those blank pages of ours for too long. And we shouldn't forget we both grew up in the Age of Aquarius and share “the sixties” and at least a few petals of the Flower Child.
The one disparate experience is family. Here in southern California, we live essentially within a Madigan Compound of daughters, son-in-laws, grandchildren and grandparents - a Martha's Vineyard without the touch football (though there've been pickup baseball and soccer games of mixed gender and generations, all executed with more laughter than skill.) As I did in Seattle, I arrived here alone with about the same number of boxes that I'd arrived in Seattle with.
It is a very participatory family life, of which I am largely unaccustomed. Carol remains keenly and empathically aware of this, and has broadly sketched out the parameters for my participation in her family life, with plenty of room left over for us. I also believe it's important for all to know there's plenty of space and time for them and just Nana and Mom, too.
So, those blank pages will be written, in tiny script so there's more room on each page. Except for the fact that Bruce and I attended different high schools together, we clearly share nothing else in common. Except for one thing, perhaps. With our next big trip on the horizon for March, as well as road trips in between, it does seem for Carol and I that we have already reached the Promised Land. We're not stopping there though, because, well, lol, “baby, we were born to run.” (Really, really sorry about that one.)