DL8395 to Los Angeles
If three weeks in Europe on twelve trains to seven French cities with me didn't reveal to Carol why she should hit LAX running and just keep running, I should probably conclude we're a good match. There would be precedent. After all, I'd spent five years with Carolyn fully expecting to hear her crying out in a dream, “the horror, the horror!” That never happened, so I guess I should feel pretty good about Carol and I as a couple. I do, but it's not because I at all believe I bring any special gifts or skills to any relationship, let alone this one. The grounds for success, I truly believe, were, as they say, pre-existing conditions for Carol and I to become a team.
First, we were both widowed at more or less the same time, and by the time Carol and I met, almost a year had passed since our spouses had. We were in the same places emotionally: Carol was not looking for a relationship, and I was convinced no sensible, resilient, self-sufficient or simply balanced woman would be looking for the likes of me. That Carol chose to see me as the light at the end of the tunnel instead of the 12:15 to Bordeaux that I was is truly a miracle of modern rail travel. But we've both believed our mutual widowhood is what put us both on the right track. (And I promise that's the end of the train analogies.)
Widows share an experience of loss, sorrow, emptiness and, yes, loneliness that the lifelong single or the divorced don't. And that experience is the fragility and suddenness with which life can be wrenched from moorings of happiness and contentment without warning or a moment's preparation. Like a near death experience but not really, the healthy road back from spousal loss is bolstered by a conviction that nothing in life is guaranteed, so live each moment of it as the fortunate and precious gift it is, no matter how small or slim that moment in life might be. In Carol's case that meant valuing her life in such in such a way that considering my presence in it as something that couldn't possibly be as bad as it might seem at first glance.
Even as the evidence continued to mount that that might not be the case (I'm talking here specifically here of a clinical addiction to televised sports, Seinfeld, Monty Python, The Three Stooges, the early Woody Allen movies, MSNBC, books that don't lend themselves to book club selections like The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, A People's History of the United States and A Taste for Intrigue: The Multiple Lives of Francois Mitterand, and someone whose idea of a social night on the town is a solo trip to the library), Carol was at least able to measure me against widowhood and evidently conclude the two experiences were a wash.
Against the backdrop of widowhood, her experiences with me hopping on and off trains, schlepping up darkened, suspicious streets to hotels that in one case required her to stack all our luggage against the door for added security, and all for a sightseeing itinerary that consisted primarily of walking down nondescript streets until finally, accidentally stumbling upon something that looked interesting, Carol remained bemused throughout our trip at how interesting the unexamined life could still turn out to be worth living.
We're considering a trip through the Australian outback next.