Driving to school today, listening to NPR, I was jolted by the name of one of the commentator’s whose first name was the same name as the man I almost married about 40 years ago. I surprised myself at this intimate and chance connection that surfaced in my brain. I recently heard that this ex-boyfriend had died two and half months ago.
I broke up with him three weeks after my father’s early death. At the time neither of us consciously knew or connected this break up with his death at all. Well, maybe I did, but I don’t remember my father’s name being brought up in the fiery, awkward, uncomfortable, and final discussion. Looking back at it now, it all seems so clear and obvious. I was deeply connected with my father. It was almost as if his death heralded to me that there could be so much more in the world, that clearly life was too short, that settling into this relationship with the near certainty of marriage was not where I wanted to be. I wanted to be free. I wanted to be independent. I wanted to explore the world and be adventurous. I wanted to make sure I had all the opportunities that I wasn’t sure my father had enjoyed. I might not have turned that corner had my father not died.
The two of us broke up just before New Year’s. The cliched significance of the date was lost on both of us. Infuriated, he sent me back all the letters that I had written him from college. I never looked at them and tossed them in the trash.
But today, just now, riding to work before the sunrise— with a pile of papers, briefcase, and lunch spilling off the backseat onto the floor— today, at this very second, drinking the last of my black coffee that my husband brewed for me and looking at myself in the rearview mirror, I just wonder what my life would have been like, had I walked down the road with him instead of the others with whom I have gratefully shared my life.
Possibilities and opportunities in one form or another. The flat tire, yesterday’s decision to walk instead of drive, sleeping through the alarm, the train he missed, the call she answered, a surprising and unexpected death— random occurrences with sometimes sacred consequences. Or not.