Last Christmas I was furthering my experiments in living alone. I booked a business class seat on Amtrak for Vancouver, B.C. and my favorite hotel in the heart of the city’s homeless section. I had packed only what would fit in my eVest, so unlike the homeless with their grocery carts and black trash bags, I was essentially more dissolute than them. And when one stopped me on the street to inquire “whether the old age pension checks had come in,” I felt as if I had transitioned completely to life on the street.
But it wasn’t to be.
Carol and I continue to ask ourselves about finding each other, “How did this happen?” The mutuality of the question may be differently shaded: mine reflecting a childlike wonder; hers more of a grownup’s wonder over a perplexing child.
For instance, our first Thanksgiving together will be celebrated apart. She will be the matriarch of the Madigan family’s feast here in California, and I will serve as a sous chef for my daughter’s in Chicago. Both families would have perfectly understood had we chosen one over the other for the sake of being together for the holiday, but Carol and I agree this is the right way to celebrate it this first year. At least when it’s over, I will not be returning to an empty house in Seattle, and Carol will not be returning to a room carved out of her daughter and son-in-law’s home. That alone is more than enough to be thankful for, regardless of the miles separating us when we do sit down and give thanks.